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Sloan, Johnson upset over Motta Hall of Fame snub

Published April 4, 2011 3:39 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Former Utah native and NBA coach Dick Motta was not selected for membership in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame on Monday.Two of his prize students — ex-Jazz coaches Jerry Sloan and Phil Johnson — don't understand how Motta could have been excluded from the Class of 2011. "I'm very disappointed coach Motta didn't make it," Sloan said. "He deserves to be in there, my opinion. He coached at every level and won at every level."Sloan was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2009 for his accomplishments as a college player at Evansville, an NBA player with Motta's Chicago Bulls and for his work as the long-time head coach with the Utah Jazz."It just amazes me that coach Motta didn't get in long before I got in," Sloan said. "He deserves it more than I ever did."Johnson played for Motta at Grace (Idaho) High School and coached under him at Weber State. When Motta went to the NBA to coach the Bulls, Johnson took over at Weber. Later, Motta hired Johnson as an assistant in Chicago.Johnson spent the last 23 years as Sloan's top assistant with the Jazz, until they both resigned Feb. 10.Asked about Motta's Hall of Fame snub, which was first reported Saturday night by the Salt Lake Tribune, Johnson said, "It's too bad. If anybody deserves be in, he deserves it. "I don't think there's ever been a coach like him, who has been successful on every level there is — junior high, high school, junior college, college, in the servce, the pros. For him not to make it, it's just ridiculous."Motta's teams won 935 regular-season games. Only 10 coaches have won more in NBA history. He was the Coach of the Year in 1971 with the Bulls and, in 1978, he guided the then-Washington Bullets to the NBA championship.Later in his career, Motta took over the expansion Dallas Mavericks, who he built into a contender, as well as struggling franchises in Denver and Sacramento.Motta's overall record of 935-1,017 refects the difficult years with the Mavs, Nuggets and Kings. It was probably held against him by some Hall of Fame voters. "He had some tough years because he took over some bad teams," Johnson said. "So his [overall] record isn't great and they probably look at that. But it's not right. It's ridiculous."There were 12 finalists for Hall of Fame enshrinement this year. Seven members of the field were elected by getting at least 18 votes from a 24-memer honors committee.Those elected include former players Chris Mullins, Maurice Cheeks and Dennis Rodman, ex-Olympic star Teresa Edwards and coaches Tex Winter, Tara VanDerveer and Herb Magee.Joining Motta on the list of finalists not elected were former players Ralph Sampson, Jamaal Wilkes, Al Attles and ex-referee Hank Nichols.Elected to the Hall of Fame through special committess were former Harlem Globetrotter Goose Tatum (Early African-American Pioneers of the Game Committee), ex-player Arvydas Sabonis (International Committee) and Artis Gilmore (ABA Committee).This year's induction ceremony will be held Aug. 11-3 at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass.Motta, who turns 80 on Sept. 3, was born in Midvale and graduated from Utah State. Today, he spends the winter in Las Vegas and summers at Bear Lake where, along with his wife, he operates a bed and breakfast.— Steve Luhm