- Long ago - in a league far away - professional basketball players flew on commercial airplanes and sports writers were often allowed to hitch rides on the team bus.
One wintery afternoon outside an airport in a long-forgotten city, the Jazz were loaded up and ready to depart for their hotel when Doug Moe jumped aboard.
Scanning the half-asleep occupants, Moe shook his head and said, "Look at this bunch of [bleeping] stiffs."
It was a classic Doug Moe Moment.
It illustrates why I'm glad the [bleeping] guy has recovered from last June's heart attack and was able to accept George Karl's offer to return to the bench as an assistant coach at Denver.
Doug Moe is one of us.
The common man's coach. No three-piece suits. No cuddly, reassuring words for unproductive players. No wars with the media.
In 1983, when he was the Nuggets' head coach, Moe threw a cup of water at an official and was ejected.
Later in the same season, Moe was fined by the humorless folks in the NBA office after ordering his team not to play defense during the final 1:12 of a 156-116 loss to Portland.
Moe's rationale? His players hadn't bothered to play any defense to that point, so why start?
When Moe was fired by the Nuggets in 1990 - two years after being named the coach of the year - he startled everyone at his going-away press conference by popping open a bottle of champagne and celebrating.
Now, Moe explained, he would be getting paid for doing nothing.
Since 2002, Moe has been a consultant with the Nuggets. But he has stayed in the background, at least until Karl was hired.
In need of a familiar face on his new staff, Karl turned to Moe.
"It's more of a re-assignment than anything else," Karl told the Denver Post. "I come in, I don't know anybody on this staff except for Doug Moe [and] my comfort zone is important. I made that decision."
Moe is "a veteran coach that can kick me around a little," Karl said. ". . . We're close enough where I can say anything to him. I don't have to worry about offending him. He can say anything back without having to worry about offending me. That part makes it a real good situation."
Moe was the Nuggets' head coach from 1980-90.
In 1984, the Jazz qualified for the playoffs for the first time and rallied to defeat Denver in an opening-round series, 3-2. Moe typically blamed himself and his players. No one else, not even Denver Post columnist Woody Paige, who wrote the Jazz had "no heart" and galvanized Utah behind them.
Two decades later, Moe accepted Karl's offer and return to bench coaching without consulting his cardiologist.
He admits the decision was "not unanimous" - a reference to his wife, whom he affectionately calls "Big Jane" - and that he ended up taking the job mostly because he is "stupid."
But it was the right call.
The 66-year-old Moe walks 2 1/2 miles every day, He claims his stress level has dropped and he gets more sleep since moving from his seat among the fans to the one next to Karl.
"He's that old country gentleman that says he doesn't know anything - has no responsibility - but has a lot more wisdom than he would admit to," said Karl.
This is where Moe belongs.
Coaching [bleeping] basketball.
Steve Luhm is the Tribune's national NBA writer