Once Upon A Time...

We always felt bad for then-Mavs coach Gar Heard, who deserved better than to coach an 11-win team--and get replaced by Quinn Buckner.

In you case you were too distraught over Drew Bledsoe's departure or the current bad karma of Mercury to notice, your Dallas Mavericks won their 14th consecutive game last night. In a record-shattering season that has them 49-9 and within a realistic 21-3 finish of reaching the elite stratosphere of 70 wins, no big deal, right?

"Johnny-Come-Lately Mavs fans won't remember," says former sports-talk radio host Wally Lynn, "but there was a time when this franchise couldn't win 14 games in a whole season."

Two times, in fact. In 1993 the Mavs won 11 games. In 1994 they went 13-69. Let's take a 20-second timeout to ponder that absurdity.

"It was awful," says Lynn, who hosted the "Mavericks Overtime" post-game show on then-flagship KLIF-AM (570) during the unprecedented 24-140 two-year debacle. "This team goes 10-0 in February, and everybody kind of takes it for granted. But back then we went months without a single win. Fans need to appreciate this team and this season and realize how special this all is."

These days it's all shits 'n' giggles. Dirk Nowitzki scores 30. Josh Howard plays Robin. And the "Ben and Skin" post-game show on KTCK-AM (1310, The Ticket) is filled with guests and phone calls and happy guys and hot chicks and general debauchery at the American Airlines Center's Old No. 7 Club. But in the towlette-weak era after Rolando Blackman and before the Three J's, the Mav-wrecks were a bitch to cover.

It was so bad that then-play-by-play voice Ted Davis (now the voice of the Milwaukee Bucks would amuse himself and his 18 listeners with in-game movie reviews or by trying to work in a quirky phrase of the day to keep himself awake, if not interested.

"Off the air we got to talking about Monty Python and the Holy Grail," says Lynn. "Next thing you know, we Ted saying, 'Jordan flew by Morlon Wiley as if Wiley was a large wooden rabbit.'"

While the play-by-play voice would often take the broadcast to a break with " ...and after one quarter it's the Clippers 36, Mavericks 15" and then offer, "Someone, kill me" during the commercial, the post-game host also invented ways to make the best out of the worst.

"We were like guys in solitary confinement trying to come up with ways to keep us from going crazy," says Lynn, who hosted his show in a stark, empty studio at Reverchon Plaza. "We knew there were no listeners after the first quarter."

With no calls and no positives to speak of, one memorable night Lynn delved into a ridiculous game aimed at finding an all-Metroplex name team. Winston Garland. Michael Ray Richardson. Julius "Irving."

"Ben and Skin are great," Lynn says, "but let's see them do a post-game show solo after the 60th loss of the season with zero chance of landing a guest or a call."

Some of us who experienced the early '90s might even argue that going 11-71 is harder than going 71-11. Harder, not better. --Richie Whitt

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky