Dan Grunfeld 4:54
Yeah, absolutely. So Anyu my grandmother Anyu means mother and Hungarian and my dad and my grandmother native language. Hungarian so my dad calls his mom Anyu. I grew up calling her Anyu and that’s what she’s called to this day. And she’s 96 years old. She lives in the Bay Area. 25 minutes from me and my wife doing incredibly well. And yeah, she’s a survivor, you know, and she lost five siblings and two parents in the Holocaust. And so, I did a year and a half of research for this book, like you said, and I asked every question I could think of, you know, wanting to get the details of her experience, what happened to her siblings to her parents, and there were so many deep moments. And there was really painful moments, you know, because she was saved twice in Budapest by Swedish diplomat, Raoul Wallenberg, you know, was one of the greatest heroes of the Holocaust. She saw very difficult things when through difficult things. The one detail that really sticks out to me from the interview process is something she told me about beauty she saw during this process, and I write about it in the book where, you know, she was hiding in a basement. And there were, you know, a lot of, you know, Jewish people who were fighting for their lives hiding. And one night they heard blast, which I thought were bombed. But someone quickly went outside and saw that it was like fireworks. And she said that it was, you know, everyone got out of their hiding places, went outside and saw these beautiful big golden fireworks kind of light up the sky sky. And I just remember her telling me how she looked around and kind of, you know, in people’s eyes, you know, it came back to them that life was worth living. And there was beauty and, and all these things. And what that was, she would learn later is that they always were lighting up the sky for bombing raids, you know, so bombs quickly started to fall, and they went back underground. But there was something about that moment, you know, after hearing about all this hardships, and then hearing about this moment of real beauty during that time that I just thought was really poignant.
Jeremy Weisz 6:39
You know, Dan, she risked her life several times also, and you mentioned Raoul Wallenberg and talk about that and and what your, your grandmother did.
Dan Grunfeld 6:51
So, Raoul Wallenberg says I’d saved her life twice. And so the first way was, he issued protective passports in Budapest to Jews, they were called shots passes. And so my grandmother got one for herself. And she risked her life, like you said, to obtain 17 others, you know, for people who needed help. So I always tell people, my grandmother is my hero, but she is also a hero. And so she had this protective passport, it gave her some security for some time, after a government change, it was no longer recognized. And she was captured by the Nazis, she was placed in the Budapest ghetto. At the end of the war, she was in a ghetto with her brother, at the end of the war, Nazis came in with machine guns and word quickly spread that they were going to kill the remaining 80,000 People in the ghetto. And so my grandmother and her brother raced up to an attic, they hid in there, my grandma still talks about this, there’s room for about four or five people and there was like, 12 of them packed in there, right, because they’re, you know, their lives are at stake. And they waited for five minutes, and then 20 minutes and then an hour and nothing happened. They eventually went out to check in the ghetto was clear, a Romanian Russian soldiers liberated them and my grandmother went home, and that’s actually survived. And that was 1945. In 1985, a movie came out about Wallenberg life. And it was in that movie that my grandma saw that it was Wallenberg race to the gates of the ghetto, pleaded with the commanders in the guard to call off the massacre. You know, he said, You’ll hang for this, there’ll be a criminal for this. And so it took her 40 years to learn that Wallenberg saved her life twice during the war.
Jeremy Weisz 8:20
who survived from her family who did not survive.
Dan Grunfeld 8:25
Both of her parents were killed in Auschwitz. She was there were 10 siblings total, she was one of 10. And so three of them were killed in Auschwitz. One was killed in a camp in the Ukraine. One was killed on a death march in Budapest. So she lost five siblings, and including her five survive.
Jeremy Weisz 8:42
She talked about it all in the interviews, her mindset, you know, to survive, because there’s not a lot of hope, when you see all this going on.
Dan Grunfeld 8:54
Yeah, you know, it’s amazing. She was 17 18 years old, right? So just just a young woman, but she does talk about it, you know, she talks about discipline, you know, and you couldn’t, you couldn’t be casual about anything, you know, your life was at stake with everything you did. And so she was extraordinarily discipline, she maintain that hope and positivity there. She always talks about her father, you know, my great grandfather, what a great role model he was and how he raised her. By the way, my great grandfather’s name was Solomon, my son is named Solomon after him, you know, so he’s a very formative figure in our family, but just kind of the values of keeping faith and, and, you know, having hope and that’s kind of what she applied. And what she also says, which I think speaks to her wisdom is, you needed luck. She’ll say, I did everything I could, but you know, you needed luck, because there was no stopping what was what was happening back then. And so there were people she’ll say, there are people who did exactly the things that I did, and they were killed, you know, which is so sad and tragic. So she’ll, she’ll comment on what she tried to do to survive, but with the perspective of So much of it was still out of her hands.
Jeremy Weisz 10:03
And there’s a really amazing story about how your grandparents got money and talk about that.
Dan Grunfeld 10:11
Yeah, this is after so my grandfather, by the way, he lost everyone in the war. You know, sit both sisters, parents, everyone’s when he came home with nobody. And so, my grandparents people have asked me because the book is out. When my grandparents met after both surviving the Holocaust, and I answered that, truthfully, they met the day my grandmother got back. She didn’t have clothes. All she had was the thin cotton dress and overcoat that she’d been wearing in Budapest. And so her brother had been liberated months prior from a labor camp, and he said, Come on, my friend who I met in the labor camp opened a store nearby when he got home. Let’s get you some clothes. And it was that day that my grandma walked through my grandfather’s doors and so we’re located yep, that’s in in Transylvania, so on the Romanian Hungary, so my grandmother is from a little village called Nicola. My grandfather lived in the big in the biggest city next week called Sycamore and that’s where my, my dad was born.
