When the doors to the Dallas Mavericks’ organization first flung open nearly 42 years ago, one of the team’s first employees was Keith Grant.
At the time, Grant was 22 years old and hired as the Mavs’ first equipment manager. His first task on his first day on the job when the Mavs moved into Reunion Arena?
“We had all new equipment,” Grant said. “When I say equipment, I’m talking uniforms, practice gear.
“All of that stuff we were moving into Reunion. Reunion was brand new, the locker room wasn’t quite finished yet, but my first day I was moving all the new equipment into Reunion.”
Some 42 years and a new arena later, Grant is moving into the next phase of his life. Now 64, Grant announced his retirement Monday following an illustrious career that includes him being one of the franchise’s original employees.
“I know we’re all graded on wins and losses all the time,” Grant told Mavs.com. “But there’s a lot of success stories behind the scenes that people don’t know about that I was fortunate to be a part of, and that’s the cool part.
“It’s a people business and we’ve had great people through the years, and I’ve been blessed to be able to work with a lot of them.”
During his 42 years with the Mavs, Grant wore many, many hats. In addition to starting off as the team’s equipment manager, he also was an administrative assistant, held the dual positions of an administrative assistant and scout, and was the director of scouting. In addition, Grant worked as the Mavs’ director of player personnel (during two different tenures), was the vice-president of basketball operations, and also worked since 1998 as the team’s assistant general manager.
But that’s not all.
“I coached our summer league team in 1986,” Grant said. “I went 1-2. My only win was against (Houston’s) Rudy Tomjanovich. We played down in San Antonio.
“Bob Weiss, our assistant coach, had left to go to work for San Antonio and we had not hired an assistant coach.”
That was back in the golden days when NBA teams only had one assistant coach. So, when the Mavs needed someone to coach their summer league, Grant gladly stepped in.
“We had summer league teams where I was the trainer,” he said. “We used to not take our trainer in the early days to summer league. I taped ankles, which I did in college.”
In other words, Grant was a jack of all trades.
“There’s no job too small for anybody,” he said. “I tell people learn as much as you can about everybody’s job. Maybe one day you’ll get a chance at it.
“You never know. The only thing I have not done is coach a regular season NBA game.”
Mavs governor Mark Cuban made no bones about how important Grant has been to his organization.
“Keith Grant is an NBA legend with a heart of gold,” Cuban said. “He did so much for the Mavs, and he made our organization and our community better.
“I can’t express enough appreciation for everything that KG has done for this franchise.”
“That’s special,” he said. “It makes me feel good. Everybody should be that way. Try to help people out.
“Just be a part of a team. That’s all you need to do. I don’t care how small it is. Be a part of the team. Do what you can do best. Be a problem solver. Not a problem.”
Hired by the Mavs on Labor Day weekend of 1980, Grant was one of the last of the full-time front office employees the Mavs hired during their inaugural season.
“There were only 19 full-time employees the first year of the Mavericks,” he said. “And that’s counting your head coach, your assistant coach, your trainer and your player personnel director and your general manager.
“Bob Weiss was THE assistant coach. And there was no strength coach and one trainer. It’s changed a little bit.”
After his first season with the Mavs, Grant had an offer to go work for ARA Services, which had the contract for the concession stands at Reunion Arena. But he said he remained with the Mavs “probably because the faith the people had in me. (General manager) Rick Sund, (co-founder) Norm Sonju, and Doug Atkinson, who was our trainer at the time, those people had big belief in me, and it was pretty cool.
“It was a better job opportunity (with ARA Services). But as I always said, this turned out pretty good.”
It turned out pretty good because Grant was a no-nonsense man who worked hard at his craft and treated people the way he wanted to be treated.
Grant’s last official day as a full-time Mavs’ employee occurred when he was in the war room for last Thursday’s NBA Draft. He worked every Mavs’ draft since 1982 in some form or fashion, and last week’s draft brought back sweet memories of his first draft.
“To be a part of any of that, to see the inner workings of everything, as a young guy to do that, you’re in awe,” Grant said. “Then you become used to doing it and it becomes part of the landscape, so to speak.
“To be a part of a professional sports franchise is many, many young people’s dreams. To be a part of it is even better.”
The memories, for Grant, are too many to recall. But he was right there for the Mavs’ two appearances in the NBA Finals in 2006 and ‘11, and for their five trips to the Western Conference Finals in 1988, 2003, ’06, ’11 and this past season.
“It’s hard to put a few (good memories) down, but obviously winning the championship (in 2011) is one,” Grant said. “That’s the ultimate goal in sports, and we achieved it once.
“It would have been nice to have more, but it doesn’t work that way all the time.”
Grant — he has a wife, three kids and two grandkids — may have retired, but he isn’t getting too far away from the Mavs. He plans to work as a consultant to the Mavs and general manager Nico Harrison.
“As I told my family, the next part of my journey starts and they’ll have a front row seat for this part of it, too,” Grant said. “I’ve got grandkids now.
“I want to become a better golfer, which is probably not going to happen. But I could wish for it. I’ll have more time to fish. I don’t think I’ll be bored — let’s put it that way.”
Harrison knows how valuable Grant has been to the Mavs.
“Keith is not only instrumental to the success of the organization, but he has also meant a lot to me in my first year with the Mavs,” Harrison said. “He has provided me with amazing support and guidance since day one. KG is an incredibly selfless person who always put the success of the Mavericks first.”
In essence, Keith Grant is as synonymous with the Mavs as many of their players.
“By me starting at the bottom, I did everything,” he said. “I’m 64 going on 22.
“I’ve been lucky and blessed. It’s been a good run.”