SACRAMENTO, Calif. He was either the team doctor for the Philadelphia 76ers or the personal physician and poker buddy of then-owner Harold Katz.
He might have even been a pharmacist to another Katz holding, Nutri-Systems. There is no consensus among several people around then, small-print details lost to time.
But Norm Horvitz was 49 years old and stood 5-feet-10 and weighed 205 pounds in 1983. That much was chronicled that night. He was an older gentleman, rounded, a product of the intramural program at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy as a 1956 graduate.
And he was suddenly the 10th-round draft pick of the 76ers.
Katz, a hands-on owner and constant presence in the locker room after games, ordered the Horvitz selection while in a makeshift draft room inside the Spectrum, the old home arena. His basketball people phoned the choice ahead to the draft in New York, gritting their teeth, but, frankly, out of better recommendations.
It was that kind of draft in that kind of era.
Long before the process was shortened to the current length of two rounds in 1988, the draft went 10 or 12 or even pressed up against 20 rounds. The lengthy drafts commonly ended in favors and publicity stunts as teams reached for attention in the days when the championship series was televised on tape delay.
Some years, it didn't end so much as collapse from exhaustion, like in 1966 when the Baltimore Bullets made the second and last pick of the 16th round and then went it alone in the 17th, 18th and 19th as everyone else passed. Or went to bed. The Bullets went solo the final three rounds a year later. The Bulls did it in 1972.
"You're numb at that point," said Pat Williams, now a senior vice president with the Orlando Magic. "You're grabbing for names."
He should know. Williams was the general manager as Chicago raced itself to the finish in '72 and was GM when the 76ers beat out everyone else mining the intramural leagues at Philly pharmacy schools to land Horvitz.
He should really know: Williams was the personnel boss in Atlanta when his first son was born May 27, 1974. Later that night, the Hawks picked James Williams in the 10th round in celebration of the blessed event.
In 1969, a year after the Mexico City Olympics, the Suns chose long-jump sensation Bob Beamon in the 15th round. In 1977, the New Orleans Jazz selected Lucy Harris in the seventh round, after SHE had been a three-time All-America at Delta State. Two picks later, Bruce Jenner went to the Kansas City Kings, thus becoming the only team to ever really follow the mantra of taking the best athlete available. In 1984, the Bulls used a 10th-round pick on Carl Lewis.
"We kind of went like this," Rod Thorn, the Chicago general manager at the time, said, shrugging and looking bewildered. "But we didn't have anybody else that we felt had any chance to make our team."
Others would become just as noteworthy for the appearance of a publicity grab. But at the time, Tony Gwynn (San Diego Clippers, 10th round, 1981) had been a four-year point guard at San Diego State, Jim Brown (Syracuse Nationals, ninth round, 1957) had averaged 15 points a game as a sophomore at Syracuse University, and Dave Winfield (Hawks, fifth round, 1973) was 6-6 and such an obvious superstar in waiting for someone that he was also drafted by the ABA, NFL and baseball.
"I think people took it pretty seriously up to a point," Knicks president Donnie Walsh, an executive and coach in professional basketball since 1977, said of the draft. "And then, it was so long, you ran out of players. I think the Pacers took a woman. You were just trying to think up crazy things to do."
The Pacers did not actually draft Ann Meyers, but she did briefly join as a free agent, becoming the only woman to sign an NBA contract. The San Francisco Warriors did, however, select Denise Long in the 13th round in 1969 on orders from owner Franklin Mieuli, who wanted to start a women's team and knew of a high school star from the six-on-six girls' basketball in Iowa. And the Nuggets did invest their seventh-, ninth- and 10th-round picks in 1983 on players from Catawba College the North Carolina school where the son of Denver coach Doug Moe was a sophomore guard. Some coincidence.
Just in case the elder Moe hadn't promoted the tiny program enough, the Nuggets took another Catawba product the next year in the seventh round. All that NBA talent and not one NCAA title for the Indians. The pressure that coach must have been under.
Indiana University coach Bob Knight got Celtics boss Red Auerbach, a friend, to pick Landon Turner as a 10th-round tribute with the 225th and final selection in '82, a little more than a year after Turner helped the Hoosiers to the national championship and some 10 months after he was paralyzed in an auto accident.
Shortly after Larry Brown left UCLA to coach the Nets, New Jersey drafted his former student-manager, Vic Sison, in the 10th round. It kept the Bruins' streak alive for having a player drafted each year since 1964. Ten spots later, and six after the Clippers grabbed Gwynn, the Bulls picked UCLA football star Kenny Easley, obviously impressed by his time on the JV basketball team.
"The draft was so long that you were taking guys who were not even going to come to camp," said Al Attles, the former Warriors coach and general manager. "Guys were drafting friends."
The draft was clipped to seven rounds in 1985 and silliness slowly disappeared. The legit selections that turned out laughable remained. In 1989, the proceedings went to three rounds after negotiations between the union, which wanted as many players free agents as possible rather than locked into teams as a late choice, and the league. The next year, it became the two-round process of today.
Seeing important proceedings being used for inside jokes, the NBA had already started to thumbs-down the gag gifts. The pick of new-born James Williams was disallowed. For some reason, Denise Long is not in any record book but Lucy Harris is, giving Harris the official distinction of being the only woman drafted even though she technically isn't.
As for Horvitz, he isn't in the NBA logs but remains in the 76ers record book.
Katz would have wanted it that way.