Sports and Statistics with Tushar Kundu ’17

Tushar is a senior who is an Economics and Statistics major. Tushar is the manager for the men’s basketball team, and he also works at the front desk of McCabe and for the Swarthmore Athletics Department.

Can you tell me a bit about your interests and activities here at Swarthmore? Do you find that they overlap in any obvious way?

When I first came to Swarthmore, I didn’t know what I would be interested or what I would do for fun, or even for classes. I started off taking economics courses and found out that I liked that, so that’s why I decided to try out econ and statistics. Part of that interest stemmed from what I enjoyed in high school, which was following professional sports. I watched a lot of baseball, basketball, soccer, football…and what I wanted to do here was see if I could turn that into a major! At the first Swarthmore job fair I saw that there was an opening for the men’s basketball manager, which I thought would be cool to do. I was running basketball practices when I heard from the stats department that the basketball team was looking for someone to do statistics for them! So I started doing statistics for them and at that point, they didn’t have much in terms of analysis or data tools, and I started doing some things that I’d read about, like PER (player efficiency rating), and I’d try to look up simple ways to calculate it with whatever statistics they already had. Then last year, they decided that they liked using data analysis, so they bought a program called Synergy. Synergy is used by NBA teams and big D1 school teams for video analysis. So it takes all the video that you put into it and then automatically analyzes the video so you can find out things that aren’t in the box score. It will analyze the video and, for example, find out a particular player’s percentage on isolation plays. It comes up with all sorts of stats that would otherwise take a long time to do yourself, and it does it for every single team. And now the team has a membership with Synergy, so they can see stats for all D3 and D1 tools, and I think they’re going to use this more going forward. So it was cool to be a part of that process all four years. So being the men’s basketball team manager definitely takes up a big bulk of my non-academic time.

You also work at the front desk at McCabe. What has this work experience taught you?

I didn’t know how hard being a librarian was until I experienced it myself! Organization is really really, difficult, especially when you need to effectively organize thousands of books. You have to categorize all these books by subject, by authors, by years, and you have to create a system where any book you want on anything can be found by knowing a certain number of digits and letters. It’s a lot more complicated than I thought it was in terms of letting every single person access information that they need. Also, I think there’s a lot of cool stuff you can learn about how quickly libraries are able to gather books that have been checked out and rearrange them so that you can find them where they need to be. There are actually competitions between libraries to see which library can shelve their books more quickly. I think there’s one famous one in Cambridge where they have conveyer belts to carry the books…and they’ve developed intense algorithms to help them sort the books. And in that way, library organization is really applicable to computer science, actually. And working at the front desk of McCabe is nice, because you get to see all your friends walk by, and you get to meet new people and help them find a wide array of different books, which is cool. The other day this kid was reading a book called Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind and I was reading it at the same time so it was cool to meet someone new and have a conversation with him about an apparent common interest.

Do you think that the different things that you’re involved in have influenced your social life at Swarthmore in any way?

I think in general, my activities outside of my academic life help me to be a part of different spheres on campus. I have one group of friends who I met because we lived near each other in DK our freshman year, and it just turned out that a lot of them were Econ majors. But then, doing stuff with the basketball team and with working in McCabe sort of forced me to make friends out of my initial circle, which was great.

You’re from the Bay Area, from a city called Alameda, which is right next to Oakland. Do you support the sports teams from around there?

Yeah, I’m a huge fan of Bay Area sports teams. I have no idea how I got into this but I was a big baseball fan growing up, so I watched the Oakland Athletics. If I walk five minutes from my house and stand on the bridge which is on a little inlet in the bay, I can see the stadium from there. Growing up, it was cool to have a ton of sports teams around where I live. I’m a big fan of the Warriors, and not a bandwagon fan! I was a fan in the Don Nelson era when the team was terrible. I’m an A’s fan. I’m a Sharks fan too.

How did you feel about the Super Bowl this year?

So, it was incredible, a crazy game, and I’m not a huge fan of either of the teams so I didn’t care too much, but I did want the Falcons to win. Before the Patriots made their comeback, when it looked most likely that they would lose, I made a bet with my friend. I said that if the Patriots lose I’d give him $1 and if they win, you give me $300. He was so sure that they were going to lose so he said ok, fine, there’s no way that’s going to happen. As the night wore on he got more and more scared and then when they were tied, he said this is going to be the sweetest dollar I ever win! When the Falcons lost he was devastated. And he still hasn’t paid up, so this is a shout out to him!

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