Stuart Gray

I hadn’t planned this theme, but it’s time for another Charlotte Hornets related post.

I’ve been reading some whispers about potential Royals interest in trading for Jeff Francoeur from DOB.

By the way, I had someone who’s close to the KC organization ask me just this morning what it would take to get Francoeur. He told me that if Dayton and his assistants had a list of the guys they’d like to trade for, Francoeur is atop it. Seriously. They don’t view him in light of this past season so much as they do for the years he was in the minor league system when Dayton was with the Braves, etc. They LOVE his mental makeup and physical talent. Hey, just telling you what I hear.

Seriously? They LOVE his mental makeup, after the juvenile tantrum he threw last year about his being sent down while being the worst everyday player in baseball?

But, that’s not the point of this post. Dayton Moore appears to be fascinated with the farm system he used to oversee. Since moving to the Royals he’s acquired former Braves products Odalis Perez, Tony Pena, Kyle Davies, Brayan Pena, and Horacio Ramirez. It’s not that acquiring these players were necessarily bad moves, but I think that fans should have a right to be worried when a GM seems attached to things that he once saw as great in his mind’s eye. Jim Bowden seems to have a similar fascination in Washington, bringing in Reds products Wily Mo Pena and Austin Kearns (there may have been a few others, but I’m not going to investigate).

This brings me back to the Charlotte Hornets. Dick Harter was the first coach of the Hornets. (Funny aside: I knew a reporter who was involved in breaking the story that Harter would be the first coach. He found what he thought was his home phone number, and called the number in the late-evening to get a comment. A woman answered the phone and the reporter asked “May I speak to Dick Harter.” The woman, who heard “Dick Harder”, screamed and hung up the phone.) Harter felt that the Hornets could be competitive if they could get a good big man, and that big man was Stuart Gray, a man Harter felt was being underutilized by his former team, the Indiana Pacers.

The Hornets eventually did acquire Gray, I believe for a second-round pick, for the 1989-1990 season. Gray came to town and was nothing less than the pure embodiment of a “stiff.” His signature moment involved going berserk against the Lakers and attempting to rip Michael Cooper‘s head from his body by holding him in a death-lock on the floor for a minute or so. Pat Rilely was actually on the floor pulling and kicking Gray to release Cooper. Stuart played in only 39 games for the Hornets. I can’t recall whether he was released or injured, but it was the beginning of the end for Harter who was fired during that season.

This is just one data point in my memory. I’m sure plenty of GMs have used their past experiences to acquire good talent. Still, I would be worried to see such strong attachments to past players who really are not that good. Just remember Stuart Gray.

UPDATE:It turns out that Stuart Gray was not stiff.

12 Responses “Stuart Gray”

  1. Ron E. says:

    Unfortunately the Braves have done this at times as well. Examples: Terry Pendleton in ’96, Brian Jordan a few years ago, Tom Glavine last year.

  2. Ken Houghton says:

    “Jim Bowden seems to have a similar fascination in Washington, bringing in Reds products Wily Mo Pena and Austin Kearns (there may have been a few others, but I’m not going to investigate).”

    Don’t worry; the rest of the world has. (Felipe Lopez, anyone?)

    Obsession could be more the word–though given he’s getting players from the Cincinnati organization, it’s more the equivalent of trading with I. Thomas in basketball or Mike Milbury in hockey, with his competitive advantage being that he worked with the people there and knows which buttons to push.

  3. Millsy says:

    Ron, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a team that didn’t end up in this position at some point in the past 20 years.  There’s going to be variability in performance…minimizing this is the art of making a winning team.  Albeit, some coaches/GMs are better at it than others…but what if the Giants thought Barry Bonds was getting too old in his late-30’s and wanted to pass off his salary to someone else?  Oops.  Anyone can pick out anecdotal examples of huge mistakes.  Hindsight is 20-20. I think JC is pointing this out as a caution to GMs (or us if we’re putting together a ‘team’) that personal beliefs can be incredibly faulty and our memories and high-emotional first impressions can be dangerously biased. With that said…could anyone pass this onto my Baltimore Orioles?

  4. Tony says:

    Well, it’s not like DM gave up anything good to get the previous guys. He signed them all to cheap contracts or traded away people without much trade value to get them. The closest thing to a useful play that he traded was a couple months of Dotel, and Davies was a pretty good return for that. Also, he’s GMing for the Royals, so it’s not like there’s a big opportunity cost to giving these guys playing time. I guess you could make the case Pena Jr took away playing time from Aviles, but Aviles wasn’t really considered a prospect so DM would’ve had to go get somebody else to play SS.