Jeremy Weisz 11:05
There. So her brother brought your mom to
Dan Grunfeld 11:09
a store. day she got home. Yep. And got her clothes. And, you know, they had and they’ve been together ever since. And at my grandma’s like after the war after that, that much loss. You the repair was the repair that was needed was so profound, that people started families really quickly. And so, my grandparents did that, you know, had my uncle quickly had my dad eight years later, and they lived under communism in Romania. So to your question about the money, you know, that wasn’t communism, nothing can compare to the Holocaust. But communism wasn’t easy. You know, it was very difficult life. And in order to live, you had to transact on the black market. That’s the only way to have any type of life. And my grandfather did that. And so they were able to save $1,000 worth of Romanian money, and 4000 American dollars, which were highly illegal. They had friends who were jailed, tortured or killed for having money. But my grandparents had chutzpah, right, they, they survived the war. And so they got when they were eventually able to leave Romania, they fled as refugees. So they weren’t allowed to take anything of value out of the country. But I my grandma still talks about this, my grandparents looking at each other and saying, We have to get our money. You know, we were too old, too long and too hard. And so and they did every sense of their name. So for the Romanian money, my grandfather found out which train was taking them out of Romania to Serbia and then to Rome. In the middle and I if
Jeremy Weisz 12:34
this isn’t a movie, I don’t know what is, you know, I mean, so this is a this is a type
Dan Grunfeld 12:39
of movie scene. My grandpa the middle of the night before they left with a friend stand, you know, watching so we walked with them and watch, walk to the train station forces were on board the train, he had the Romania money in his pocket, he found a seat at the front, he wedged it deep under the seat, left, you know, left the train went home, no one saw thing. So the next day when they got to the train station, the communists searched them, they patted them down. They got in my grandma’s face said Do you have any money? Are you carrying anything, she said, I’m not carrying any money. And she wasn’t lying. It just was already on board. So they got on the train. They went to Rome, my grandfather hung back when they were disembarking, got the money and was on his way. So that was the Romanian money. The American money was more of it and much more dangerous. And so this is really the wild one, right? And because I grew up hearing this story, and then when I was writing that book, I was like cheese. This is this is just incredible. This is worlds colliding. And so my grandmother had a cousin who work who was also a Holocaust survivor, and he was in Budapest, and he worked on he was a production assistant working on movie set. And there was an American movie being shot in Budapest. And the star of the movie was Buddy Hackett, who’s one of the greatest American comedians, he had been on The Tonight Show at some times at that point. And my grandma, my grandparents said, Well, wait a second. If Buddy Hackett would kick our money out, you know, no one’s gonna stop them. And so my, my grandparents approached my cousin, he asked Buddy Hackett and Buddy Hackett didn’t hesitate. He said, If you can give me the money, I will take it out from you, for you. And so, you know, that’s a whole other story. My grandma had to sew a false bottom into a suitcase and they had to transport the money, which was dangerous. They got into buddy Hackett’s hands, he brought it to the United States, he sent it to my great uncle in the Bronx. And when my family got to America, that was the money that was waiting for them. And there was an extra $50 on top, which is like more than 1000 today. And there was a note, handwritten note that said good luck in America sincerely, Buddy Hackett.
Jeremy Weisz 14:33
Wow. And that comes full circle. Right? Yeah,
Dan Grunfeld 14:37
it does. Because, you know, 20 years later, when my grandparents had made good in America, my dad was his big basketball star. They were vacationing in Las Vegas and they saw a Buddy Hackett perform. And after the show, my grandmother was telling the story about what happened. And one of her friends got up from the table went to the front desk. Somehow he talked his way into Buddy Hackett suite and he told him Those Holocaust survivors you help they’re here. And he mentioned my dad and Buddy Hackett knew my dad because my dad was a player for the Knicks, you know, buddy hackers, a Jew from New York. And Buddy Hackett said bring them up. I need to see him. And so they went up to Buddy Hackett suite. They had some liquor together, they reminisced. And so it was really coming full circle.
Jeremy Weisz 15:19
Yeah, I want to talk about you know, again, they were stripped of everything. And there was one thing that your grandmother actually brought back.
Dan Grunfeld 15:31
Yes. So you mean from from her hometown? Yeah, from my hometown. Yeah, I know. So, after my grandmother survived the Holocaust, she got home and her house was empty. I mean, this day, I found a family of 10 children, parents loving loud, home empty, and it was looted. So there was there was nothing left. And, you know, my grandma was disoriented, and she was looking around. And she found kind of wedged in the back of one of the drawers in the kitchen, an old metallic spoon. And you know, there were a kosher family. And it was a spoon, my great grandmother used to ladle milk. And that was all that was left, you know, and my grandmother took the spoon, held it to her heart. And she took that, you know, with her, and had it under communism, took it to the states. And she gave it to me a few years ago. So now I have it. And you know, I write in the book, I keep it very close to where I sleep, I keep it in my bedside drawer. And so think about a happy life with a beautiful family of 10 children. And that’s a boon, you know, was the only physical item that was really left, you know,
Jeremy Weisz 16:32
and they came to the States. And it’s amazing what they did, as entrepreneurs, right, and talk about what they created with the with the shop.
