Motta had a 156-43 record at Weber but he received almost no recognition outside the state and precious little within Utah, which prizes its three old-line basketball powers, Utah, Utah State and Brigham Young. It was only about the time that Weber was at last invited to play in the NCAA championship that a man named Dick Klein, the Chicago Bulls' general manager—and 21% owner—showed up at Weber and met Motta on a player scouting patrol.
It was always difficult to divine what Klein was up to. In this case, he was apparently stunned to stumble on this fascinating little man, but equally convinced that Motta was not so commanding that he couldn't control him if Motta would become the Bulls' coach. To win him over, Klein promised Motta complete control of personnel and a vice-presidency if he succeeded. Essentially, Motta believed Klein, and Klein believed Klein, a horrendous miscalculation on both their parts. "I had to be crazy to take that job," Motta says from hindsight, "but it was even more ridiculous of Klein to offer it to me. There was no way he could hire me and put me in charge of a $4 or $5 million organization. Not if you think about it."
While Motta was never Saturday's hero, he was a capable little athlete. "Look," he says, directly, "I can do things. Everything is natural to mc." At Utah State, Motta made his greatest mark in wrestling, after discovering the sport in a gym class; he became intramural champion, challenged the varsity man at his weight and beat him. At Grace, he introduced wrestling to the southern Idaho schools and it is now a recognized sport in the state. Motta seems more pleased with that accomplishment now than winning the state basketball title.
Motta's heritage from wrestling is a huge chest. He looks like he could probably lick the stuffing out of most of the men on his team a foot taller, although, as it is, he limits himself to whipping them in a beer chug-a-lug competition he promotes at the end of the preseason camp each fall.
Motta goes fishing back in Utah and Idaho in the off season, but even then basketball is the topic he prefers. "I don't read much or keep in touch," he says unabashedly. He cannot sleep, as a rule, for more than two or three hours at a stretch or, for that matter, two or three hours total for a whole night. As a consequence, wherever he is, Motta likes to have people around to talk to nights. "Almost every night on the road, I'm the one who is up with him till two in the morning," Dr. Biel says.
This devotion to profession does have something of a bizarre touch to it because of Pat Williams, who as general manager is just as hard-working and devoted as his coach. A teetotaling disciple of Bill Veeck, Williams is only 31, equal parts shrewdness and naivet�, and all telephone. He and Motta draw a certain elixir of strength from their daily phone conversations.
"I've never seen anybody with a roller-coaster personality like Motta," Williams says. "He's always telling me: 'I've got to be surrounded by level-headed people.' That was his trouble for a while; he didn't have anybody to buffer him from himself. Now we've got myself, and we've got Bob Biel and Jack Fleming [the Bulls' radio announcer] traveling with him, and Phil Johnson, too. This will make it easier for me, since they can talk him out of quitting. I have had to devote a lot of my time to that. He can't sleep—and you should hear him snore, too—so he starts thinking some more and pretty soon he decides to quit." Janice Motta says that the time her husband appeared most serious about quitting was the night after Chicago beat Milwaukee for the only time last season, a game in which Motta's center, Tom Boerwinkle, got 33 rebounds and outplayed Lew Alcindor all over the court. This would seem to be a cause for rejoicing, but the longer Motta stayed up thinking about it, the more he wondered why Boerwinkle should not get 33 rebounds every night. So, naturally, he decided to quit.
"It takes a special kind of win to make him happy," Williams says. "Sometimes I don't know what to do with him. The second game last season, we throw the ball all around and lose to Philadelphia. Well, sure enough, about an hour after the game the phone rings. Now I know it's Dick. You know, it's 11 or 12 o'clock, and I just don't want to talk to him. So I let it ring and go to sleep. An hour later, it's him again, but I still won't pick it up.
"Next morning I go to the office, he's the first call. He says, 'Hello, get me a guard. I got to have somebody to bring the ball upcourt.' I said I would try. So then he said, 'All right, listen. There's a guy who used to play for me at Weber who could get the ball upcourt.' I asked who that was and Dick said his name was Sivulich. I said, 'Well, where is Sivulich?' And Dick says the last he heard, Sivulich was working in Detroit. I said, 'By the way, how old is Sivulich?' Dick said he must be about 33 by now, but he could still get the ball upcourt. I said, 'O.K., if I can find this 33-year-old named Sivulich working somewhere in Detroit, and if he can get the ball upcourt, then what do you do with him—you know, on offense and defense?' He said: 'You let me worry about that.' He was dead serious.
"Then, just that day, right then, Matty Guokas became available at Philadelphia and Jimmy King at Cincinnati. We got them both, and Dick came to see me when he got back to Chicago, and he walked in and the first thing he said was: 'What am I going to do with all these guards?' "