|Mavs Tenure:||1980-1987, 1994-1996|
Dick Motta was the inaugural head coach of the Dallas Mavericks and served as head coach from 1980-1987. Under Motta's supervision as coach, the Mavericks steadily improved their regular season record and recorded a 267-307 record in his seven years in Dallas.
Before his tenure with Dallas, Motta was the coach for the Chicago Bulls (1968-1975) and Washington Bullets (1976-1979). He spent one season coaching in Sacramento before returning to coach the Mavericks from 1994 to 1996. Motta would coach one year in Denver before officially retiring in 1997 with a career record of 935-1017
Born September 3, 1931, John Richard Motta was raised in Midvale, Utah. He began his coaching career at Idaho's Grace High School after a short stint in the Air Force. Despite an NBA Championship, Motta said his biggest thrill was winning the 1959 Class AA Idaho high school title, with former Sacramento Kings head coach Phil Johnson as his star player.
Motta coached at Weber State from 1962-1968, going 120-33 and winning three Big Sky titles in just six years. After originally aspiring to become a wrestling or football coach, Motta was cut from his high school basketball team as a senior and then four staight years while at Utah State. He had never seen an NBA game before coaching in one in 1968 at age 37. Madison Square Garden officials even refused to believe he was the coach of the Bulls until a Chicago trainer vouched for him.
Motta was named NBA Coach of the Year after the 1970-71 season while with the Bulls and won his first NBA Championship while with the Bullets in 1978.
Motta is perhaps more noted for seemingly coining the term, "It ain't over til the fat lady sings." When really the phrase was originated by San Antonio sportswriter and TV sportscaster Dan Cook, Motta is considered the man who made the term famous. During the 1978 NBA Eastern Conference Semi-Finals against the San Antonio Spurs, Cook used the phrase to encourage fans of the Spurs, who were down three games to one against Motta's Bullets. When hearing of Cook's saying, Motta responded and coined his own version of the term -- "The opera isn't over 'til the fat lady sings" -- in an effort to inspire Bullets fans.
The underdog Bullets would later go on to win the series against the Spurs, beat the Philadelphia 76ers in the Eastern Conference Finals and ultimately win the NBA Finals by beating the Seattle SuperSonics.
After Game 7 of the NBA Finals, Motta celebrated by wearing a t-shirt that read "The Opera isn't Over 'Til The Fat Lady Sings."
Motta-isms, which were excerpts from Motta's coaching philosophy were popular among NBA fans. Among the isms are: "I was going to be a coach from the time I was 13 years old. I still love the game. I think I am as viable as I was when I came in. I don't get as excited before the games, but I am as intense inside during the games."
Dallas Mavericks general manager Norm Sonju hired Motta on July 16, 1980, giving the expansion Mavericks instant credibility.
"There were many times when I wondered if we were doing the right thing by going with all the young kids. There is no role model on our team. No one for our young kids to look up to. When we went into our first playoff game, not one player had ever played a minute of a playoff game that counted. I've had to coach and do and say things a little harder than you would if you had a great role model that the y oung players respected."
"About three days into the (first Mavericks) training camp, I was hoping that I could take some type of a time tablet and play a Rip Van Winkle, and have someone wake me up in three or four years."
"When I looked out at the talent when Bob Weiss and I surveyed our kingdom, I said there were basically four types of people: people with bad contracts, people with bad injury, people with bad attitude or a bad player. Some of them qualified for three of the four categories."
Despite the varying types on the first-year roster, it only took Motta four years to get the Mavericks into the playoffs as Dallas became only the 10th team in NBA history to improve upon it's record in four consecutive seasons.
"Our fans are more loyal than maybe we deserve, but they are appreciated. We feel they are the most loyal fans in the league. I, as a coach, don't understand the phenomena of the Dallas fan, but not understanding it doesn't take away from my appreciation of them."
After being eliminated in the first round of the playoffs in 1986-1987 by Seattle, Motta shocked the team and its fans by resigning.
As quickly as Motta was gone from the NBA...he returned. Taking on the task of turning around the Sacramento Kings. Taking the job after the season had begun, the Kings went 16-38 the remainder of the way. The next season, they improved to 25-57 but Motta was again gone the following year after beginning the season 7-18.
A three-year sabatical was all Motta needed to recharge his batteries and again answer the second time that Dallas General Manager Norm Sonju camd calling. Taking over from Quinn Buckner who had recorded a 13-69 record, Motta breathed new life into the team in 1994-1995 as Dallas improved an amazing 23 games to 36-46 winning more games than they had in the prior two years combined. Of course it didn't help that the team was led by NBA Co-Rookie of the Year, Jason Kidd.
The Mavs were a beat-up team the following season losing 212 player games due to injury or illness, not to mention losing Roy Tarpley when in December, the NBA announced he had violated the terms of his after-care program and was disqualified from the league. The team lost ground finishing only 26-56 with Motta leaving after the season.
There was one more NBA stop for Dick Motta as he coached the Denver Nuggets for 69 games in the 1996-1997 campaign, going 17-52 and completeing his professional career with a 935-1017 record and is still in the top ten all-time winningest coaches in NBA history.
Motta and his wife Janice have three children: Kip, Jody and Kirt. He now has completely retired from the professional basketball scene and runs an inn with his wife and daughter in Fish Haven, Idaho.