Twice during Sunday night’s halftime ceremony to celebrate his retirement, Keith Grant got emotional and broke down and briefly halted his speech.
After 42 years working with the Dallas Mavericks in several positions, no one could blame him if he wanted to shed a few tears on his way out the door. For Grant, it was a solid career in which he started off as the Mavs’ equipment manager during the inaugural season in 1980-81, and steadily worked his way up to becoming the Mavs’ assistant general manager.
“Not a bad career for somebody who wanted to be in baseball,” Grant told the American Airlines Center crowd. “But this worked out pretty good.”
It worked out pretty good because Grant was the ultimate team player. He was the man who, if anyone wanted to know the temperature of the Mavs, all they had to do was ask Grant.
“I think the tribute said it all,” said Rick Sund, the Mavs’ original president of basketball operations who was on hand for Sunday’s festivities. “Keith started as the equipment manager and he just worked his way up to high executive positions. He was the guy who did it all.
“Even when I left the Mavericks and went with other teams, we had rule changes and we had different things with the league and I always called to get his input, because I thought he had such a good feel. He’s a very good basketball man and he’s worked in this league with lots of integrity, so that’s what makes him so great.”
One of the Mavs’ original employees, Grant always had the pulse of this organization at his fingertips, and he knew player contracts and the league rules almost instantaneously.
“You took my emails and my calls in the middle of the night,” Mavs governor Mark Cuban said, in reference to Grant. “You were so special that I don’t have words to describe.”
With that, the Mavs gave Grant a framed Mavs jersey with the No. 42. They also gave him some custom golf clubs, a custom golf cart, and a membership to the Texas Star golf course in Euless.
In addition, they went the extra mile and had his name carved on the baseline next to all of the other players who ever wore a Mavs uniform.
“The memories are invaluable and a lot – good and bad,” Grant said. “But I’ve been here through both.”
Grant talked about traveling to San Antonio to see Dirk Nowitzki play in the Nike Hoop Summit – before he became a member of the Mavs in 1998.
“Fast-forward to April of 2018 and I was given an assignment – one that I was very blessed to do,” Grant said. “I had to fly to Europe to see some other kid that had one name named Luka (Doncic).
“Everybody’s gotten to see him in the last four years, and you know exactly what he can do.”
Grant worked for the Mavs during a period that included 353 players, 10 head coaches and three ownership groups. That’s every player, every head coach and every ownership group this organization has known.
“Doug Atkinson, the (Mavs’) trainer came in (during the first season) and he was like, ‘Rick, we’ve got to get help with all of the equipment and everything,’ “ Sund said. “He said some teams are now starting to hire equipment managers.
“I said we’ll interview people, and he interviewed Keith and he brought him in to me and I interviewed him and told (Mavs original co-governor) Norm (Sonju) let’s hire him. So we hired him and he worked his way up. Some 42 years. It’s really amazing.”
For Sund, what’s amazing is the character Grant displayed even when things weren’t sometimes going well for the team on the court.
“You can tell when a guy has a real successful career when everybody respects him,” Sund said. “Not just his colleagues, not just people in the front office, but the players and people in the rest of the league, the league office (respected him). He has a lot of respect.”
Grant made his retirement official four months ago. And Sunday’s event was an honor the Mavs bestowed upon him for a job well done.
“I won’t miss the work, but I’ll miss all the workers, the great people behind the scenes and they helped form what we call the Mavericks,” Grant said. “What started with 19 employees in September of 1980 has become a big well-oiled machine.
“It’s been an honor and a privilege to work here every day.”
Grant got emotional, and the crowd applauded. Then he continued and said: “To work here for 42 years. I am a Mavs Fan For Life. Thank you very much.”
SLOW START FOR MCGEE: The Mavs are not at all worried about the slow start center JaVale McGee has gotten off to this season.
“I think when you look at JaVale, he’s new,” coach Jason Kidd said. “He’s trying to figure it out and we’re trying to help him.
“But I think being able to understand that we’re about team defense, and I think sometimes as a big you think it’s just you by yourself and you have to take care of the rim. For us it’s about doing your job and executing the game plan, and I think as we get him more minutes under his belt he’ll be better.”
McGee averages 6.3 points and 3.8 rebounds in 12.8 minutes, and finished Sunday’s game with no points and three rebounds in nine minutes.
“I think with JaVale it’s just a matter of being on the floor and being with a new group and figuring it out,” Kidd said. “He’ll figure it out.
“He’s been in this league for 15 years and we brought him here for a reason — to help us — and he will.”
MOSLEY ON WOOD: Orlando Magic coach Jamahl Mosley has been very impressed with what he’s seen from Mavs backup center Christian Wood.
“When we played them when we were here (during the preseason earlier this month), there was a level of his ability to just make shots at crucial times within the game,” Mosley said. “His ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the rim (is impressive).
“He’s a great slip-out guy in a screen-and-roll, so he causes problems for the majority of bigs.”
BRIEFLY: Coach Jason Kidd was pleased with the four minutes played by rookie guard Jaden Hardy when he was on the floor in the second quarter of Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma City. Hardy was scoreless, was 0-of-2 from the field, and also had a rebound, an assist and successfully drew a charging foul. It was his first time playing meaningful minutes this season after playing six minutes of mop-up duty during the 41-point win over Memphis back on Oct. 22. “He was great,” Kidd said. “The minutes that he was on the floor, again, no one is judging him on makes. We’re judging him on playing the right way, and he did an incredible job (Saturday) night. He was told he was going to play and he was ready, so we’ll see how that goes going forward.”. .Luka Doncic became the first player since Michael Jordan (1986-87) to score at least 30 points in his team’s first six games of the season. . .Davis Bertans (right knee effusion) has yet to play this season. The Mavs are not sure when he’ll be available to play.
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