Abe Pollin, owner of the Washington Bullets, and General Manager Bob Ferry said yesterday they were satisfied with Dick Motta's coaching of the team this season and that they expect him back next year.
They also pledged to do everything possible to give the coach more to work with.
"We haven't done anything yet," Pollin said, "but we'll all get together soon and plot some strategy. We will do whatever it takes to build, a winning team."
Ferry, just returned from a two-week scouting trip, told The Washington Post he already has begun looking into changes the Bullets can make.
"From now until the day of the draft, I'm exploring every possible way to improve the club, either through moving up in the draft or trades," he said. "I'm more open to making major changes this year than in the past."
Motta, who was not available to comment yesterday, has one year remaining on his contract with the Bullets. Several players have said he did not coach with the zest this season he had in the past.
"I didn't see any loss of interest by Dick," he said. "He seemed very intense when it came to making the playoffs. I think that, under the conditions, he did a good job."
"I never saw any changes in Dick at all." he said. "I'm satisfied he did all he could."
Motta has been rumored to be a candidate to coach the new Dallas franchise, which will begin play in the NBA next season. But principal owner Norm Sonju wants Arkansas Coach Eddie Sutton to run the Dallas team. Even if Sutton does not take the job, Sonju has indicated that he is not interested in hiring Motta.
Bullet forward Elvin Hayes has said he wants to play in Dallas, but that, too, seems unlikely. Sonju is on record as saying the team will not trade draft choices for players in the first couple of seasons, choosing to build through the draft instead.
Dallas will have the 11th pick in the June 10 draft and will pick one player from each of the existing 22 NBA teams in a dispersal draft May 28. Each team can protect eight players in the dispersal draft.
The Bullets will pick 14th in the college draft with a choice they acquired from Houston as compensation for the Rockets signing Tom Henderson. The Bullets gave their No. 1 pick, which would have been the 13th, to Detroit as compensation for signing Kevin Porter as a free agent. That pick eventually was sent to Boston along with Detroit's own, which is the first in the draft.
Even if he does not improve his draft position, Ferry said, he thinks he can draft a player who will help the Bullets next season.
"Who goes hardship will affect a lot of things, but regardless of who goes, I think we'll get someone who can play and help us right away," he said.
Of the 13 players who ended the season under contract to the Bullets, only guards Larry Wright and Jim Cleamons, center Wes Unseld and forward Bob Dandridge will have to be resigned. All the others already are under contract.
Dandridge is going into his option year, but he and the team have reached agreement on a contract for next season. Unseld, contemplating retirement, signs only one-year contracts and the Bullets foresee no problem in signing him if he does want to return.
The Bullets have the right of first refusal with Cleamons and Ferry said they plan to start negotiating with Wright within the next week.
"If Larry wants to play here nest season, he'll have every chance to," Ferry said. "Right now I'm planning on everyone being back, but I'm also looking at all of the options."
Ferry has taken much criticism for trading Roger Phegley to New Jersey for John Williamson. Williamson was a major disappointment, but Ferry defended the trade yesterday.
"At the time we made the trade we were losing and our chances of making the playoffs were bleak," Ferry said, "We were at a point where we would have done anything we could have to make the playoffs, and by acquiring Williamson we gave ourselves a better chance of making the playoffs. Without him, I don't think we would have made it. If it proves to be a good or bad trade in the future doesn't really matter because we did accomplish what we wanted to when we made the trade."
Ferry added that he would not have made the trade had he known that Dandridge was hurt.
The trade was made during the all-star break and Dandridge, who had appeared to be healthy, returned with a sore leg and played in only four of the last 34 games.
"If we knew Bobby wasn't going to be able to play, then we would have known our chances of getting into the playoffs and doing anything there weren't very good. So we probably wouldn't have made the trade," Ferry said. "We would have thought more about the future."
At times it seemed that Williamson simply didn't want to play. He even told Motta that on more than one occasion.
Ferry said Williamson's problems stemmed from the fact that he wasn't used to playing only 10 minutes a games, which he was limited to on some occasions. Asked if Williamson would be back next season, Ferry said, "If John Williamson is willing to be a Bullet, he'll be a Bullet."
Williamson has one year left on his contract.
"In many ways this season was a satisfying one," Ferry added. "We suffered through some problems and we won some big games down the stretch."
Pollin said the goal all along was to get to the playoffs.
"I think it's remarkable that we got into the playoffs, through all of the adversity and with no bench," Pollin said. "Most teams just don't get that far without a bench.
"We understood all along that it would have been very difficult for us to go very far once we got there."
"I'm proud of our record of 12 straight playoff appearances," Pollin said, "and I think we're the envy of every team in the league because of that streak."
The problem facing the Bullets now is how to keep that streak going.