Legendary coach Dean Smith had a specific rule for his players when going up against Muggsy Bogues

Legendary coach Dean Smith had a specific rule for his players when going up against Muggsy Bogues

One of the brightest stars of the 1986 FIBA World Championship & Goodwill Games, 5’3″ Muggsy Boguesbecame known for defensively stopping the leading international player of that era, Dražen Petrović. Back in the NCAA, it was all business again for Muggs and Wake Forest Demon Deacons. As a senior, Bogues continued to terrorize the opposition by averaging 14.8ppg, 9.5apg, and 3.5rpg.

Bogues was so lethal defensively that the ACC competition had to develop specific rules before facing Wake Forrest Demon Deacons and their 5’3″ pesky point guard. One of those teams were perennial NCAA contenders, the mighty North Carolina Tar Heels, coached by the legendary Dean Smith.

Former NBA scout Al Menendez, who served as a Director of Player Personnel for the New Jersey Nets, shared a conversation he had with Dean Smith. Calling Smith by phone after the collegian season was over became the part of the predraft scouting regime for Menendez, who scouted the opposing NBA teams, and NCAA and international prospects. At the time, the Nets also had a video operative who recorded big-name collegian teams’ games. But, many schools didn’t send in their tapes, so Menedez decided to give Smith a call.

“Dean Smith was a very honest coach, but nothing, nothing, was more important than his players. So, I’m talking to him about his players, and they always had good players. And then I finally said: ‘I’m gonna ask him.‘ Because I never, never heard him really compliment an opposing player very much. Then I said to him: ‘Hey Coach, how about Muggsy Bogues?‘ He says ‘Al, we have a rule with our guards: If you bring the ball up the court, and you don’t see him, you pick up the ball! Because he’s probably right behind you, and he’s gonna take it away from you.‘ That’s what Dean Smith felt about Muggsy Bogues.”

Al Menendez

After finishing his distinguished collegian career, Bogues shined in the USBL, Eastern coast semi-pro league. He reportedly drew the crowds of 2,000 people into the packed gym, dozen of who were NBA scouts. One of those scouts eager to see Muggsy perform outside of the NCAA was the Nets director of player personnel Al Menendez, who enjoyed the way 5’3″ Bogues plays. Here’s his comment before the 1987 Draft.

“It would not surprise me if he went in the first round and is very successful in the NBA. I think he’s a sensational player. I would gladly pay to see Muggsy play.”

Al Menendez, Chicago Tribune 

After starring in USBL, Bogues brought his show to the struggling Washington Bullets. In what looked like a marketing move, in the beginning, Bogues, paired with the NBA’s tallest player ever to that point in time, Manute Bol, began to terrorize NBA opposition! As an NBA rookie, he averaged promising 5.0 ppg, 5.6 apg, 1.7 rpg, and 1.6 spg.

In the summer of 1988, Bogues was selected in the NBA expansion draft by the Charlotte Hornets. Back in North Carolina, Hornets fans’ favorite transformed the team’s play at both ends of the floor. After being joined by Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning, pesky point guard formed the team’s nucleus, which immensely helped the Hornets reaching the postseason in 1993 for the first time in franchise history.

“That kid was tremendous. How do you not root for Muggsy Bogues?!? Look how small he was. But, boy, he was tougher than nails. I really liked him and enjoyed the way he played.”

Al Menendez

The Space Jam participant enjoyed a 14-year long NBA career, appearing in 889 regular-season games, averaging 7.7 ppg, 7.6 apg, 2.6 rpg, and 1.5 apg. One of the most popular players of all time, whose performance vastly out shadowed his tiny stature, played until 2001.