Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Back When Stan Kasten Let His Hair Down

You know how some people wish the Nationals would get around to jumping back into the international market? What fuddy-duddies these guys are! But what if I were to tell you that, in the 1987 NBA draft, a certain professional sports executive with whom we're rather familiar drafted a Chinese dude, a Greek dude, a Spanish dude, a Yugoslavian dude, an Italian dude, another Italian dude, a Soviet dude, and another Soviet dude? Would you think I was joking?

"This is no joke," said Stan Kasten, the Hawks' president and general manager.

Well, there you go. No joke.

I don't know precisely how or why I got around to doing this, but I spent fifteen minutes searching the New York Times' archives for articles about Kasten. It's better than some other hobbies, at least. Anyway, Kasten's Hawks were kind of nuts innovative back in the day. I do wonder what happened, as Kasten's level of selling out innovating seems a lot less satisfying these days.

Never mind that the 1980s Hawks routinely did quirky stuff like taking a chance on Spud Webb or essentially becoming Team Glasnost. Those things were certainly interesting, but they don't compare to drafting a 7'6", 403-pound Argentinian with no discernable basketball skills:

The Hawks have not signed Gonzalez, and Fratello said the odds against the player are long. At this point, Gonzalez cannot shoot a hook, cannot shoot well with his left hand, cannot spin on his pivot foot and cannot move cleanly and quickly across the lane.

As Russell pointed out, most of Gonzalez's habits are bad ones. He dribbles the ball with his palm instead of the tips of his fingers, and he tends to fall backward when shooting.

After an hour-and-a-half private workout under Russell's patient tutelage 10 days ago, Gonzalez asked his mentor, through an interpreter, ''If I learn these things, can I play in the N.B.A.?''

The answer, in case you couldn't tell, was no.

Anyway, the Nats don't seem to be doing any of this kind of stuff. You know how the Pirates signed those Indian pitchers? Something tells me that Kasten's Hawks would've been all over that, but, when it comes to Kasten's Nats, your typical daring move is non-tendering Scott Olsen in order to bring him back for a lower price.

Then again, maybe this says less about Kasten, and more about Ted Turner and Ted Lerner. I don't know.


  • Those things were certainly interesting, but they don't compare to drafting a 7'6", 403-pound Argentinian with no discernable basketball skills:

    Holy crap, dude - that's Giant Gonzalez! Muscle suit-wearing, Undertaker losing-to, worst wrestler ever Giant Gonzalez!


    That is some pretty innovative drafting.

    By Blogger Ryan, at 4/14/2010 10:50 AM  

  • What, signing & paying a big bonus to a 40 year old Dominican SS who claimed to be 16 wasn't innovative enough for you?

    By Blogger Deez Nats, at 4/14/2010 12:41 PM  

  • Perhaps we need a working definition of the word 'innovative'.

    Jes sayin'.

    By Blogger Bote Man, at 4/14/2010 2:42 PM  

  • First embarrassed Orioles fans of the season spotted on Rays TV broadcast wearing brown paper shopping bags over their heads at Oriole Park.


    By Blogger Bote Man, at 4/14/2010 2:55 PM  

  • You gotta be impressed with Chris still having Ball Wonk up on the ol' sidebar.

    They playing tonight's game to twenty-one or what? Gotta win by two?

    By Blogger Unknown, at 4/14/2010 8:29 PM  

  • It is noteworthy that the Atlanta Hawks were in the toilet the entire time that Kasten ran that franchise. Kasten is an empty suit and he's a perfect partner for the Lerners. Together, they produce disaster.

    By Anonymous phil dunn, at 4/15/2010 12:01 PM  

  • Ryan -- I like "El Gigante" better than "Giant Gonzales," myself.

    Awesome that Ted Turner gave him a shot.

    Phil -- I have no interest in carrying water for Kasten, but what you say simply isn't true. Around the time Kasten was doing this stuff, the Hawks were a very talented (if flawed) team. Their window closed when Jordan's Bulls became dominant, but the Hawks remained competitive in the 1990s when Kasten was team president. I don't know how much personnel influence he had by then, and it's true that they were abjectly miserable his last 4 or 5 years as president. But only then.

    By Blogger Basil, at 4/15/2010 12:31 PM  

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