Dan Grunfeld 16:44
Yeah, and I learned so much from my grandparents and my dad did to, you know, informed our basketball career so much my professional career because my grandparents came to the United States. They didn’t speak English, they weren’t formally educated. You know, my grandmother loved to learn, she always says that, but because the Holocaust, she wasn’t able to go to school, when they got here, you know, I mentioned my uncle who was eight years older than my dad. And by the way, my dad called My uncle name in Hungarian that an English translates to Mike King. That’s how much he loved his brother. So my uncle was diagnosed with leukemia when they got to the United States, and he passed away within a year. And so this is probably the biggest tragedy in the history of my family, certainly from my dad losing his older brother, from my grandparents, after losing family in the Holocaust to lose his son. You know, you can’t you can’t even express you know, how deep that wound is. And so they dealt with so much, but through hard work, they were able to build a life and so yeah, they opened up after, you know, working some odd jobs, saving up some money to Buddy Hackett money help, they were able to open up a fabric store in the Bronx. And they worked maniacally, you know, they, they just work, they treated people the right way. My grandmother, you know, she spoke several languages, but she picked up a couple more languages to communicate with the clientele. And they did everything they needed to do to build a business because what that meant was to build a life, you know, and so my grandfather worked seven days a week, my grandmother worked six days a week, it was both of them, working in the store, they make my dad come on weekends, which you really dislike, but they built a really nice life for themselves in United States and again, didn’t speak the language weren’t educated last the sun and so if they can do it, you know, there’s, there’s really hope for everyone, because it’s really remarkable what they build
Jeremy Weisz 18:28
Dan there’s one point where they don’t make your dad come back to work. I mean, you need all hands on deck, right with this type of business. But there was one point where they said, you know, what, don’t worry about coming back to work.
Dan Grunfeld 18:43
Yeah. And so, you know, for my dad coming to America, as an immigrant, he also didn’t speak the language, he lost his brother, he, he went to the playground in New York City, to make friends learn English and to heal from that loss. You started playing basketball, you know, and, and he always says, Well, that’s the way you made friends in the neighborhood, right? And the better you were at hoops, the more friends you’re at, and I could say, well, you must have made a lot of friends because, you know, he had never touched a basketball before coming to New York. And then he just it clicked, you know, it just happened for him. But my grandparents never saw him play basketball. They were so busy at the store. And my grandfather was a world ranked ping pong player and a semi professional soccer player. He was a great athlete, but he just they didn’t know what was happening. And so they got a call at their store one day when my dad was a junior in high school already. And it was his high school basketball coach. He said, Hey, you have to see this kid play basketball. And they had never been to a game because the games were in the afternoon and they would have to close the store which they never would do. And so the next week, they closed the store early, they went to a game but not too early, you know, they could lose too much business. And when they got there, the gym was closed. You know, in the end the washer at the door said gyms closed and it’s full. We can’t let you in and my grandfather his English was not very good. He said you know we’re parents of player we’re guests of coach and the extra said nothing we can do and my great I said, our son is Ernie Grunfeld. And the eyes light up. He said, Why didn’t you say so? You know, let him in the gym. And my grandma still tells a story that, you know, they looked around the gym and my grandpa kind of nudged her arm and in Hungarian said, Well, if Ernie is so good, why isn’t he on the floor? My grandma pointed right to the middle of Florence, that look right there. That’s Ernie. My grandfather couldn’t recognize my dad, he literally had transformed before his very eyes. And so to your question, it was after that game on the port, where my grandpa said, you never come to the store to work again. You know, you because he saw something special was happening even after that first game, you said, you work on your basketball, we’ll take care of the rest.
Jeremy Weisz 20:41
And one of my favorite parts of the book, I don’t know why, maybe because I could visualize it in the movie is where your dad basically tells someone to pick on someone his own size. Yeah.
Dan Grunfeld 20:57
Yeah, so and my, you know, my dad was was picked on when he came to America, you know, and that’s one of the parts of the research that was really kind of powerful, because I knew that you know, and listen, my dad is six foot six. He’s a massive guy. He’s an Olympic gold medalist. Like, he’s a very well known successful guy. He was picked on as an immigrant, New York, you know, and so here, and so I asked him, What did they do? You know? And he said, Well, I remember kids used to tell me to cross the street. And I would do it, because, you know, they point I would do it, and then I would look back, and they would laugh at me and walk away, you know, he, so he, it was hard for him in New York City. And so when he was kind of finding basketball at the park, he was playing with some friends against an older kid. And, you know, this kid was from the neighborhood, and they’re kind of a scuffle broke out. And my dad was by far the biggest of his friends. So, you know, my dad tried to defend his friends. And, you know, these high school kids, you know, one of them in particular, threw my dad on the ground, grabbed his head and slammed his head into the concrete over and over again. And my dad never forgot that even to this day, he didn’t forget it. But certainly as he developed and then, you know, fast forward, you know, maybe five years, he’s now the best player in the neighborhood, one of the best players in the city, and that same person came back from college to play. I’ll let people read the book. Yeah, find out what happened next. But let me say the
Jeremy Weisz 22:16
book to find out I got the last laugh. Yeah. You got to read the book to hear about retribution. That’s it. Um, you know, so let’s talk about your dad for a second. And why Tennessee?
