Dick Motta

Dick Motta

Motta in 1971
Personal information
Born (1931-09-03) September 3, 1931
Midvale, Utah
Nationality American
Listed height 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Listed weight 170 lb (77 kg)
Career information
High school Jordan (Sandy, Utah)
College Utah State
Career history
As coach:
1962–1968 Weber State
19681976 Chicago Bulls
19761980 Washington Bullets
19801987 Dallas Mavericks
19901991 Sacramento Kings
19941996 Dallas Mavericks
1996–1997 Denver Nuggets
Career highlights and awards

John Richard "Dick" Motta (born September 3, 1931) is a former basketball coach whose career in the National Basketball Association (NBA) spanned 25 years, and he continues to rank among the NBA's all-time top 10 in coaching victories.

Early coaching career

After graduating from Utah State University, Motta started coaching at Grace, Idaho, where he taught seventh grade and coached for two years before being drafted in the armed services. He once said in an interview that winning the 1959 Idaho state high school championship was his greatest thrill as a coach, even topping the NBA championship he won two decades later.

Motta coached at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah in the 1960s. Under the direction of Motta and assistant coach Phil Johnson, Weber State won three Big Sky championships. The first Big Sky Championship the duo experienced while at Weber State was in 1965.

NBA coaching career

Chicago Bulls (1968–1977)

Motta was hired as head coach of the Chicago Bulls in 1968 after a six-year stint at Weber State University. From 1970 to 1974 he led the Bulls to four consecutive seasons of 50 wins or more, winning the NBA Coach of the Year Award in 1971.

Washington Bullets (1977–1980) & Dallas Mavericks (1980–1987)

In 1976, Motta left the Bulls to coach the Washington Bullets, with whom he won an NBA Championship in 1978. After two more seasons with the Bullets, he became the first coach of the Dallas Mavericks, whom he led to a 55–27 record in 1986–87. Motta also served with the Sacramento Kings and Denver Nuggets before retiring in 1997.

Motta holds the unique distinction of being one of the very few coaches in the NBA who never played either high school, college or pro basketball.

"The opera isn't over 'til the fat lady sings!"

Motta is sometimes erroneously credited with coining the celebrated phrase: The opera ain't over 'til the fat lady sings.[1] In fact, the first recorded use of the phrase was by Texas Tech sports information director Ralph Carpenter, as reported in the Dallas Morning News on 10 March 1976.[2]

During a KENS-TV broadcast of the 1978 NBA Eastern Conference semi-finals between the Washington Bullets and the San Antonio Spurs, Cook used the phrase in an attempt to encourage Spurs fans, as their team was down three games to one against the Bullets. Motta heard the broadcast and adopted his own rendition of the expression "The 'opera' isn't over 'til the fat lady sings" to warn Bullets fans against braggadocio.

The odds were against the underdog Bullets, and sportswriters were forecasting a grim finale, so Motta rebounded with the upbeat ostinato, "Wait for the fat lady!" The Bullets won the Eastern Conference against the Atlantic Division Champion Philadelphia 76ers, and went on to beat the Western Conference Champion Seattle SuperSonics four games to three for the 1978 NBA title.

The victory gave Washington, D.C. area fans their first professional championship team in any sport since the Washington Redskins won the National Football League title in 1942. (The basketball team played its home games in nearby Landover, Maryland.) In Motta's second year as coach, the Bullets (the Washington "Wizards", as of 1997) had become only the third team to win the NBA championship in a seventh game on the road. That 1978 championship remains the franchise's only NBA championship.

After the climactic Game 7 victory to claim the title, Motta celebrated with his team wearing a beer-soaked The Opera Isn't Over 'Til The Fat Lady Sings T-shirt.

What made the championship so great was that we weren’t supposed to win it. We came a long way. Most people didn’t give us a chance, but I felt all along we could. I really did. Dick Motta

In a Nov. 5, 2003 interview in the Utah Statesman, the student newspaper of his alma mater Utah State University, Motta said opera lovers were angry with him at first. "My wife said they were going to kill me when I said that." But that as time passed, Motta said, he was extended friendly invitations to a variety of events with "operatic" themes ranging from the Metropolitan Opera in New York to the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.

Head coaching record

Regular season G Games coached W Games won L Games lost W–L % Win-loss %
Post season PG Playoff games PW Playoff wins PL Playoff losses PW–L % Playoff win-loss %
Team Year G W L WL% Finish PG PW PL PWL% Result
Chicago 1968–69 823349.4025th in West Missed Playoffs
Chicago 1969–70 823943.4763rd in West514.200 Lost in Division Semifinals
Chicago 1970–71 825131.6222nd in Midwest734.429 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
Chicago 1971–72 825725.6952nd in Midwest404.000 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
Chicago 1972–73 825131.6222nd in Midwest734.429 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
Chicago 1973–74 825428.6592nd in Midwest1147.364 Lost in Conf. Finals
Chicago 1974–75 824735.5731st in Midwest1376.538 Lost in Conf. Finals
Chicago 1975–76 822458.2934th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
Washington 1976–77 824834.5852nd in Central945.444 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
Washington 1977–78 824438.5372nd in Central21147.667 Won NBA Championship
Washington 1978–79 825428.6591st in Atlantic19910.474 Lost in NBA Finals
Washington 1979–80 823943.4763rd in Atlantic202.000 Lost in First Round
Dallas 1980–81 821567.1836th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
Dallas 1981–82 822854.3415th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
Dallas 1982–83 823844.4634th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
Dallas 1983–84 824339.5242nd in Midwest1046.400 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
Dallas 1984–85 824438.5373rd in Midwest413.250 Lost in First Round
Dallas 1985–86 824438.5373rd in Midwest1055.500 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
Dallas 1986–87 825527.6711st in Midwest413.250 Lost in First Round
Sacramento 1989–90 541638.2967th in Pacific Missed Playoffs
Sacramento 1990–91 822557.3057th in Pacific Missed Playoffs
Sacramento 1991–92 25718.280(fired)
Dallas 1994–95 613646.4395th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
Dallas 1995–96 822656.3175th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
Denver 1996–97 691752.2465th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
Career 1,9529351,017.479 1265670.444


  1. Pincus, David (March 9, 2010). "Today in Sports History: March 10th". SBNation. Vox Media, Inc. Retrieved January 30, 2015.
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