Jerry Stackhouse: A Life in Movies (Hours and Hours of Movies)
BY SCOTT CACCIOLA
TORONTO — Jerry Stackhouse appeared in 1,045 N.B.A. games during his 18-year playing career, and most of those were televised. But many of his quiet, behind-the-scenes moments were captured for posterity, too.
Stackhouse made sure of it.
For the past 20 years, Stackhouse has worked to preserve his personal history — on film. During his playing days, he set up tripods to record his workouts. He took camcorders to team meetings. This season, he hired two cameramen to document his every move as a first-year coach in the N.B.A. Development League. He had to build a computer with a vast amount of storage to house all the digital footage.
The twist is that Stackhouse, 42, has rarely made any of his material available for public consumption. There are no plans for “Stackhouse: The Movie.”
Even his friends have questions. So many questions. And most of those questions start the same way: Why?
“For some reason, at the end of the day, he has tons and tons and tons of footage,” said Kirk Fraser, a filmmaker who worked on a project with Stackhouse several years ago. “And the story — I’m not sure what the story is. But his madness to us isn’t madness to him. There’s a purpose behind it.”
On a recent weekend afternoon, not long after he coached Raptors 905 to the D-League championship, Stackhouse huddled with Angelo Sanders, a longtime friend, in a home office that Stackhouse had fashioned into an editing studio. Sanders, 51, was one of the cameramen who followed the Raptors 905 season.
He filmed games. He filmed practices. He filmed bus rides. He filmed pep talks. Stackhouse provided him with room and board.
“He eats too much for me to pay him,” Stackhouse said.
They were sitting in front of an oversize computer monitor as Sanders fiddled with a clip of Stackhouse’s pregame pep talk during the D-League finals. Sanders had layered the clip with dramatic music, which was making it hard for Stackhouse to hear his own speech. It was a fiery one.
“All right, we see your creative side,” Stackhouse told Sanders, “but turn that music off.”
Stackhouse knows he is not the easiest boss, especially when it comes to his twin passions: film and basketball. He treats Sanders like family. But he is also a self-described perfectionist.
“I like to do things myself, man,” Stackhouse said. “I’m really a do-it-yourself kind of guy. Because no matter what, if you really want it done right, you need to do it yourself.”
Sanders laughed and muttered something about how Stackhouse “couldn’t shoot himself.” Stackhouse acknowledged that sad reality.
“If I could fire him and shoot it myself, I absolutely would,” Stackhouse said.
In attempting to explain why he stores a virtual duplicate of his basketball life on a 48-terabyte hard drive, Stackhouse pointed to his childhood. As a boy, he said, he loved thumbing through his family’s photo albums. Vacations. Holidays. Reunions. Weddings. Without photos, he said, so many of those memories would have been lost.
“It always gave me a good feeling,” he said. “It kind of told me a story, reminding me of what we were doing at those times.”
As he got older, he said, his appetite for film — and for the tools of the trade — grew into what he described as an “infatuation.” When he started drawing N.B.A. paychecks in 1995, he could finally afford his first camcorder.
He has since cycled through more than 40 of them. His wife, Ramirra, is a very understanding woman, he said.
“It’s some type of addiction, man, when you just want the next best picture,” he said. “You see the colors and the clarity. It’s all about the blacks. It’s all about the brilliant colors.”
In that moment, as Stackhouse pounded his kitchen table to emphasize the importance of pixels and image quality, it was difficult to imagine anyone who had ever been more enthusiastic about anything. He offered a tour of his latest batch of cameras, which he had arranged like fine sculptures in his living room.
There was the Sony Fs5, a camcorder that Sanders used to film sideline footage. There was the Sony a7, a small hand-held that Sanders called “our little baby.” And finally, there was the Sony PMW-F55, a top-of-the-line camera that retails for the price of a midsize sedan. Stackhouse said he had taken a four-day tutorial at Sony Picture Studios outside Los Angeles to learn how to use it.
Camera stores love to see Stackhouse coming. He listed a few of his favorites: Showcase Video in Atlanta, Woodward Camera outside Detroit, B & H Photo Video in New York, Vistek in Toronto.
One grateful proprietor put Stackhouse’s picture on a wall. He does not know how much he has spent on camera equipment because he does not want to know.
“My accountant has it,” he said. “I’m afraid to look.”
On rare occasions, Stackhouse produces actual films that he shares with others, like the time he made a highlight video for the players on his son Jaye’s middle school team.
Stackhouse made a bigger splash when he was playing for the Dallas Mavericks during the 2005-06 season and showed up for a team meeting with a camcorder. Avery Johnson, then the team’s coach, was caught by surprise. “What are you doing?” Johnson asked him. “What’s this for? Some kind of documentary?”
The short answer: Yes. Stackhouse soon reached out to Fraser, a young filmmaker whom he had met at a camera store in Silver Spring, Md.
“He was like, ‘Hey, I got permission from the organization to film the season,’” Fraser said in a telephone interview. “And I was like, ‘Yo, let’s make it into a movie!’”
The resulting 42-minute documentary, “Against All Odds,” detailed how Stackhouse came back from an early-season knee injury to help the Mavericks advance to the N.B.A. finals.
Fraser, who hired Sanders as one of his camera operators, said he had been struck by Stackhouse’s commitment. Stackhouse rented three condos that season: two for postproduction editing and one that he turned into a music studio. (Stackhouse briefly dabbled as an R&B recording artist.)
“He created this whole environment for his art,” Fraser said. “I remember he had all these cameras that were just hitting the market, and I’m having this conversation with him about this technology, and he’s like, ‘Look, man, the whole game is changing.’ I went to film school, and Stack is educating me on the future of cameras.”
In the years before his playing career ended in 2013, Stackhouse continued to record pieces of his life in a more understated way. No film crews. No postproduction condos. Just the trusty collection of cameras he liked to use behind the scenes: at the gym, children’s sporting events, family functions.
“I think documenting his journey is a way for him to confirm just how far he has come,” Mark Cuban, the owner of the Mavericks, said in an email.
With Raptors 905 this past season, Stackhouse went all out. As soon as the players arrived for training camp, the cameras were rolling.
Sanders and Steven Zhong, who also filmed portions of the season at Stackhouse’s behest, became a part of the team’s fabric. Will Sheehey, a forward, recalled road trips when he would wake up from a nap on the team bus to find a camera in his face.
“It got to a point where it became a little bit of a joke because everyone knew Angelo and Steve,” Sheehey said, “but they were never formally introduced as far as their roles with the team.”
As a college player at Indiana, Sheehey grew accustomed to having cameras around. Stackhouse, he said, took the exercise to another level.
“Our film sessions were filmed,” Sheehey said. “It’s like we’re watching film, and someone else is filming us watching film.”
Stackhouse, who wore a wireless microphone during games and practices, said he had practical reasons for filming the team this season. Just as he hoped his players could learn from watching themselves on tape — and he had them watch a lot of tape — Stackhouse would go back and analyze how he had communicated with them: How could he refine his approach?
His methods were effective. During the team’s run to the title, Stackhouse was named the D-League’s coach of the year. Still, his players wondered.
“I mean, no one knows exactly what he’s doing with all that film,” Sheehey said. “I never signed a waiver!”
In fairness, not even Stackhouse knows for certain. What he does know is that his passion runs in the family: His daughter, Alexis, plans to study film at Syracuse.
Perhaps, Stackhouse said, there will come a day when he wants to turn his life — a life that lives in high definition — into something. For now, he wants to wait.
“The story,” he said, “is still being written.”