Dan Grunfeld 22:31
Yeah. So back then, you know, the Big East wasn’t the conference that it would become. And really the great players that in New York City, they went down south to the SEC, you know, it was called the pipeline to the south. So very common thing to do. You know, my dad’s final two choices were Syracuse and Tennessee, and he was one of the most highly recruited players in the country. But he thought at Tennessee that, you know, he had an opportunity to play right away. He loved the coaching staff. Again, it was in the SEC, which was the premier conference. And it wasn’t that far from New York. And he says that, you know, his parents, especially my grandmother was, was very happy about that, you know, she didn’t want him to go too far. And so Tennessee is pretty close, especially you sort of see it’s pretty close to New York. So for all those reasons, you know, he went down south to Knoxville.
Jeremy Weisz 23:15
I want to hear your favorite Bernard King story. And if anyone hasn’t checked it, I don’t know if it’s Bernie and Ernie or Bernie and Bernie on 3030 ESPN, there’s a whole documentary on it, and how close they are and how they played in Tennessee together and then eventually the day were you reunited on the Knicks? But, you know, with the relationship, your dad talking about Bernard King, what was a favorite story? From from your standpoint? Yeah.
Dan Grunfeld 23:44
So you know, Bernard is from Brooklyn, and my dad and Bernard is a black man from Brooklyn, New York. My dad’s the white immigrants on Holocaust survivors from Queens, New York. They’re a year apart. So my dad’s a year older, they went down to Knoxville and they’re one of the greatest Duo’s in college basketball history. They each averaged more than 25 points per game one year, right. So, really legendary. The documentary is called Bernie and Ernie. A lot of people will call it was called, it was called the Ernie and Bernie show. That’s what they called it in Knoxville, right. And my dad was there first. He was older. They called it the irony and Bernie show. You hear people today call it the Bernie and Ernie show because Bernard became such an amazing NBA player. I mean, he led the league in scoring. He’s an NBA Hall of Famer. They were both great college players. My dad was a service NBA player, but Bernard was great. And so And like you said, they played for the Knicks, you know, with each other. And so Bernard, I call him uncle B. I talked to him a few weeks ago, you know, he texted me a few weeks ago, he lived up the street from my so I grew up, you know, knowing about Ernie and Bernie being with Bernard, my dad tells a great deal. I’d tell so many great stories about Bernard and if you ever want to hear I was gonna say an athlete, but really just anyone. Talk about someone else in their field with reverence you should listen my dad talk about Bernard. Like it’s really cool to hear someone appreciate greatness. and my dad just appreciates Bernard’s greatness so much. But he tells a funny story that when they were playing together with the Knicks and QB Brown was the coach, you know, Bernard got hurt, and just a minor injury. And a few people, a few of the players got a little bit more opportunity. And they played well, you know, and then when Bernard came back, those players wanted more opportunity. And they had a team meeting about it, you know, and, and it’s funny to hear my dad tell this story, because they said Bernard was a quiet guy, very respectful, great team player, he didn’t really speak up that much. But during this meeting about like, guys trying to figure out how do I get more opportunities, and the coach was there, Bernard said, he kind of interrupted he said to me, you know, who’s the coach? Don’t run one play for me this game, okay. He says, if it’s the last two minutes, I want the ball every time. But don’t run a single play for me, because I want you to I want everyone to feel Incorporated. Don’t run a play for me. It’s funny to hear my dad say, because that says, you know, how many points yet to how bad he was? 43 It just got to show is like the greatest, you know?
Jeremy Weisz 26:02
Yeah, I mean, there’s a part one of my favorite parts of that documentary. The burning Ernie is where Bernard King talks about your dad. And there was one game like he, I guess always had his game face. He was really intense. There was one game where just subtly like he it seemed like he wasn’t he didn’t have the same intensity. And your dad just said a few words to him, like, Hey, get out. I forgot what it was, you know? And he’s like, Hey, get up. Yes, one and, and your dad just they just seem to have you know, each other’s chemistry.
Dan Grunfeld 26:33
And it’s really, it’s really great, because there were two of the best high school players, college players in the country playing together, each every more than 25. Right? It’s incredible. Rarely do you see two great players who actually make each other better. So I think that’s what was so special about them. And then they had this amazing backstory of both being from New York and overcoming challenges in their own lives. So for all those reasons, it was just a phenomenon. But yet, Bernard will say like me, you know, Ernie, and I had the best chemistry of any player I ever played for. And you know, to what you said about my dad kind of pepping him up and say, Come on, be. My dad will tell stories about that, too. And Bernard was legendary for that where he would, he would psych himself up so much that he’d be sitting on his locker dripping sweat, that that was the mental kind of preparation that Bernard would go through. And so when we talk about sports, life, business, right, that’s all applicable, right? How you approach your approach your craft what you put into it,
Jeremy Weisz 27:29
I want to hear a lesson that you learned from your dad professionally, because he was, you know, GM for many years, and also in sports. And I don’t know your favorite sports moment, from all the interviews you did with your dad, I have a personal favorite from the book, but what what sticks out to you is, when you hear that talk about his career, what sticks out to you,
Dan Grunfeld 27:53
to these kind of pieces of advice, or but they’re not even advice. They’re just things that my dad has always said to me. And this is highlighted in the book for sure. One is just, and my grandfather told us to him, if you work hard, good things will happen. Which my dad always say that to me, because I, as you know, from the book, right, I’m very honest, in the book, like, I was an analytical thinker as a kid, and like, I dealt with my challenges, you know, trying to settle into my path of basketball. And sometimes I could overcomplicate things, if you would boil it down to the simple part work, just, you know, just work. And so not only is it a contract, like hey, you have to work but it’s also like, don’t let the other stuff bother you too much. Just, you know, work hard and good things will happen. The other thing I first heard my dad say so much throughout my life is take the high road. You know, care, like who you are as a person, your integrity, how you handle yourself, nothing’s more important than that. So you just take the high road, treat people the right way, be a good person above all else, like you could score 25 points in a basketball game, you can be a really good student like, that stuff doesn’t really matter in comparison to the type of person you are. And so those are things that I always, definitely have taken from him. And so my favorite sports moment in the book, is when my dad wins the gold medal. You know, because, listen, he came at you. I did. We just talked about his background coming to New York City, not speaking English, not playing basketball, roughly 10 years later standing on top of the podium as a gold medalist for the United States. Right. That’s, that’s why you know, my subtitle does an unprecedented American dream. You know, it’s, it’s incredible. And my grandparents, they close their store for two weeks, drove from from Queens to Montreal and got to watch you know, their youngest son become a gold medalist you know, after them having survived the Holocaust. So it’s really a special moment. Okay,
Jeremy Weisz 29:45
that that was exactly my favorite part. And just to just to give people a glimpse, who are some of the players on that team because there are a lot of people that did not make that team that’ll that Olympic USA team.
