Former NBA coach Motta addresses education
Published: Thursday, September 26, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 26, 2013 00:09
When you’re the first person in your family to graduate from high school, it’s difficult to take education for granted.
Such is the case for former NBA coach and USU alumnus Dick Motta.
From Union, Utah, to the NBA, Motta has stressed the importance of teachers educating their students, as was the theme of his word’s during an address to a crowd of education students at the Edith Bowen Elementary auditorium Wednesday.
“I believe in teachers,” Motta said. “My two sons are teachers and I am so dang proud of them. … They’re my heroes. I have a strong belief that teaching is the greatest natural resource that America has.”
Motta graduated from high school and only attended college at the prodding of a friend. But the decision proved to be one of his greatest decisions in life.
“College changed my life,” Motta said.
After graduating with a degree in physical education, Motta found a job as a seventh grade teacher in Grace, Idaho. There he began a coaching career that would take him across the United States and into the National Basketball Association.
It wasn’t all fun and games, but Motta drew from failure to create success, something he emphasized to students in his presentation.
“You don’t have to win every game to be successful,” he said. “If you go into it and give it, you’ll be successful.”
Throughout his nearly 40-year coaching career, Motta always made players sign a contract to abide by his rules and work hard. During his time at Grace High School, Motta said the team was vilified because he chose to cut several players from the team for off-the-court activities.
In his first game as a head coach, the team suffered a 14-point loss. But the team turned around and finished 24-2 before losing in the semi-finals, and the next season replicated that record on the way to a state title — which Motta said is his proudest achievement to date.
Practicing what he now preaches, Motta used his role as a coach to teach, educate and prepare athletes throughout his entire career. Motta called his methods a “democratic dictatorship,” and emphasized the importance of teachers and their impact.
“There’s such opportunity but there’s also more pressure on (students),” Motta said. “And I think that’s where a teacher has a great influence on his students.”
Motta rode that mantra from Grace High School to Weber State College (now Weber State University) before making the jump to the NBA as coach of the Chicago Bulls in 1968. In 25 years in the NBA, Motta coached six different teams, picking up 935 total wins — 11th most in NBA history — and an NBA championship along the way.
Now 15 years after leaving the NBA, Motta is still touching lives as a mentor and a coach.
“I like hearing that he has people that write him letters because they’re so influenced by him” said seminar-attendee Kennady Longhurst, a freshman majoring in history. “I think that’s awesome. I’ve never thought about writing to my teacher that I’ve loved so much. So it’s cool that he has such a big influence on people.”
Motta issued a challenge to the students in attendance to send a letter to a past teacher who had a profound effect on their lives, and told students to work hard and trust in luck.
“I believe in phrases,” Motta said. “I had one on my board at Weber that said ‘I believe in luck. And the harder I work the luckier I get.’”