Oh, Dolph has a much more prominent distinction: He has worked for the Bullets/Wizards for 41 years. No team employee has seen more losses, more draft busts and more basketball carnage, in general, than Dolph.
Which either makes him loyal or masochistic, we’re not sure.
“How do you say, ‘I can’t believe we haven’t been [to the NBA Finals again]?’ Because I’ve been there for the 35 years, watching,” Dolph said, a bit wistfully.
He has lived half his life since Washington was last champion of the basketball world. Dolph is now 70. Still waiting. Still echoing the credo of the beaten-down legions.
“It’s disappointing, but every year starts out and you say, ‘We’re going to be better.’
We’re going to be better. Every year since 1978 — 1,634 losses later.
“Ow,” he says.
Dolph knows pain. He has outlasted Big Wes, Susan O’Malley, two arenas, the team’s original name and your Wizards’ official 2009-10 marketing slogan, “Determined to Deliver,” which was catchy if only Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton didn’t take the “Deliver” part to mean firearms to the locker room.
Dolph survived a 23-year stretch in which the franchise either didn’t go to the playoffs or failed to win a first-round series. Don’t even get us started on the litany of bad players: LaBradford Smith, Darvin Ham, Don MacLean, Ladell Eackles and Peter “Party” John Ramos.
You probably don’t know Dolph. But you have seen him on television during a cut-away from Bernard King or Gheorghe Muresan or Wes mumbling into the microphone.
Tufted hair, eyebrows, bushy ’70s ’stache, plaid-gray designer suit over a Ralph Lauren polo, black Ferragamo loafers, Dolph could be a shorter Omar Sharif or that character actor you definitely saw on Broadway in something 20 years ago. But other than lording over the locker room during interviews or always looking busy, even Dolph is unclear of his actual job description.
When the team had just one media-relations person, Dolph was said to be the assistant to the PR director. “One year I was ‘Game Night Host.’ They just kept making stuff up,” he said.
When the late Abe Pollin asked him how many years he had worked for him seven years ago, Dolph replied, “34 years, Mr. Pollin.”
“Then I owe you 34 dollars,” Mr. P said, smiling.
The Senators inadvertently got him the job. After baseball left Washington for the second time, WWDC-AM was without a team to cover. So the station picked up the Baltimore Bullets, who were moving south the next year. Johnny Holliday and Tony Roberts asked Dolph if he could provide them with statistics like he did for baseball.