    I’m wouldn’t be surprised to see DM trade for Francoeur. I’d be shocked to see him give up more than Hochevar. In fact, I’d be pretty surprised if he gave up even that much. Hochevar actually has potential.

  5. A.West says:

    Shhhhhh! Can’t you just play along with KC’s stupidity, and say, gosh It will take a lot to compensate for such a great gamer like Frenchy, and then hope that they’ll give even one potentially useful MLB player for him. This is one of those times when the immortal quote “Great trade. Who did we get?” applies.

  6. I agree that teams fall into this trap way too often, but in the case of the Phillies, it’s actually worked out for them in some cases.  Jayson Werth and Greg Dobbs were both significant contributors to the Phillies World Series win [still a hard phrase to type] and both of them were players Pat Gillick had drafted while with other teams.

  7. Stuart Gray says:

    This post is in response to your post about Stuart Gray. Have the guts to post it or don’t. I don’t care. At least I have the satisfaction of responding to this nonsense. I wish my friend never showed me your wesite.

    First of all, get the facts straight before you publish “crap” as fact. One of the things I do not miss about sports is self serving individuals talking out of their rear end and thinking it is factual!

    You have no idea what transpired at the Hornets in 1989. You have no idea of the petty team politics and you have no idea why I was brought to the team. Loyalty was not the reason, it was to fill a specific deficiency in the roster. I am pretty certain that Dick Harter knew that he could not “sell” me starting in front of the ACC prodigy, J.R. Reid. The team was soft and they could not win unless they established that they would stick up for themselves.

    My career stats never suggested Dick Harter was looking for a franchise player as you would suggest. You are looking to paint me as a “stiff” to try and make a point but that would only be accurate if Dick brought me in to be more than a role player. Nice writer’s trick but less than honest representation of the reason Dick traded for me.

    He was looking for a center that would stand up to the other teams’ players that were beating the living crap out of his players on a nightly basis. Funny how the refs started calling fouls on opposing players once I went “berserk” as you referred to it. You think it was so easy? Then you do it!

    Finally, Dick didn’t lose his job due to bringing me on board. He lost it due to political infighting and back stabbing that defined the team and organization in 1989. My job was to protect players like Rex Chapman and Dell Curry from getting beaten up each game and literally being hurt by the rough play of the other teams. That is why I came to Charlotte.

    Please do not change the facts to make a point on your website. Your writings about Dick Harter and me show a profound ignorance to the finer points of basketball strategy. Dick is “Old School” and coached by a certain code that not all players understood or were willing to follow. Many chose not to.

    By the way, I was traded to the Knicks to back up Patrick and protect his back. Different NBA back then but you wouldn’t know that would you? One final note, my career was defined by my rebounding and defensive skills against other centers. I also played for so long because I could get shooters open by setting picks that defensive players could not get through. Just a few more of the finer points of being a “Role Player” that you probably do not understand.

    To the other posters, sorry about the rant but I felt JC’s comments warranted a response! Also, Dick Harter is an honorable man and deserves better than to have this inaccurate version about what “happened” at Charlotte in 1989 being told. This post is disrespectful to me and to the real reason for Dick losing this job.

    Dick did the honorable thing and left quietly without making the bad situation the organization had created worse. I have no desire to discuss or does anyone need to know what happened out of respect for Dick Harter and to the sheer fact of “who cares.”

    Enough time has past that this issue should have been relegated to the trash heap. Since it was given a new life, then get it right! You may run a small website but others read it so professionalism dictates that you don’t pretend to have knowledge of something you probably know nothing or little about.
    One final word, loyalty to former players is not a bad thing, especially if you know they already fit into your system and can fill certain roles. Doesn’t this happen in business all the time? The problems arise when the player cannot fulfill the role due to team politics.

    Many players are traded into a situation without a consensus in the upper management team. Politics takes over and the player is “caught” in the middle of a power struggle that they neither understand or want to be involved in. Players go where they are sent for the most part unless they are the fortunate few that have trade approvals in thier contracts. For the rest, you hope that everyone wanted you when the trade was finalized. If not, good luck, your career could be over!

  8. JC says:

    Dear Stuart,

    Thank you for your response. While, I would like to respond “I meant no disrespect” I did call you a stiff. I was 16 at the time that you played for the Hornets, so my memory may be a bit hazy. Although, I do have a vivid memory of the Michael Cooper fight, and I believe I was actually at the game to witness the most bizarre sports fight that I have ever seen (though it could have been televised).

