Remarkable tale of a journeyman

Remarkable tale of a journeyman

Basketball fans will remember Chuck Daly as one who transformed the game

Chuck Daly once described himself as "a journeyman coach who got lucky with some players in Detroit." He didn't really believe that, of course, but that was part of Daly's self-deprecating charm, his enduring appeal. He didn't need to act important all the time, or remind people with pithy slogans how much of a defensive innovator he was.
Daly, who died on last Saturday of pancreatic cancer, didn't become a head coach in the NBA until he was 51, and champion with the Pistons until he was 58. He coached the Detroit Pistons' Bad Boy teams to two consecutive NBA championships, then coached the Olympic Dream Team to a gold medal at the 1992 Barcelona games.
 When Daly became the Pistons' coach in 1983, the franchise had never won an NBA championship since entering the league in 1948, representing Fort Wayne, Ind. In his nine seasons with Detroit, Daly's teams made the playoffs every time. His Pistons swept the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1989 NBA finals, then beat the Portland Trail Blazers in a five-game final the next year.
Daly was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., in 1994. When the NBA celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1996, he was named one of the 10 greatest coaches in league history in balloting by members of the news media. The Pistons retired No. 2 in 1997 to commemorate his consecutive NBA titles.
Daly's Pistons featured scoring and flash in the backcourt, with Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars and Vinnie Johnson, and muscle up front, with Bill Laimbeer, Rick Mahorn, Dennis Rodman, John Salley, Mark Aguirre and James Edwards.
The Bad Boys were known as fierce defenders quick to toss an elbow or a body. Daly was a fast-talking figure who exuded energy and passion, but in dealing with these rugged sorts he used persuasion in place of an iron hand.
"If you're going to be a coach, it's going to be a selling job night in and night out," he said. "I've had surgery on my right knee. It comes from bending a lot."
As Brendan Suhr, an assistant to Daly, put it: "Chuck is a communicator. In the pro game, 95 percent of coaching is knowing the people. With Chuck, I'd raise that to 99 percent." Thomas once remarked: "Chuck Daly put a lot of trust in us. We had guys on the floor telling each other what to do, putting together game plans." When Daly assembled the first US Olympic basketball team using professional players, he had enormous talent and egos to match. He blended the superstars on that Dream Team, led by Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, and they rolled to a gold medal.
For all the Olympic team's scoring prowess, there were flashes of the Bad Boys aura. In the opening game, the 250-pound Charles Barkley drew a flagrant foul for smashing an elbow into the chest of a 174-pound player from Angola. After the United States routed Croatia to win gold, Jordan remarked that "people said that no one plays defence in the NBA, but the biggest difference is our defence."
Charles Jerome Daly, a native of St Marys, Pa., grew up in Kane, Pa., and decided on his future while in high school. "I remember telling my mother, 'Mom, I'm going to be a basketball coach, and I bet I can make as much as $10,000 a year at it,'" Daly recalled. "I had read all the John Tunis sports books as a kid." He entered the NBA in the late 1970s as an assistant to coach Billy Cunningham with the Philadelphia 76ers, and he was the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers for part of the 1980-81 season.
Daly resigned as the Pistons' coach after the 1991-92 season, then coached the Nets for two seasons, taking them to the playoffs each time.
He worked as a pro basketball television analyst, then coached the Orlando Magic for two seasons before retiring for good with a 638-437 record over 14 seasons. While Daly's Pistons were known for rough-and-tumble play, he was an elegant presence at courtside in dark blue suits, nicknamed Daddy Rich.
"You read the article that said I had 199 blue suits?" Daly said before coaching the East against the West squad of the fashionable Pat Riley in the 1990 NBA All-Star Game.
"Now I have 200. I went into a store and sure enough I bought a blue one. Nobody ever looks bad in a blue suit."

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