Bucks hire facial coding expert

ByABC News
December 26, 2014, 10:26 AM

— -- The Milwaukee Bucks are facing facts -- or rather, gleaning facts from faces -- to figure out which NBA and college players have the right stuff to make their team better.

Owners Wesley Edens and Mark Lasry, who bought the Bucks for $550 million in April, currently employ facial coding expert Dan Hill to go beyond the numbers and instead bring science into the equation in an effort to gain an edge, The New York Times reported.

"I look for quick, micro-expressions and instances of the say/feel gap -- said this, but felt that -- to guard clients against what I call speed bumps: hidden objections that keep a person from buying, if not recognized and addressed," Hill told The New York Times.

The Bucks started using Hill's methods prior to the NBA draft, using the Facial Action Coding System (FACS) to read players' faces to identify happiness, surprise, contempt, disgust, sadness, anger and fear.

"We spend quite a bit of time evaluating the players as basketball players and analytically," Bucks assistant GM David Morway told the New York Times. "But the difficult piece of the puzzle is the psychological side of it, and not only psychological, character and personality issues, but also team chemistry issues."

Team psychologist Ramel Smith hopes Hill can be the Bucks' "secret weapon."

"When daring enough to be creative, you have to be willing to be ridiculed," Smith told the Times. "People laugh until they see results."

Hill, who has been doing this type of work for 16 years, was hired by the NFL scouting combine in 2011 to analyze facial gestures of top NFL prospects when asked questions.

"Dan has created an interesting emotional profile model to correlate the emotions he observes to characteristics that are important to an individual's success," Jeff Foster, who runs the NFL scouting combine, told the Times in an email. "I believe his insights could be valuable in helping teams understand an athlete's emotional makeup and provide implications for how he may perform, both on and off the field."