Monday Morning Boost: Motta’s Mottos

Monday Morning Boost: Motta’s Mottos

The NBA’s Washington Bullets were the acknowledged underdogs during 1977-78 playoffs. They barely qualified for the playoffs, finishing the regular season with a dismal 44-38 record under second-year head coach Dick Motta.

The Bullets won their division then took on the San Antonio Spurs in the Eastern Conference finals. With the Bullets leading the series 3-1, San Antonio sportscaster Dan Cox attempted to rally fans for the struggling Spurs by uttering a single phrase that rallied a team all the way to the NBA Championship:

“It won’t be over until the fat lady sings.”

The problem, at least for the San Antonio Spurs, it rallied the wrong team.

Dick Motta, as reported in a 2003 article on, “used that premise to caution his team and Washington fans of overconfidence.  ‘The opera ain’t over ’till the fat lady sings.'”

Coach Motta created a mantra, a “Motta Motto” perhaps, with his opera comment.  It united players and fans alike as the Bullets successfully fought their way all the way to the NBA championship for the first and only time in franchise history.  The Bullets championship win was also the “last time an NBA team won a Finals Game 7 on the road.”

The coach, a graduate of Utah State and former coach of Weber State, shared a few of his Motta’s Mottos (completely my term) at a recent Cache Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

“I studied the game extensively, studied the great coaches, learned from the best.”

– On becoming a Top 10 NBA coach though he never played team basketball in high school, college or professionally.

“Learn plays by rote repetition.”

– Translating teaching basketball plays into business training.  If you’re in “crisis mode,” he said, it’s “too late” to be teaching your team. They have to work automatically, by rote repetition.

“The cohesiveness of a team is the most important factor.”

“It’s okay to get beat [by a better or more talented team] but you don’t want to lose.”

“Life as a coach, business owner, is an emotional rollercoaster.  You need balance you can get from family, religion, administration.”

“No one ever got the best of Jerry Sloan.”

– Referring to some saying former Utah Jazz player Deron Williams got the best of Jerry Sloan when Sloan resigned from the Jazz. Dick Motta coached Jerry Sloan for 8 years at Chicago Bulls.

And here’s my favorite, in reference to coaching young, bright stars, who don’t necessarily want to be coached.

“I’ll be what you make me be. I’ve worked too hard to get where I am to let some snot nose kid ruin it for me.”

Have a great Monday!  Thanks for letting me share.

Les Patterson

p.s. Take 13 minutes today and enjoy watching Dick Motta and the ‘fat lady sing’ for the 1978 NBA Championship.

p.s. Take 13 minutes today to make better connections.

Discover how you can “Gain The Red Edge” by focusing your efforts, clarifying your message, sharing your story, and creating impact with a complimentary Gain the Red Edge coaching call.

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