World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Dick Motta

John Richard "Dick" Motta
Motta in 1971
Born (1931-09-03) September 3, 1931
Midvale, Utah
Occupation NCAA Collegiate and NBA coach
Years active 1962-1997
Spouse(s) Janice
Children Jodie (daughter), Kip (son), Kirt (son)

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 1
  • NBA coaching career 2
    • With Chicago Bulls 1968-1977 2.1
    • With Washington Bullets (1977-80) & Dallas Mavericks (1980-87) 2.2
    • "The opera isn't over 'til the fat lady sings!" 2.3
  • Head coaching record 3
  • References 4

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

With 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.

With Washington Bullets (1977-80) & Dallas Mavericks (1980-87)

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 [3]

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

Team Year G W L W–L% Finish PG PW PL PW–L% Result
Chicago 1968–69 82 33 49 .402 5th in West Missed Playoffs
Chicago 1969–70 82 39 43 .476 3rd in West 5 1 4 .200 Lost in Division Semifinals
Chicago 1970–71 82 51 31 .622 2nd in Midwest 7 3 4 .429 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
Chicago 1971–72 82 57 25 .695 2nd in Midwest 4 0 4 .000 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
Chicago 1972–73 82 51 31 .622 2nd in Midwest 7 3 4 .429 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
Chicago 1973–74 82 54 28 .659 2nd in Midwest 11 4 7 .364 Lost in Conf. Finals
Chicago 1974–75 82 47 35 .573 1st in Midwest 13 7 6 .538 Lost in Conf. Finals
Chicago 1975–76 82 24 58 .293 4th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
Washington 1976–77 82 48 34 .585 2nd in Central 9 4 5 .444 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
Washington 1977–78 82 44 38 .537 2nd in Central 21 14 7 .667 Won NBA Championship
Washington 1978–79 82 54 28 .659 1st in Atlantic 19 9 10 .474 Lost in NBA Finals
Washington 1979–80 82 39 43 .476 3rd in Atlantic 2 0 2 .000 Lost in First Round
Dallas 1980–81 82 15 67 .183 6th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
Dallas 1981–82 82 28 54 .341 5th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
Dallas 1982–83 82 38 44 .463 4th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
Dallas 1983–84 82 43 39 .524 2nd in Midwest 10 4 6 .400 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
Dallas 1984–85 82 44 38 .537 3rd in Midwest 4 1 3 .250 Lost in First Round
Dallas 1985–86 82 44 38 .537 3rd in Midwest 10 5 5 .500 Lost in Conf. Semifinals
Dallas 1986–87 82 55 27 .671 1st in Midwest 4 1 3 .250 Lost in First Round
Sacramento 1989–90 54 16 38 .296 7th in Pacific Missed Playoffs
Sacramento 1990–91 82 25 57 .305 7th in Pacific Missed Playoffs
Sacramento 1991–92 25 7 18 .280 (fired)
Dallas 1994–95 61 36 46 .439 5th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
Dallas 1995–96 82 26 56 .317 5th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
Denver 1996–97 69 17 52 .246 5th in Midwest Missed Playoffs
Career 1,952 935 1,017 .479 126 56 70 .444


  1. ^ [4]
  2. ^ Pincus, David (March 9, 2010). "Today in Sports History: March 10th". SBNation. Vox Media, Inc. Retrieved January 30, 2015. 
  • Dyani Gordon. "When Washington Went to the Opera"
  • NBA Encyclopedia. "'Fat Lady' Sings Victorious Tune for Bullets"
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.