    Like all sports journalists and bloggers, I write about the quality of players’ play. I don’t think it’s incorrect to say that you were not a very good NBA player. There is not shame in this in that you were clearly one of the best basketball players in the world. It’s a laudable achievement as I was once schooled in a pick-up game by the 12th man my college’s Division II basketball team. Compared to me, and most basketball players in the world, you are very good. The term “stiff” may be a bit harsh; however, I doubt I am the first person to use that term to describe you. I can only imagine what you must have said to Tom Sorenson or Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Still, that doesn’t defend my use of the term, but I will defend it.

    Writing is difficult. Unless it’s a diary, you must get the point across but keep it interesting. I could use objective terms without positive or negative connotations like “three standard deviations below/above average” to describe play, but that would get tedious for readers. Stiff is short-hand for a tall basketball player who commits fouls and doesn’t score much. That may have been your job, and you did it well. If that makes you a stiff, so be it. That I might not understand the value in what you did is my problem, and you probably shouldn’t feel disrespect, but instead just brush me off as an idiot. I do it all the time when people with little statistical training “correct” my “mistakes”. I’m also
    sometimes called a “stat-nerd” who should get out of the basement and see a game. They don’t know what they’re talking about and have no influence over my life, so I ignore them. These people don’t know anything about who I am as a person, and I don’t take those to be criticisms that influence how I view myself.

    So what I ask of you is not to take any disrespect from my calling you a stiff or describing your attempt to decapitate Michael Cooper as berserk. That’s how I view your play on the court. You have every right to dismiss me as an uninformed idiot. If I’m going to write about sports, I’m going to have to be critical of those involved in the sport unless I want to run a rah-rah rag. As a person, I care about those things that matter most to players. I’m sad for players when things go poorly (illness, death, getting cut, etc.) and happy when things go well (marriage, birth, award-winning, etc.). If I worry about hurting feelings, I can’t do my job. Just as you probably didn’t enjoy physically injuring players with hard fouls to protect Patrick Ewing, I get no joy from the fact that I might hurt Jeff Francoeur’s feelings.

    I would like to add, that I agree with your assessment of Harter. He was treated badly by Hornets owner George Shinn. He was fired on a road trip while his brother was having serious health issues after the team said it would not fire him. Gene Littles didn’t fare so well either. The politics behind the team sound ugly, and I’m sure you know more about that than I do. Still, the positive spin he put on your acquisition is worthy of criticism, and it served as an example that sometimes executives are a bit too smitten with past players.

    Thanks again for writing, Stuart. I wish you well.

  9. Stuart Gray says:

    JC
    You are truly an interesting sports writer, fan and now I am going to say gentleman. I also enjoy someone that sticks by their principles in the sports world. Don’t lose that quality as it is rare!

    Your assessment is correct about how trades or draft selections are spun in the media. I knew very quickly that there would be no way for me to get the minutes necessary to make an impression that was “expected.” As you remember, the town was alive with Hornet’s Fever those first few years and expectations were just a “little” out of whack with the reality of the team’s abilities.

    While I rarely back down from a challenge, I knew this one was going to be almost impossible to win.  I should have taken Hurricane Hugo trashing the city the day after I arrived as a REALLY bad omen!

    Thanks for your comments. I will visit the site from time to time. Internesting story brewing with Greg Oden. Similar story of expecations and being given the time to develop (except for the 100+ million that I never made and he went 1st player in the 1st round).

  10. Joe says:

    Nice post Stuart.  Always interesting to see people actually discuss the politics we, as fans, don’t see.

    Along this topic… http://dberri.wordpress.com/2008/11/20/stuart-gray-was-not-a-stiff/

  11. Greg Dreiling says:

    Writing is hard, but word selection is part of the job – and JC’s attempted re-definition of “stiff” is unconvincing. It is strictly pejorative, not functional. “Thug,” “cop,” or “enforcer” are unflattering terms from the era, yet a good deal more descriptive. OK, end of nitpicking.

    Big ups to Dick Harter from a Detroit fan of the era. He was a brilliant defensive coach – and after building the Bad Boys’ defense, I’m sure he had a clear-eyed understanding of the value enforcers played in the NBA of that era. Just ask the Cleveland teams of that era, soft and therefore doomed.

  12. Scott Bolander says:

    Not sure if anyone picked this up, but Greg Dreiling and Stuart Gray played together in Indiana.  Greg ended up starting a lot for Rik Smits – partly to keep Smits out of four trouble, but mostly to beat on the other team’s starting center.