Dan Grunfeld 29:59
Yeah, there There are a lot and I read in a book as you know a lot of great players who got cut, actually Bernard King being one of them where my dad was just still to this day, you know, because Bernard was one of the best players in the country. Players like Hall of Famers like Jack Sikma, Cedric Maxwell was the finals. MVP of the NBA Finals. It’s just a lot of really noticed Birdsong, a lot of great players, but my dad’s Olympic team, Mitch Kupchak, Phil Ford, got you know, they were from University of North Carolina, Adrian Dantley Scott may, you know, that was back of course, when college players were playing in the Olympics. And so there’s a little bit of a different cast characters and my dad was a role player on that team. You know, he went, he was averaging 25 A game in college, he averaged like three four points per game. But, you know, he said on that podium and put the gold medal around his neck, and he did what he could to help team.
Jeremy Weisz 30:48
What about a GM story? You you grew up around the NBA, right in New York, and then Milwaukee, what sticks out to you as a story from the business side of basketball?
Dan Grunfeld 31:03
Wow. I mean, yeah, so my dad was an NBA Joe Manchin for 30 years. So I grew up in and around Madison Square Garden. I remember sitting on the back steps of my house when my dad and Pat Riley were sitting on my kitchen table, you know, for the Knicks, talking about trades and you know, that kind of stuff is just just incredible experiences, things I’ll never forget and of course, my life, you know, being able to go to playoff games and being able to go to practice and be around the players not only get to know them and meet them but learn from that, you know, that’s it in for my career so much.
Jeremy Weisz 31:34
I love the some of the either some lessons or knowledge imparted by you from some of these people. I know at one point, Rick Pitino was talking to you. So what if he said something to you as well.
Dan Grunfeld 31:55
Rick Pitino and my dad worked together for the Knicks right after my dad retired as a player, he was a broadcaster, assistant coach, and all the way up to President GM of the team. So Rick and my dad have known each other for a long time rests on my family for a long time. When I went to Stanford to play you know, and which was my dream school, as you know, I wanted to go there in seventh grade, because big reasons because my grandmother lives close to campus. And she came to every single home game I played, but you know, I struggled at first trying to find my way. And finally my junior year, I found my rhythm and I was one of the top players in the country in my position, and we played Louisville and Rick Pitino is the head coach and this is right. This is the beginning of the year. And the prior year, my team at Stanford was a number one team in the country, but I had a terrible personal year. I just couldn’t get it together. But you know, I think this Louisville game might have been my third or fourth game of the season and I was averaging like 20 points in eight and a half rebounds. I was like I was doing I was just I come out of nowhere and was shocking to people. And I actually didn’t have a good game against Louisville but that’s beside the point. But after the game when we were shaking hands they beat us. Rick Pitino kind of brought me in for a hug and in my ear he said Danny I’ve never seen someone play as much like his dad as you play like yours you know and and I write in a book like that was like it was like an ascension for me you know, because I look up to my dad so much wanted to be a great player like him and and you know, struggled to find my way but when I did and to have some like Rick Pitino telling me like you play like your dad, I was like, I’ll take it you know that that’s all I needed to hear.
Jeremy Weisz 33:28
What about any lessons or, you know, you mentioned that you’ve, you know, you’d be shooting around with like Patrick Ewing and John Starks, any player conversations that you had when you were a kid that they gave you any lessons or impart any knowledge on you.
