Less than one month after saying he expected Dick Motta to return as his coach next season, Washington Bullets' owner Abe Pollin may have had a change of heart.
"At this stage, we're reevaluating the whole coaching picture and I'm not at liberty to discuss this situation now," Pollin said yesterday. "I haven't talked to Dick yet."
Motta, who will be entering the final year of his contract next season, was out of town yesterday and unavailable for comment. But he told The Washington Post earlier in the week that he would rather not return as coach of the Bullets if his contract were not extended past next season.
Motta's desire to secure an extension of his contract, or be allowed to talk to other teams, and Pollin's philosophy that an employe fulfill a contract regardless of the situation, apparently have led to the current situation.
Motta is looking for long-term security. If he can't get it in Washington, he would like to shop around. That is why he is pushing for the extension.
Pollin, meanwhile, keeping in mind that Motta has a year left on his contract, apparently is undecided on whether to replace Motta before training camp starts or to wait and see how the team performs next season under Motta before playing out his hand.
The past season was the most trying of Motta's four years as Bullet coach.
He was saddled with a number of players he didn't care for. On the other hand, some of his players voiced similar feelings about him and criticized his strategy and motivation.
With no high draft choices (the Bullets will pick 14th in the first round), little trade bait and an apparent reluctance on management's part to chase top-caliber free agents, Bullet prospects for next season are not bright. While the Bullets reached the playoffs for the 12th straight year, they finished the season below .500 -- 39-43 -- and were eliminated in the first round by the Philadelphia 76ers in two games.
Pollin denied the Los Angeles Lakers permission to talk to Motta about coaching that team last season, to the dismay of Motta.
Motta said recently he hasn't been contacted by any other teams about a coaching job because he is under contract to the Bullets. Pollin must grant permission before any team can talk with Motta.
Dallas and Detroit have coaching vacancies and Golden State and San Antonio are reportedly looking for new head coaches.
Motta has been mentioned in Dallas and Golden State, but Detroit and San Antonio have not shown interest.
Motta, 48, came to the Bullets in 1976 from the Chicago Bulls, replacing K. C. Jones. He guided the team to a 48-34 record before losing to Houston in the Eastern Conference semifinal round of the playoffs.
The Bullets won the NBA title two years ago. In 1978-79, the team had the best regular-season record in the league, 54-28, but lost to the Seattle SuperSonics in the finals. Motta's four-year record in Washington is 185-143; his 11-year NBA mark, 541-443.