State of the Hogs: Closure

Marty Faulkner finally got some closure for all of his years working for a struggling NBA franchise when the Mavs won the title Sunday night.

There's now closure for Marty Faulkner with the Dallas Mavericks.

Winning the club's first NBA championship over the weekend made it worth all of those long days working to sell tickets to see a bad team.

And that's what the Mavericks were for so many years. Faulkner used words worse than bad in an interview this week.

Faulkner doesn't work with the Mavs anymore, although his marketing firm still has them as a client. MKT Corporation sells advertising promotional items. You think of it, Faulkner can get your logo on it.

I got to know Marty about 20 years ago when a transplanted Razorback fan in Dallas called to start a subscription to Hawgs Illustrated. We've been friends since.

That was during his 15-plus seasons working for the Mavs in everything from ticket sales to the head of game day operations. He headed out the door in October of 1998 when the league went on strike.

If you cut him open, you'll get one of two things -- little Razorbacks or Mavericks. He wouldn't say if he cried Sunday night when the Mavs closed out the Miami Heat for the title.

"Let's just say it was very emotional," he said. "I emailed and called all the gang that I came in with. It was closure for all of us. Those were some bad, horrible teams we worked with back then.

"I will say that I had a nice deal last week. I took my daughter Kiley to the fifth game in Dallas. It probably will be looked at as the turning point game in the championship. For us to go to see that game was a wonderful father-daughter moment."

Kiley is a sophomore at Arkansas, a third-generation Razorback. Faulkner, who hails from Helena, followed his father, Dr. H. M. Faulkner, to the Ozarks.

"I keep track of all things Razorback," Faulkner said. "If the Razorbacks play it, I'm interested. That goes from women's tennis to football."

Obviously, Faulkner was front and center when the Hogs played many basketball games in Reunion Arena. His office was in the bowels of the arena and it allowed him to see the behind-the-scenes action. He's got mementos from some of the key Arkansas victories in Reunion, including a piece of the net preserved in plastic from both the last Southwest Conference victory over Texas and the triumph over Michigan to send the Hogs to the 1994 NCAA Tournament Final Four.

There are other souvenirs from the job site, including a chair autographed by Charles Barkley. To be exact, it's a mangled chair.

"Barkley is a great guy," Faulkner said. "Really, I enjoyed him always. Still do."

And that is from the enemy perspective, obviously.

"Barkley got ejected from a game against us and threw a chair on the way to the locker room," Faulkner said. "My job in game management was to get any ejected player to their locker room safely. I'd walk them with two Dallas policemen running interference. You just don't know what could happen.

"Barkley grabbed the chair and it comes flying past my head and it wrapped around a pole. I went back and got the chair and took it to him in the locker room. I asked if he'd sign it."

No problem, Barkley said.

"The next year he gets ejected at our place in a preseason game," Faulkner said. "Really, he didn't do anything wrong. He was just bored with the game. He asked the referee to toss him and he did. So when we got to the locker room, he told me the reason.

"He wanted to watch the World Series. We sat in there and watched it together. He was great."

So were most of the stories about Mavericks. Dirk Nowitzki is a favorite. Faulkner's exit was about the same time as Nowitzki's entrance. And Faulkner was front and center for the big German's arrival.

"We got him in the summer of 1998," he said. "When he came in to DFW (Dallas-Fort Worth) Airport, the team sent a group out to meet him and to hold a press conference there. It was in the international terminal at American Airlines."

Faulkner said the group went straight to the team's private court at Baylor Hospital where he worked out with his mentor, Holger Geschwindner.

"Remember, he'd been traveling all day and he wanted to practice. He came out in his Dallas practice gear for the first time and did the same drill he's still doing. He started in the corner and hit a 3-pointer.

"Then, he does a squat and comes straight out of it into a jump and another 3-pointer. He did that all the way around the 3-point line, alternating them like that. He made every one for a solid two minutes.

"I looked at Kevin Sullivan, our PR guy, and said, ‘I believe we've got something.' He was a neat person then and he still is just the same. He's never changed in his routines and he's never changed as a person. He owns Dallas right now. He's a humble, solid guy."

Faulkner said the same about Don Nelson, the former Mavericks coach, and his son, Donnie Nelson, now in charge of basketball operations with the Mavericks.

"Both great guys," he said. "Donnie was ahead of the curve where it came to scouting European players. He always found the talent there. He found Sarunas Marciulionis (in Lithuania) for Golden State. And he planted the seed to get Dirk."

Faulkner loves to tell the story of the famous Moody Madness playoff game. He was front and center.

"Google it," Faulkner said.

And that's good instruction. There's too much to tell. Faulkner has a piece of the net from that game preserved in plastic, too. It's still recognized as among the wackiest game's in NBA history.

It was April 26, 1984, and it goes down officially as the first playoff series won by the Mavs. They beat Seattle, 106-104. Oh, but it was more than that.

"You just can't believe what it was like, just a logistical nightmare," Faulkner said. "And I was in charge of game management. We didn't have Reunion Arena available for the fifth and deciding game because no one in our organization thought we'd be in the playoffs. World Championship Tennis was the first tenant for Reunion and it had the arena booked."

So they played the final game at SMU's Moody Coliseum. Interestingly, it was the fourth different site for the series. Seattle had the same kind of nightmare for the playoffs, since the Kingdome wasn't reserved. They bounced around Seattle for two games.

Reunion's capacity was 17,000, but the team had only 9,000 season ticket holders. Oddly, that's what Moody held.

"We spent one day calling and got all of our season ticket holders into Moody," Faulkner said. "We had 9,007 for the game."

Obviously, they could have sold 90,000.

"The city was going crazy for the Mavericks for the first time and we didn't have our arena," he said. "But we made do."

The court was set up for the college game. So the equipment man taped an NBA regulation line. A thunderstorm hit and knocked out the sound system for part of the game. And then there was a mess at the end.

"It was a real controversy," Faulkner said. "We were down six with two minutes left and somehow came back to win it. But then something went wrong with the clock for a final second out of bounds play. We had celebrated the victory and gone to the locker room when the officials came to me and said the last second would have to be replayed.

"I was in charge of game management. I had to go into our locker room and get them to come back. They were already out of their uniforms. I convinced them and then we won it again and celebrated all over again."

All of that celebrating wore the Mavs out. Two days later, they lost to the Lakers by 43 points to open the next round. Los Angeles won the series, 4-1.

"Really, it was great fun all the way," Faulkner said. "I've got some stories I can't tell. Like when one of my buddies with Dallas PD (police department) called me at home the night Roy Tarpley was picked up on LBJ Freeway. I went down to the jail and got him out.

"I was in charge of the police at our games and we'd developed a relationship. He called and said, ‘Come down here with $105 and we'll get Roy out.' He got in trouble for that.

"Well, I guess you can write that one. He got kicked out of the league for drug problems. It's all documented. I went and got him and took him home.

"That one was interesting. I probably shouldn't have been there doing that and the cop shouldn't have done what he did. The other cops got mad he did that and the media got mad at us for sneaking him out of jail.

"They found out he'd been picked up and they were waiting at the door to talk to him, but we got him out another way."

That was during some dark days for the Mavs.

"We did have some down years," he said. "I was there for all of that. I got there when we drafted Derek Harper and I went out on Dirk's press conference as a rookie. There were a bunch of years that we were the Three Js: Jamal Mashburn, Jimmy Jackson and Jason Kidd. We did a lot of selling on them. It was 10 years of bad basketball."

Not any more. Dirk Nowitzki changed that Sunday night.

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