Dan Grunfeld 33:45
Guys definitely gave me pointers over the years. Even as I got into high school, my dad was the box guys like Ray Allen, who by the way, wrote the foreword to my book, you know, round top 75 player in NBA history. I remember talking to Ray before I made my college choice, you know, and know him telling me about his process of, you know, you get went to UConn and I was, you know, really want to go to Stanford and just talking to Ray about that stuff. But you know, what, these guys modeled behavior for me, in a lot of ways, you know, and I still just remember half the things they did, I remember going to Knicks practice, and I was in eighth grade. And Allan Houston, who, you know, is a friend to this day, you know, great, great NBA player, just playing one on one with me, and shooting around with me. And like, he didn’t have to say anything, but the fact that like, after practice, he spent 10 minutes with a kid, just to like, be a good guy. Like, I always try when I was playing, I was never, not nearly as good or as prominent as him. But you know, I was, you know, playing. I was playing professionally and overseas, and if there was a little kid in our program, like, spend a couple minutes with them because I was 12 years old then. And I’m 38 years old now, but I still remember that right? It impacted me and so I just took so much away from watching these guys how they treated me how they treat each other
Jeremy Weisz 35:01
I want you to talk about Ray Allen for a second because I had to re listen to the foreword of the book. So I listened on Audible. And I listened the first time and wait, I have to really is he talking about rail and I had to go back, I had to rewind it and re listen to it again, to make sure you were talking about the right person to make sure in my mind, it was the right person.
Dan Grunfeld 35:21
Yeah, it was the right person. And Ray wrote that, you know, and so, people know what an amazing basketball player Ray was. But, you know, few people know that, or at least not enough people know that. Ray has been this incredible advocate for Holocaust education, Holocaust remembrance, he saw Schindler’s List in high school, he was moved by it, he said that this is not just a Jewish tragedy. This is a human tragedy. And so he made it his mission to educate people on the Holocaust. Every time he’s his team played in DC, he’d bring teammates to the museum. He’s been to Auschwitz, you know. And so and again, I know Ray from my dad being the GM of the team when Ray was a young player and you know, we connected you know, when the the book was kind of coming to fruition and he Interesting thing is he didn’t know my dad’s background, and then you kind of get that from the book Derby, right, where there’s not something my dad has talked about much publicly and so and Raven to our house and said, Bernie are both of Bernie’s parents are survivors, all of his grandparents were killed in Auschwitz, like, Ray had no idea. And he didn’t hesitate. And that’s why I tell people as much as I admired him and looked up to him. When I was in high school, I look up to him even more now for the type of person he is.
Jeremy Weisz 36:27
I want to talk about your career, your basketball career for a second in college and pro but one person again, another person that stuck out in this book was Frank, okay, I want to meet this guy. Frank, I want to train with Frank, it made me want to train with Frank, maybe careful what you wish. Exactly, exactly. After hearing this. Talk about your relationship with Frank and you just you always had this kind of tenacity and grid about you. So when you first started, when you met Frank and his impact on you?
Dan Grunfeld 37:03
Yeah. So Frank was a very good friend of our families when I was growing up in New Jersey, and he happened to move out to the Bay Area, when I got out to Stanford, you know, and so he, you know, I was out there, my grandma was close to not much family. So Frank would come to my games and just good friend, Frank, train people for the military. And he’s unorthodox. He’s eccentric. And he would always tell me, you know, you need to work out with me, you need to see you don’t know where you could be coming. And I was like that I was on the number one team in the country at Stanford. I was like, I got it. Right. We’re doing final, you know, but, uh, after I had this really poor sophomore season, I said, You know what, I need to make a change. And after, after one day working out with Frank, during the spring to test it out, I said, Well, this is what I need. That’s to your point. I was tenacious I was, you know, I was motivated, and I could be pushed, you know, and no one pushed me like Frank. And so we worked out together all day, every day, three sessions a day for the summer between my sophomore year, my junior year, that’s when I was the most improved player in the country in the history of Stanford’s basketball program. And so frank, in you know, in the book, we call him crazy Frank, and rightfully so. But there’s a method to his madness. And for as, as eccentric and nutty as he is, and how hard he pushed me. He always knew when to pull me back. And I learned so much from him, you know, and one thing that Frank told me that always has stuck with me is that he, he always say, and he calls everyone, sir. Well, mentally. So sir, they say, Sir, your mind will always give out before your body. You know, when you think you can’t do more, that’s you thinking, you know, so you just need to need to figure out that voice in your head, and how to kind of do that. And that’s true. I pushed like, just when I thought I couldn’t push further. You found a way to push me but he would also pull me back when I needed it.
Jeremy Weisz 38:51
I feel like when I see this movie, Dan Frankel be my favorite character.
Dan Grunfeld 38:56
I don’t know. We got to figure out who’s gonna play it right. Because there’s only one Frank but we’ll figure that out. Someone really intense. Yeah, exactly. Um,
Jeremy Weisz 39:05
and I know and you correct me if I’m wrong. You’ve talked about when people ask you What’s your most memorable? college basketball game of all time? You say the Arizona Game? Right under present, and I have a different one for you. Okay, so yeah, I know, like you got in the zone, it seemed like you taught you to tell the story where you stopped thinking and you just just acted, but my favorite is the Washington State game. Okay, I don’t even remember the Washington State game. I remember. And I want to hear what you’re thinking in that those final minutes. And I may clip that into this. It’s almost like a comeback story, like, overlaying the career in this book, but I’ll clip it into this interview. But what was your mentality just give people a little background of what what I’m talking about, but what was your mentality going into the last, like, minute or so?
