Grant rises to top-level position in NBA |

Grant rises to top-level position in NBA

Steve Yingling

Chris Grant didn’t mind paying his dues.

The former South Tahoe High basketball star long envisioned a professional sports career.

Although he would have preferred to suit up for the Atlanta Hawks, the National Basketball Association organization brought him aboard as an intern in the mid-1990s. To get Grant acquainted with the business of operating an NBA franchise, the Hawks put him in the video room to record games for the coaches. Before long, the Hawks promoted Grant to scouting director and eventually assistant general manager.

Nearly a decade later, Grant has been rewarded for his dedication and commitment, rising to assistant general manager for one of the NBA’s most -watched teams – the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“I’ve just been around really good people, and as a young guy they let me grow and learn,” said the 33-year-old Grant, who was hired by the Cavaliers in July. “They’ve mentored me and I’ve been very lucky.”

Cavaliers General Manager Danny Ferry also hired Lance Blanks, a former scouting director in San Antonio, as an assistant general manager.

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“Chris is a great addition to the Cavs’ organization,” Ferry said. “His various experiences in Atlanta give him a great perspective on the running of an NBA franchise. I am excited that he decided to join us in Cleveland.”

Grant attributes his business success to the lessons he learned under former STHS coach Tom Orlich and college coach Hank Egan.

“I learned more about life from coach Orlich than I did about basketball. Coach Orlich instilled some things in me that I still use today. Life skills that I use in business that I will use for the rest of my life,” said Grant, who is a 1990 graduate of STHS. “Coach Egan had a strong sense of family, too, and they basically had the same type of coaching philosophies.”

Leaving his friends in Atlanta wasn’t easy for Grant, but Cleveland has become a reunion of sorts for the former San Diego Toreros post man. Egan was hired as a Cavaliers’ assistant coach before Grant’s arrival and former Toreros’ teammate Mike Brown is the team’s new head coach.

“Everything was fantastic in Atlanta, but I think change is a good thing sometimes,” Grant said. “I felt this opportunity was intriguing and they have some good talent, so I decided to take the move.

“This situation is pretty abnormal … pretty much coincidental. Just like any business, you have to hire the best people you can hire. The head GM has the final say in those things.”

Grant now has the NBA’s star attraction – LeBron James – on his side in Cleveland. Skipping college, James has exceeded expectations in averaging 24.1 points per game in his first two seasons with the Cavaliers.

“He’s the epitome of what you want to see in pro athletics,” Grant said. “Being such a great talent and player at such a young age is pretty remarkable.”

As one of Ferry’s right-hand men, Grant is expected to assist with the day-to-day operations of the team, scout college players, scout other pro players for possible trades or free-agent acquisitions and help the coaching staff when necessary.

“I put on my hat, and where they tell me where to sweep, I sweep,” Grant said. “The whole point is to make the team better and win games.”

For now, that means finding more pieces to go along with James. During his 60 days with the Cavaliers, the team has signed free agents Larry Hughes and Donyell Marshall and re-signed center Zydrunas Ilgauskas. But there is more work to be done before the season starts this fall.

“We still need a big guy and a point guard … a couple more pieces,” Grant said.

Grant stays in contact with former STHS teammates and worked with North Carolina assistant coach Jerod Haase last spring before the Hawks selected Marvin Williams with their first pick in the 2005 draft.

“I leaned on Jerod for a lot of information on Marvin,” Grant said. “I keep telling Jerod that I’m bringing him into the NBA and he just laughs.”

The past year has brought many changes to Grant’s life – professionally and personally. He and his wife of five years, Kelly, have been adjusting to the stress and benefits of being a first-time parent to 1-year-old Cameron.

“I feel like the luckiest guy on the planet,” Grant said. “I could do what I’m doing right now for a long time. I just worry about doing a good job every day and everything else will just take care of itself.”

That work ethic that Grant learned years ago has taken him to the top of the NBA game.