Abe Pollin, owner of the struggling Washington Bullets, said yesterday his basketball team will undergo a significant rebuilding program before next season.
In an interview in his office at Capital Centre, Pollin, 56, who underwent triple bypass heart surgery in January, said he expected Dick Motta to return as coach of the Bullets.
Motta, completing his fourth season, reportedly has been under consideration as a coach for several other teams in the National Basketball Association.
"He has one year left on his contract with the Bullets," Pollin said. "I expect him to be the coach of the Bullets next year."
Last year Pollin refused the Los Angeles Lakers permission to talk to Motta about their coaching vacancy.
Pollin also discussed his disappointment with the Bullets' record (35-41) and the fact that they may not make the playoffs after a record 11 consecutive appearances, the possibility of Wes Unseld retiring and his delight at seeing the once-woebegone Capital hockey team contest for the NHL playoffs for the first time in their six-year history.
"I'm disappointed with the kind of season the Bullets have had," Pollin said. "It appears that after making the playoffs 11 straight years, we might not get in this year. Eventually, a streak like that had to end. But it's hard to accept."
Pollin cited injuries to Bobby Dandridge (leg) and Mitch Kupchak (back) as the primary reasons for the fall of the Bullets.
Dandridge, who has been unhappy with his $250,000 annual salary, still has a year remaining on his contract.
"He's told me he wants to play," Pollin said of the 32-year-old Dandridge, who has missed 31 of the team's 76 games because of injuries. Pollin said Dandridge indicated he may undergo surgery to correct a calcium deposit on his knee.
"Dandridge is a great player," Pollin said. "And Mitch is the kind of player who comes off the bench to give you 15 to 20 points, dives for loose balls and gets the whole team going.
"With Bobby and Mitch out, we are short on depth and running out of gas at the end of games," he said. "Other teams are putting fresh players into the games and running right past our players."
Unseld, 34, may retire after the current season, Pollin said. Or he may give it one more year. He would be welcomed back, Pollin said.
Nevertheless, Unseld's limited future and doubts regarding the futures of Dandridge and Kupchak have caused Pollin to believe a rebuilding program is necessary for the Bullets to regain their championship form.
Pollin said the rebuilding would come through the draft and whatever deals General Manager Bob Ferry feels he can make to help the team.
One trade some people have questioned -- Roger Phegley to the New Jersey Nets for John Williamson -- brought this comment from Pollin: "He (Williamson) can score, but does take some unusual shots."
Two veterans Pollin suggested will be involved in any future planning by the Bullets are forwards Elvin Hayes, 34, and Greg Ballard, 25.
"Elvin had a good year," Pollin declared. "I think he can play another two or three more years."
Regarding Hayes' criticism of Motta's substitution process in last Sunday's loss to the New York Knicks, Pollin said he was reacting out of frustration and nothing more.
"He plays so hard," Pollin said, "and gets upset when we lose."
Ballard, Pollin noted, has become an outstanding player. On the other hand, Kevin Porter's disappointing season has been a mystery. "He looked so good in our preseason tour of China," Pollin said. "In the games I've seen recently -- and from what people tell me -- he's playing up to the form we expected."
But if some of Porter's teammates are not playing up to form, Pollin's Capital hockey players are. "About time," said Pollin, who went through five coaches before settling on Gary Green, called by some fans a 26-year-old genius. "I was due," he said of his selection of Green.