Dan Grunfeld 39:59
Sure. So when I say the Arizona Game so this is my sophomore year when we were number two in the country at the time of the Arizona Game, and my teammate hit this improbable 35 foot buzzer beater for us to beat Arizona. We were 20. Now at that point, we became the number one team in the country about a week later. Tiger Woods was sitting courtside. It was my birthday. Like, it was the craziest thing ever. Right. And so and we were having the Cinderella season. I mean, we were good. And, you know, our best player was the sixth pick in the draft after the season like, but we had him and a bunch of really solid role players. And we were the number one team. So we just had this magical run. So that’s when we get to 20. You know, when we were 25. And we were playing at Washington State, you know, in Pullman, which is a very hard place to play. They weren’t the strongest team in the in the conference, but they were up five against us with like, 20 seconds left. And remember, as I said, I was having a terrible year, I had no confidence, I thought I deserve more opportunities. So I just couldn’t, I just couldn’t really perform. But I was in the game at the end. And you know, my point guard dribbled down, he kicked it to me in the corner. And you’re gonna buy for this at my four by five, five, right? So think about it, we’re down by five with like, 20 seconds or so, to get you know, ESPN now they say like, chances of chances of winning of losing like for us it was probably like 98% chance of losing when you’re down five with 20 seconds left the ball kick to me, I shot it. I shot a three I made it, but I got fouled. So okay, so and then I made the free throw. So now we’re down one, we force a turnover and my other teammate hits a shot. buzzer. So now it’s like, Oh, my God, like Stanford, like what’s in the water? They we win again. And and it’s funny that you say what was I thinking? Nothing. And that’s why I made the shot all year. That was my problem is that I thought too much and you can perform. You know, my dad has always said to me, when you’re thinking you’re thinking, you know, basketball. That’s true. Like, it’s a joke, right? But it’s true. Like, you just you cannot perform. You don’t perform basketball or anything like that with your head, right. And so, at that moment, it was desperation. Because it wasn’t even you weren’t even we weren’t even considering winning, we’re just you know, so I finally shot a shot with a little bit of freedom and carefree. And that’s why I made it, you know,
Jeremy Weisz 42:22
fast forward to your, your pro career, what sticks out to you as a favorite or memorable game in your poker.
Dan Grunfeld 42:31
You know, I won a championship in Spain. And, you know, to win a championship is such a special thing. It really is like, that’s what you work for. And, and it’s just, it’s such a hard thing to do. And so, and my dad happened to be there, he was visiting, he was scouting in Spain, and he took the train to watch the game. We won the championship and like, I just like, you know, hugging your teammates celebrating like, it’s the best thing about sports, you know? And so yeah, that’s something I’ll never forget.
Jeremy Weisz 43:08
And there was a point where you’re, you’re playing for Jerusalem. Right? And it seemed like there was an emotional point. When you I guess, decided that this was it. This was your last
Dan Grunfeld 43:18
last game. I was playing so I was in. I spent four years in Israel two years in hurts Alia two years in Jerusalem in my last years and hurtfully. And pretty soon into the season, I was like, you know, I just have no more, I’ve got nothing left, you know, nothing left to give. And, you know, from the book, how intense the journey was not only wanting to be a basketball player, like my dad, but, you know, I had loved ones who are family, you know, they were the loved ones of my loved ones who didn’t get a chance to live out their dreams, you know, they were taken too soon. And that, that intergenerational trauma is real, you know, and so I always put so much pressure on myself and, and wanted to succeed in basketball, that it was such an intense journey. So by the end, I was really worn out. And, you know, I, under a lot of stress and trying to come to terms with my career ending and as you know, from the book, my career came down to the last possession of the last game where the results were still up in the air, and they’re, you know, my team was in danger. And I was so stressed about it. And yeah, it was it was just a wild journey. And I think it ended appropriately, you know, did you know there was not a moment’s respite than during my career up until the very end?
Jeremy Weisz 44:28
I love to hear what you think, Dan, mentally, you know, you wrote some articles on kind of during the pandemic about you know, your thought process of tough times, right. And it goes back to when I was I actually interviewed Paul Bigham, who I mentioned that raised over a billion dollars for Israel and that those are for from non a lot of from non Jewish organizations. And he would have to travel to these remote areas and interview these Holocaust survivors who are basically living in the woods. You know, in the cold and had not having anything to eat in their 80s. And, and he always and I always think of that interview and thinking like listen to these mid 80s Women don’t have heat in like below zero no food like who am I to complain? Right? So talk about your thought process of just the grit and perseverance What do you think of when times are tough? And you talk about a little bit your article, relating the pandemic and comparing it? Yeah,
Dan Grunfeld 45:35
I had right in that article, tough times don’t last but tough people do. And, you know, I definitely learned that from my grandmother, my grandparents and hope, positivity, you know, such a such a big part of it. You know, and just, we all have challenges, there’s always adversity and, and everyone’s challenges look different, you know, and I write in the book about this very bad injury that I suffered. And, of course, nothing compares to the Holocaust with my grandparents went through, but we all have things in our lives that are difficult. And so my life has been no different. And so just staying hopeful, staying positive, continuing to work, also leaning on your support system, right, because we need those around us to lift us up and to be there for us. And so, you know, through all those things, and that’s kind of how I think about perseverance and overcoming obstacles.
Jeremy Weisz 46:24
And you bring, you know, the sports and what you overcame, and what you did into the business world. So I love for you to talk a little bit about some things that lessons you learn from there that you’ve transferred over to, you know, venture capital in business.
Dan Grunfeld 46:40
Absolutely. I, I didn’t know at the time, how transferable skills are of an athlete to the business world, right? Because think about the life of an athlete. It’s about communicating with people and listening and cooperating, making decisions under pressure, problem solving. Leadership, as we just said, dealing with adversity, if you’re an athlete, that you’re you’re dealing with adversity, right, because there’s there’s just no other way about it. And so, yes, all those things I’ve have applied to my professional career, and have been very powerful, you know, because I’m used to being in the weeds of people being under a lot of pressure, working together, trying to figure things out. And ultimately, you want to succeed in business. Like, that’s what it takes.
