Abe Pollin had been waiting for what seemed a lifetimge for the NBA championship trophy, yet he was 10 minutes late receiving it. He had more urgent business.
"I wanted to see the players first," he said. "To me, that was more important than the presentation ceremony. That (the dressing room) was where I wanted to be."
Dick Motta agreed. His only burst of anger came after being herded into an interview room immediately after Washington's historic victory over Seattle Wednesday night and seeing a TV monitor, a picture of his jubilant players 75 yards away.
"I should be there," he snapped. "I've waited my whole life to be there."
Come back into that dressing room once more and watch the Bullets savor those special moments, the once-in-a-lifetime high even more intoxicating because it had been ever so long coming. What was that scurying out the door? Of course, the monkey that just hopped off the Bullets' backs.
"I remember back to my rookie year," Wes Unseld said. "We'd just clinched the (regular-season) conference title and I remember how good it felt, because the team had only won a few games the two years before.
"It's been 10 years since I've had that feeling."
Mitch Kupchak had to tell a story.
"Tommy Henderson came up to me before the game and said: "Tonight's big. I might even dive for a loose ball tonight.' I thought to myself, 'Okay,' and then he said: 'And you know I never dive for loose balls."
With 90 seconds left and the Bullets ahead by four points, Henderson took a dive and somehow punched the ball across the floor, past desperate Sonic hands, to Kupchak, who grabbed it and quickly made a three-point play.
"Is that a long minute and a half?" Motta had muttered near the Bullet bench just before Kupchak sank the foul shot. "You should never wish your life away."
The players and the room are different, but Kupchak has been here before. Twice.
"I think you reach an emotional peak," he said. "I got there when we won the ACC title (at North Carolina) and when we won the gold medal at Montreal. And now this. I know this is supposed to mean more, but I can't feel better than in the past."
Elvin Hayes had to seek out an occasional critic - me.
"My man here said we couldn't win an NBA championship with Elvin Hayes," he said, pointing a large finger toward eyes not sure what would follow. Other athletes in similar situations have been known to be physical. Or at least vulgar.
Hayes hugged me. And laughed. He was free-at last.
Nearby, Greg Ballard yelled: "I hear Seattle is still gonna have a parade for the Sonics."
And And Hayes said: "They can have their parade, but they got to have the Bullets out in front."
In a corner off to themselves Charles Johnson and Bobby Dandridge agreed that the second NBA championship was better than the first. Ironically, both helped whip the Bullets - in four straight games - for their first championship, Johnson with Golden State and Dandridge with Milwaukee.
"At Golden State, it happened so fast I wasn't quite sure what was going on," Johnson said. "I didn't know what pro ball was all about. But we had to work for this one."
Johnson was trying to affect an imperial image, as the ultimate professional, but an impish grin betrayed him when someone wondered about that one-handed shot a step outside the half-court line that went in just before the third-quarter buzzer.
"If I shoot it and it's got backspin," he said, "it's got a chance."
How cool was CJ?
"Well, after the first quarter," said assistant coach Bernie Bickerstaff, "he went to the dressing room, thinking it was halftime. That's how uptight he was."
Johnson produced many of the late-game points in both Bullets victories in Seattle and he said he was looking forward to a long summer away from basketball.
"By not looking at anything round."
Hours later, Pollin could think of just one man - Unseld - and the irony involved in his being selected most valuable player of the series and assuring the championship by doing what he does worst - shoot free throws.
"I think it was meant for us to win," he said, "and I think it was meant for Wes to make those free throws. Wes is the finest young man I've ever met in my life. We've gone from last to first with Wes."
As the team charter flew back to Washington yesterday, many players and fans gathered in tiny groups to discuss one who was not present for the celebration or remembered Marc Splaver in private ways.
"Somewhere, he knows," Pollin had said moments after grabbing that precious championship trophy. Then his voice failed him and he cried. Splaver was the team publicist who died of leukemia during the Philadelphia series.
But it was a mostly happy flight - and swift - with songs and cheers and the general manager, Bob Ferry, saying: "Highlight? Coaxing $250,000 from Abe Pollin so we could get Bobby Dandridge. Hell, I used to be scared to ask for 25 cents from my old man. Do you realize how much $250,000 is?"
Insurance for an NBA title, to be precise about it, for when rational thought overcomes emotion Dandridge was the most valuable Bullet throughout the 21-game playoff series. He was the most versatile Bullet, the most inventive Bullet and - when he cared - the most consistent Bullet.
And also the Bullet who touched off the job minutes after touchdown at Dulles. The mobile lounge was ready to allow the team to walk, almost literally, into thousands of waiting arms, but nobody knew who should go first.
Should it be the players? Motta? Pollin?
"Who's in charge here?" somebody cried.
"Nobody," Dandridge yelled and gave a gentle, but firm, push to his boss, Pollin, who had promised Washington a trophy countless times and now, shortly before 5 p.m. on June 8, 1978, was making good.