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One day leads into another, and someone's faucet is still dripping. Or somebody else needs basketball help; someone somewhere always does. Motta's Washington Bullets won a world championship in 1978 and lost in the Finals in five games to the Seattle SuperSonics in '79. Fitch's Boston Celtics won a world championship in '81, and his Houston Rockets lost in six games in the Finals to the Celtics in '86. The rest, for both men, has been years of fixing and mending, building and rebuilding, filling holes. Basketball at least 82 nights a year.
There have been good teams and bad teams and some just awful teams. There always has been a lot to do.
"What people don't realize is how fragile everything is in this league," Fitch says. "Everything has to work out just right. One injury to one key guy—if Michael Jordan goes down, Phil Jackson's right back here with us. It's that fragile."
"I came into the league and I think there were 14 teams, and I said there were only five great centers and five great point guards," Motta says. "Those are the important positions. There's enough of everything else. Well, now there are 29 teams in the league, and there still are only five great centers and five great point guards. So how hard is it to win now?"
The game has changed, evolving into this little two-on-two dance on one side of the floor while six other players often stand idle. The players have changed, becoming younger and inordinately richer. The challenge of building a team has become harder and harder with free agency and the salary cap.
The old guys have adapted as well as they can. They tell the old stories ("Guys can't believe it when I tell them that the players had to wash their uniforms," Motta says. "A lot of them would shower with the uniform on"), but they work inside the new showtime structure, teaching fundamental skills, looking for the smallest edges to deal with the present, hoping that one big-time player will arrive to change their fortunes in a hurry. This is their fun. Fun? This is their lives.
"I like what I do," says Fitch. "The losing can be tough—some guy will say, 'Good morning,' and you'll want to slap him—but my worst fear is getting up someday and hating my job. That has never happened."
"I heard people wonder why Bill would come back after a triple bypass," says Motta. "Myself, I said, 'Why would he give this up?' "
"In my first year in Chicago, I was thrown out of a game," Motta says. "I was in the locker room, and Pat Williams, the general manager, came in with Bennie the Bull, the mascot. He suggested I put on the Bennie the Bull suit and go back on the floor, stand next to the bench and coach the rest of the game. I thought about it, but I didn't do it. I wish to this day I had gone back and coached the rest of that game in the suit."