Ask anyone from Texas who “the man with the hat” refers to, and they’ll tell you, very politely and matter-of-factly, Tom Landry.
Landry coached the Dallas Cowboys from 1960 until 1988, and led them to two championships. Many believe it was Landry’s image, fedora included, that shaped Dallas into the darlings of the NFL.
Ask anyone from Texas who that “other man with the hat” is, and you’ll get some strange looks. You’ll need to drive to Dallas to get a clear answer.
Stop into the nearest watering hole by the American Airlines Center, then ask..
Answer? The Dallas Maverick’s owner.
Not current billionaire Mark Cuban. Rather the team’s founder and first owner. The tall cowboy that sat court side in his trademark Stetson all these years. Original owner, Donald Carter.
Donald J. Carter was born in 1933 in Arkansas. Although living poorly, Carter’s mother was able to scratch out a living selling home products. By 1957, the home business flourished into an interior design business now known as Home Interiors & Gifts. Seizing the opportunity, the Carter’s sold the family business that eventually netted the family several million dollars.
With millions in tow, Carter would go on to purchase and own several businesses over the years, ranging from banks and hotels to rodeo arenas and cattle ranches.
None however, would be as valuable as his purchase in 1980. The Dallas Mavericks.
Along with business partner Norm Sonju, the NBA granted Carter the rights to an expansion team. The cost? A twelve million dollar entry fee. So began a 31-year journey for “the other man with the hat”.
Don Carter’s true passion doesn’t lie within any of his business ventures. His passion is his wife, Linda Jo. She has just as much vested interest in the D/FW metroplex than husband Donald.
Linda Carter staked her claim to local basketball lore as an all-state basketball player in Duncanville. Her passion was simply the love of the game. The driving force that led Don to drop 12 million dollars for the Mavericks was realizing how much his wife enjoyed the game.
Throughout the 1980′s and 90′s, it was very easy to spot the Maverick’s owner. Don was the fan sitting court side waving his white cowboy hat in the air after a Mark Aguirre slam dunk or a Rolando Blackman three-pointer. Don was the one grabbing his wife and giving her a Texas-size kiss after Dallas beat the Lakers in Game 6 of the 1988 Western Conference Finals.
You couldn’t miss him.
He sat across the court from the player’s bench. Not in a press box. A gesture that ensured ‘his men’ could see every emotion on his face: anger, excitement, disappointment, but more importantly, his love for them.
After 17 years of ups and downs, he sold the team. Unlike most owners who sell their franchise, he kept a small interest and maintained a 4% minority stake. Rumor has it, when the AAC opened, the Carter’s were given dibs on seats and chose the same location from where they sat in the old Reunion Arena.
The couple’s passion for the team has not waned a bit. They still attend nearly every home game, whooping and hollering with a new generation of “Reunion Rowdies”.
They were behind the bench during Game 6 in Miami of this year’s NBA Finals, savoring every moment.
As time expired, it was Linda Jo bear hugging and kissing her husband. They both shed a tear. Don’s tear was for finally reaching his destiny, and Linda Jo’s, well, just because it was Dallas Maverick’s basketball at its best.
Finally, as a show of ultimate class, as he was about to be presented the NBA championship trophy, current owner Mark Cuban was asked how much this title meant as an owner.
Cuban, who usually relishes the chance to speak his mind, took a page out of the “Book of Respect”.
Cuban swiftly ushered forward the man who started it all, original and current minority owner Donald J. Carter, to rightfully accept the trophy and answer the question.
So next time someone asks you, “who is that man in the hat?”. Reply back politely, “Which one?
“The one with the fedora is Tom Landry, and the one with the Stetson is Don Carter, owner of the 2011 NBA Champions, Dallas Mavericks!”