by Lee Gabay

It should have been the most stressful day of my life. Not only was I, an English teacher, starting a new job…but the job was at a school for incarcerated youths awaiting trial.

Needless to say, I was searching for any sign of comfort or familiarity when I ran into Probation Officer Stu Granger, who was sporting a vintage New York Knicks warm-up shirt that caught my eye.

“That looks pretty authentic,” I said.

“It is authentic,” PO Granger replied.

“Oh yeah? How’d you get it?”

“Hubie Brown gave it to me. I played for him in 1987.”

I. Freaked. Out. Being a Knicks Nerd (I’m the only person, I think, who owns an Anthony Bonner Knicks jersey), I suddenly realized I was talking to the Stu Granger, the point guard from Brooklyn (NY) Nazareth, from Villanova, from the ’83 Cavs, ’85 Hawks, ’87 New York Knicks.

Granger was a little taken aback when I rattled off his whole résumé, but we quickly devolved into everything Knicks—analyzing the roster, lamenting the ’94 Finals and imagining what Ken “The Animal” Bannister was up to.

It was my first day in a weird situation but Stu made me feel like I’d been teaching there for years. I soon discovered, not surprisingly, that not only was he a good player, but he’s also a pretty extraordinary guy. At my school, Stu was responsible for making sure students arrived on time, got home safely by curfew, were ready for each class, doctor’s appointments and court dates.

But Granger’s journey from the basketball court to the world of court-involved youth was circuitous. Plagued by a knee injury that forced him into early retirement, Stu nonetheless played in the USBL, CBA, The Philippines and Sweden besides the NBA. Mentored as a teen in the Public School Athletic League, Stu decided to pay it forward and became a counselor to troubled teens at the Jewish Child Care Association in Westchester. This led to a job with the Manhattan Family Court, where Stu rose up through the ranks of the Probation Department to Enhanced Supervised Probation, overseeing the court’s most challenging cases.

Though they seem worlds apart, Stu sees some distinct overlaps between being a PG and PO. “You have to lead and make those around you better by putting them in positions for success,” he says. “Just like in the NBA, I’m still the floor general; I am a coach, cop, preacher and teacher. If there is a break in team unity, it’s my job to fix it.”

I assumed the students would freak out (like me) when they realized PO Granger was a Knick, but Stu downplays his fame: “The students often laugh at me when I take out videotapes of me playing in the NBA against Magic, Isiah or Jordan, and I don’t blame them,” Granger says. “It’s getting harder to find VHS machines to play these old tapes.”