I’ve been helping out with Mavericks coverage the past couple of weeks, and one of the overwhelming themes has been how much the fans, the organization and some key players have been patient throughout this process. They are saying it means more because it took so long and because the key parties had to really work so hard to get to this place. The theme was the same for the Rangers when they made it to the World Series last fall.And that made me think about what the Stars are going through right now.Truth be told, if you are a fan of this team, you’ve been pretty lucky. They came out of the gate on a gallop in 1993 and made the playoffs the first season. There were some bumps with the 1994 lockout and the changeover to Tom Hicks as owner and eventually Ken Hitchcock as coach, but Dallas was a great regular season team in 1996-97, a Conference Finalist in 1997-98 and the Stanley Cup champion in 1998-99.There wasn’t much suffering there.Sure, you can look at past three seasons and even say a good part of the ‘00s were disappointing, but isn’t that what being a sports fan is about? The hockey fans in Chicago suffered for a decade. The Penguins fans had the realistic threat that their team might be moved. Texas Rangers fans might be as hardy as any in sports (although my favorite team is the Detroit Lions, and we may have something to say about that debate). The point is, you have down times. Every team does. And this team is going through some down times.I’m not sure when the Tom Gaglardi offer will be finalized. Dealing with that group of lenders is a real challenge. But it’s safe to say now that it won’t be finalized in time to get into the conversation on signing Brad Richards and it could very well hurt whatever plans Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk might have had for free agency on July 1.It stinks, but it’s part of being a Stars fan right now. You can walk away for a while and come back later or you can soak in the disappointment and tell stories about it when this team is good again.People talk about the Mavericks’ worst days in almost endearing terms now _ a sort of badge of courage that shows they have earned the right to celebrate. That doesn’t mean you can’t be angry or depressed, it just means that there will be a day (or at least should be) when you can look back on this and say that it made this team stronger.A lot of media people at the Mavericks availability asked me Tuesday if Glen Gulutzan was simply the cheapest, easiest hire for Joe Nieuwendyk. I don’t believe he was selected for that reason. Throughout this process, Nieuwendyk has talked about getting a young coach to grow with this team _ and I truly believe that in his heart, Nieuwendyk believes that Gulutzan is that coach. He believes Gulutzan will get better and he will be a coach who could be here for the long haul.Now, the problem with that thinking is that Nieuwendyk wants to win now and in the long-term _ and I’m not sure that’s the easiest thing to do. Will Brenden Morrow and Mike Ribeiro and Stephane Robidas still be in position to help the cause when Gulutzan has a few years of experience under his belt? Will Nieuwendyk spin his wheels trying to add veterans this summer in hopes of giving Gulutzan a team that can win now?Is that the path to long-term mediocrity?They are all worthy questions and debates you should have as fans.There are several fans who question the job Nieuwendyk has done so far, and I understand that. But I am a fan of his, and I think he is the best thing this franchise has going for it right now.That doesn’t mean he is without flaw. He hired the wrong coach in Marc Crawford, and you wonder if that has allowed the past two seasons to be wasted. He made what appear to be smart moves in moving past Mike Modano and Marty Turco, but in doing so he handed a lot of the team leadership to Brad Richards.If Richards is gone (and I think he probably is), that leaves a huge hole in the leadership department. So then was that wasted time, as well?We don’t know the answers to those questions. Gulutzan could become a great coach, Nieuwendyk could tweak the lineup in a perfect manner, and leaders could step up from strange places. I know Mavericks fans and Rangers fans were doubting their teams at the highest level just months before they made historic runs.The wonder of sports as entertainment is you have no idea how the story will turn out. It’s what keeps you coming back and what helps you hang on through the toughest times.At least it sure seemed that way for two other local teams.