After nine seasons with the Magic, Pat Garrity retires

By Marc D'Amico | September 17, 2008

He was a member of the Magic for nearly half of the team’s existence and played in the second-most games in the history of the franchise. But to make his nine-year stop in Central Florida, Pat Garrity had to take a short, yet eventful path from Norte Dame University.

In 1998, he may have played the most pivotal role in the Dallas Mavericks building their resurging core of eventual all-star players in Dirk Nowiski and Steve Nash. Still, the Mavericks shouldn’t be thanking him as much as he should be thanking them.

With each move Dallas made on the night of the 1998 NBA Draft, Garrity took another step closer to a long, productive career in a place not even he imagined it would happen -- Orlando, Florida.

The 1997-98 Big East Player of the Year was drafted 19th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in that 1998 NBA Draft. He was then traded, along with Nowitski, to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Robert “Tractor” Traylor.

Immediately following that trade, Garrity was shipped out to Phoenix, along with Martin Muursepp, Bubba Wells and a future first round pick in exchange for up-and-coming point guard Steve Nash.

Three teams. Two trades. One night. Just the way everyone wants to kick off their career, right?

It didn’t matter much to Garrity, though. He wasn’t concentrating a whole lot on where he would be playing his first professional season. He was more worried about having no one to talk to every time David Stern walked to the podium.

“When I was in the Green Room, I was just hoping someone would pick me so I wouldn’t be the last one in there,” he said with a laugh. “Interestingly enough, Rashard (Lewis) was the last guy in there, and it turned out pretty well for him.”

Even more interesting was that Garrity didn’t find out about being a member of the Suns by his agent, or by the Suns’ GM, or by the Mavericks’ GM or even by ESPN reporting it on the television. Nope, he found out the old-fashioned way.

“The way I found out about the trade was through the Suns beat writer,” Garrity said. “So I found out that I was with Phoenix even before I even knew about the Dallas part happening.”

On top of his odd (and a little awkward) entrance into the NBA, he and his fellow rookies were the first draft class who had to deal with a league-wide lockout.

Disparity between the owners and players on the collective bargaining agreement resulted in Garrity’s first season being put on hold. After months of deliberation, the two sides came to an agreement and decided to play a shortened season of 50 games. Because of the late start, the NBA rushed to begin the regular season and that certainly didn’t help him in his first year.

“It affected me greatly because I didn’t get that time in August and September to really work with coaches,” Garrity said. “I didn’t get a full training camp or a full pre-season, just like all of the rookies in that class. So we just got thrown out there after a week of camp and two pre-season games and we started up with the 50-game schedule and not a lot of practice time.”

Even with a minimal pre-season, Garrity was able to contribute in his rookie year. He appeared in 39 games that season with the Suns, averaging 5.6 ppg along with 1.9 rpg.

Following his successful rookie campaign, the final step was taken in his trek toward Orlando. On August 5, 1999 he was traded along with Danny Manning and two future first-round picks to the Magic for one of Orland’s top players, Penny Hardaway.

Technically with his fourth team in 13 months, it would have been easy for Garrity to wonder if he would ever settle down in one city for any length of his career.

“I was (worried), especially coming to Orlando because that year the team had completely dismantled the roster and reassembled it with a bunch of pieces where they were just trying to cut salaries and have salary cap room for the next year,” he said. “So I wasn’t sure if I was going to be here for a year or a half a season.”

Swiftly moving into his role with the Magic, his immediate contributions resulted in him being in Orlando for much more than a year. As he put it, “Just as luck would have it I wound up being here for nine years.”

It may have been luck, but it was more a result of his stellar play in a Magic uniform. Garrity shot over 40 percent from 3-point range his first three years with Orlando, averaging 8.2, 8.3 and 11.1 ppg, respectively.

Most players take years to learn the NBA game and reach their prime, but Garrity hit his stride in his first four seasons with the Magic. He believes that there were numerous factors that allowed him to be so effective early on in his career.

