How Dean Smith Convinced the Hornets to Draft Muggsy Bogues

And other stories of note about the legendary coach

It just started raining here, and the people who forecast such things are predicting a good soaking, maybe even a few thunderstorms. It'll spread across the state, they say—starting over here in Charlotte and places farther west, then moving through the Triangle and on to Manteo by tonight. No matter where you are in North Carolina today, expect to get wet.

That’s fitting, after the loss of Dean Smith yesterday. Of North Carolina’s iconic figures from the past century or so—Andy Griffith, Doc Watson, Billy Graham, Richard Petty—Smith probably came up in more dinner-table discussions than anybody. Black or white, rich or poor, religious or unaffiliated, and even N.C. State fans—he reached everybody. 

There are more than enough great Dean Smith stories to read on this rainy Monday, from Charlotte writer Tommy Tomlinson’s excellent ESPN feature from last year to News & Observer writer Andrew Carter’s portrait of a UNC campus in mourning yesterday to Charlie Pierce’s obituary for Grantland today.

But here’s one little anecdote that’s specific to Charlotte, and it comes from Matt Crossman’s oral history of the 1988 Hornets, published in the November 2013 issue of our magazine. Did you know: Muggsy Bogues, perhaps the most beloved professional athlete in Charlotte sports history, might never have become a Hornet if not for Dean Smith?

Here’s an excerpt from Part 4 of Matt’s story, in the words of the people who helped build the team:           

HAROLD KAUFMAN, the team’s first public relations rep: We had the pick of everybody’s 9th through 12th guys. In that expansion draft, we picked Dell Curry, and we got Muggsy Bogues. If you can imagine, in that highly unlikely expansion draft, you have two players who last for 10 years and become a piece of your organization. It was mostly D-league caliber players.

There were two guys who made nice careers for themselves. 

GEORGE SHINN, the team’s owner: Dick [Harter, the team’s first coach] didn’t want us to pick Muggsy, and I did because I was selling tickets. I called Dean Smith and asked Dean, “Would you pick Muggsy? Give me a description of what you think of Muggsy.” He said, “Well, one thing I always told my players when we’re playing Wake Forest: ‘If you don’t see Muggsy, if he’s not in your vision, hold the ball high in the air because he’s going to take it away from you.’ ” To me, that was just respect. I said, “We’re going to pick Muggsy.”

Categories: The Buzz, Trade & Tryon