Jeremy Weisz 47:23
And you know, up to the point, your identity is a basketball player. So when you decided to retire from basketball, what were you thinking was next? Yeah, it’s
Dan Grunfeld 47:37
a great question. I mean, I love to learn. So I knew I wanted to go back to school. So I spent the last year I was playing studying for my GMAT, you know, and so I knew I want to get a business degree. And I was hoping that by getting that degree, not only would it open up doors, but inside of me, I would learn more about what I kind of wanted to do next. And I was able to do that. And I went to Stanford, again, got my MBA there joined a startup early, you know, which we grew, was able to transition to the venture capital side. And so, you know, a lot of things about what I like about the startup world come from what I liked about the sports world, which is it’s competitive, you know, work is, is at a premium, you know, you can you can try to outwork your competition, not saying that everything’s in your control, and that’s also like, like the sports world, right? A lot of it is out of your control. But yeah, and meeting different types of people cooperating with different type of type of people. I just really enjoyed that. And so yeah, my, my journey as an athlete, it’s got to now transition to my journey in the professional world.
Jeremy Weisz 48:37
Dan I’ve won last question. And before I ask it, I want to point people towards your website in anywhere that where they can buy By The Grace of the Game, and I one place you could check out all is DanGrunfeld.com, which is D-a-n-G-r-u-n-f-e-l-d.com. Are there any other places online or on the web, we should point people to check out by the grace of the game? I don’t really have a cracker handy, by the way. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So people can see it. There it is,
Dan Grunfeld 49:07
By The Grace of the Game. You know, so we’re trying to support independent bookstores who really care about that. I’m proud to say that the book is sold out, you know, which is a good problem to have. We’re doing kind of an emergency second printing because the book is really resonated. They have copies on Amazon, and so definitely available on Amazon. But just in Kindle audio book, like you said, just really grateful for people engaging more with this story. And yeah, means means a lot to me.
Jeremy Weisz 49:34
How do you decide on triumph books?
Dan Grunfeld 49:38
Yeah, triumph is a great publisher out of Chicago, they specialize in sports titles. And they, they decided on me, you know, they really believed in me, they believe in the story. The acquiring editor actually had read the piece I wrote about my grandmother, you know, in with the hall, you know, surviving the Holocaust and looking back to kind of dealing with COVID when it first started and so they will Leaving me they believed in the story. You know, we had conversations with other folks, we have some interest, but I saw some people and affirm who really thought this could be something. And so, you know, I, I appreciated that went with them. And I’m proud of that. And you know, again, the book was a bestseller on Amazon, it’s sold out. So I hope that we did them proud of it. They’ve certainly done me proud.
Jeremy Weisz 50:24
So last question, Dan. And first of all, thank you, for sharing these stories with everyone. I just kind of want to talk about last is your grandma on you. And just, again, we talked about just so much hardship there. And on the other side of things, how close of a relationship you have, and what sticks out as a bright light as far as your relationship together, and some advice that she gave you
Dan Grunfeld 50:51
is my grandmother’s, the brightest light. And you know, and I actually say that about the story where there’s a lot of darkness, but there’s a lot more light, which there is right, this is ultimately a hopeful inspirational story. And it’s really my it’s because of my grandmother, you know, and if she can overcome what she overcame, and go through what she went through, there is hope for everyone. And, you know, she’s, yeah, did that it’s hard to put into words, that kind of the impact she’s had. I mean, I tried with my book, you know, but, but it’s even go to all your games, as well, all of them, cuz I yeah, she went to every single home game I played at Stanford, if she was on this call right now, she would interrupt me and say and some road games to which is true, she would go to Cal and USC, UCLA several times. But you know, I think from my grandma, it’s just really about how you treat people, you know, being being a good person, loving your family, you know, trying to do the right thing, having hope, you know, even through the dark time. And she’s the greatest example of that. We’ve talked a lot today about all the things she’s been through and to be able to remain as positive and hopeful she she has like, she has inspired my dad so much as a big part of his basketball success. She’s inspired me so much big part of my success on and off the court. And I hope when people read the book, she’ll inspire them as well. And I think she will.
Jeremy Weisz 52:13
Yeah, there was one part of the book that that I feel like embodies that hope or positivity is when you were thinking about going to Germany in what she told you.
Dan Grunfeld 52:25
Yeah, I read in the book, I’m probably the only professional basketball player on the call grandmother to ask permission to sign his first professional contract like it was in Germany. And, you know, when I asked her, she said you, she said, Go, and she said, sons are not responsible for the sins of their fathers, you know, which is an amazing show of perspective. And she said, you know, we can blame this generation for what that generation did. You know, because that’s what people have done to Jews throughout history. And that was part of the the impetus for the heart. You know what happened and so she just in every phase of my life has been this amazing. Presence, you know, wisdom of love of generosity.
Jeremy Weisz 53:04
I want to tell everyone, they should go to DanGrunfeld.com go to Amazon checkout By The Grace of The Game, it is a masterpiece. Get it? Get it for a friend get it for family member and Dan, thank you so much,
Dan Grunfeld 53:17
Jerremy, thanks for having me. This was great.