“I think just playing for a coach that really put an emphasis on shooting,” said Garrity. “Doc (Rivers) liked to put 3-point shooters out on the floor and he loved to shoot threes. And just the opportunity that he gave me is why I owe so much to him and the coaches at that time for having the confidence and putting me out there. I wouldn’t have been able to have the length of the career that I had without that confidence.”

He went on to say, “I think at the time the rules were a little bit different, and at the time the way the defensive rules worked, shooters got open shots. So any time you needed a double, 3-pointers were open even more so back then than now. We had a guy that everyone had to double in Tracy McGrady, who, that’s the other thing people don’t realize about Tracy. He’s such a great passer and he sees the floor so well. He was also a big reason that I was able to get so many open looks, and he elevated me like he did a lot of guys.”

Following a strong season in 2002-03, Garrity missed all but two games of the 2003-04 season with a right knee injury. He played another four seasons with the Magic after that but couldn’t return to his pre-surgery form.

His limited playing time the past couple of years denied him the opportunity to prove to other teams that he could still play. As a result, he instructed his agent, Lon Babby, to spend his time and resources on other players rather than himself.

Garrity received some inquiries this summer from NBA teams, but none that he believed would put him in a situation in which he could play and contribute. On Thursday, September 11, 2008, Garrity announced his retirement from the NBA.

“I didn’t just want to kind of string it along a few more years without playing and knowing my best years were behind me,” said Garrity. “And that being the case, I just thought this was the time and the place to do it.”

In his nine years with the Magic organization, Garrity made contributions to Central Florida both as a player and a community servant. During his 2003-04 stay on the injured list, Garrity made it a point to take advantage of his extra free time and give back to the community. His off the court work that season drew the attention of the DeVos family, who awarded him with the Rich and Helen DeVos Community Enrichment Award for that year.

“That was one thing that really impressed me about the Magic was their community relations department, and the DeVos’ and the Magic’s commitment to the community, especially to the causes of children in Central Florida,” he said. “They do a terrific job. And so to be honored with that award as someone who made an effort to do that and had the ability to donate money to causes by having a check issued in your name through the foundation, that was a great honor.”

He didn’t do this work to look good in the media or because he was required to do it. Garrity contributed to the community because he knew he had the opportunity and didn’t want to waste that chance.

“When you are a high profile business and you have people that are in the public eye, you have the ability and you have the platform to go out and do things for the community,” he said. “And if you waste that opportunity, it’s wasting a tremendous amount of chance to do good.”

Garrity also spent much of his time serving as the secretary and treasurer of the NBA’s Players Union. While he served in that position, Garrity helped negotiate the 2005 collective bargaining agreement between the owners and players of the NBA. He and his peers also helped to make numerous important changes for current and retired NBA players.

“During our time there we added a new health benefit where every player now has health savings accounts to draw upon after retirement,” said Garrity. “So doing things like that where you look at the union where it was before having worked with it and where it is now, it’s gratifying to know that I was a part of that.”

Speaking of accounts players can draw upon after retirement, he is now one of those people who can take advantage of the new health benefit. But unlike most players who retire and quickly get into TV announcing, coaching or starting a new business, Garrity is in no rush to make any career moves. The first move he’ll make will be at least a year from now, when he advances his education.

“The first major commitment I would make would be going back to school,” Garrity said. “That would be in the fall of 2009, going to a graduate business program. So that’s kind of the first thing on my radar.”

As for the immediate future? Well, he’s looking forward to enjoying more of the subtle things in life.

“Well, I’m looking forward to, it’s kind of funny,” he said laughing. “But I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving and having the entire weekend and not practicing at all that day or going out that night, because I haven’t done that in about 16 years.”

As a former NBA player, Garrity will be able to enjoy Thanksgiving as most of us do, without the lingering thought of Stan Van Gundy breathing down his neck because he ate too much.

That’s good news for Pat. That’s bad news for turkeys around the nation.