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Chuck Daly, 78; coached BC, Pistons, Olympic Dream Team

By Larry Lage
Associated Press / May 10, 2009
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DETROIT - Chuck Daly, who coached the Dream Team to the Olympic gold medal in 1992 after winning back-to-back NBA championships with the Detroit Pistons, has died. He was 78.

He died yesterday morning in Jupiter, Fla., with his family by his side, the Pistons said. The team announced in March that the Hall of Fame coach was being treated for pancreatic cancer.

Mr. Daly, who spent two years as head coach at Boston College, was renowned for his ability to create harmony out of diverse personalities at all levels of the game, whether they were Ivy Leaguers at Pennsylvania, Dream Teamers Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley, or Pistons as dissimilar as Dennis Rodman and Joe Dumars.

"It's a players' league. They allow you to coach them or they don't," Mr. Daly once said. "Once they stop allowing you to coach, you're on your way out."

Mr. Daly was voted one of the 10 greatest coaches of the NBA's first half-century in 1996, two years after being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. He was the first coach to win both NBA and Olympic titles.

"I think Chuck understood people as well as basketball," Dumars said in 1995. "It's a people business."

Yesterday, Dumars called Mr. Daly "a special coach, but more importantly he was a special human being."

Doug Collins, a former Pistons and Chicago Bulls coach, lauded Mr. Daly for his class and dignity.

"He was a mentor and a friend," Collins said. "He taught me so much and was always so supportive of me and my family. I loved him and will miss him."

Mr. Daly had a golden touch at the Barcelona Games with the likes of Magic Johnson, Jordan, Larry Bird, and Barkley, using a different lineup every game.

"I played against Chuck's teams throughout the NBA for a lot of years. He always had his team prepared, he's a fine coach," Bird said shortly after Mr. Daly's diagnosis became public.

"Chuck did a good job of keeping us together. It wasn't about who scored the most points. It was about one thing: winning the gold medal."

Mr. Daly humbled the NBA superstars by coaching a group of college players to victory in a controlled scrimmage weeks before the Olympics.

"I was the happiest man in the gym," Mr. Daly said.

Mr. Daly also made the right moves for the Pistons, who were notorious for their physical play with Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn leading the fight, Rodman making headlines, and Hall of Fame guards Isiah Thomas and Dumars lifting the team to titles in 1989 and 1990.

"He did an unbelievable job of taking a bunch of different personalities and molding them into a team," Mahorn said.

Added Barkley: "I never understood how a great man, a nice guy coached the Bad Boys."

Thomas, a former New York Knicks coach and president who now coaches at Florida International University, added: "I can't explain in words how much he gave me as a player and a man. . . . This is an immeasurable loss for the NBA and the entire basketball world."

Former Piston John Salley gave Mr. Daly the nickname Daddy Rich for his impeccably tailored suits. The National Basketball Coaches' Association created pins with the initials "CD" that many coaches and broadcasters are wearing as it dedicates this postseason to Mr. Daly. The organization also established the Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award, which will be given annually.

Mr. Daly had a career regular-season record of 638-437 in 13 NBA seasons. In 12 playoff appearances, his teams went 75-51. He left Detroit as the Pistons' leader in regular-season and playoff victories.

"Chuck left a lasting impression with everyone he met both personally and professionally, and his spirit will live with all of us forever," family and team spokesman Matt Dobek said.

Despite his success, Mr. Daly wasn't part of a Coach of the Year presentation until he handed the trophy to then-Detroit coach Rick Carlisle in 2002.

"This is as close as I've ever been to that thing," Mr. Daly said, looking at the Red Auerbach Trophy.

Born July 20, 1930, in St. Marys, Pa., Charles Jerome Daly played college ball at St. Bonaventure and Bloomsburg. After two years in the military, he coached for eight seasons at Punxsutawney (Pa.) High School and then spent six years as an assistant at Duke.

Succeeding Bob Cousy as coach at Boston College, Mr. Daly coached the Eagles to a 26-24 record over two seasons and then spent seven seasons at Penn, leading the Quakers to the Ivy League championship in 1972-75.

Mr. Daly joined the NBA coaching ranks in 1978 as an assistant under Billy Cunningham in Philadelphia. His first head coaching job was with Cleveland, but he was fired after the Cavaliers went 9-32 the first half of the 1981-82 season.

In 1983, Mr. Daly took over a Detroit team that had never had two straight winning seasons and led the Pistons to nine straight. He persuaded Rodman, Thomas, Dumars, Mahorn, and Laimbeer to play as a unit, and they responded with championships in 1989 and 1990.

Far from being intimidated by the Pistons' Bad Boys image, Mr. Daly saw the upside of it.

"I've also had players who did not care," he said a decade later. "I'd rather have a challenging team."

After leaving Detroit, Mr. Daly coached the New Jersey Nets for two seasons and led them to the playoffs both times.

He left broadcasting to return to the bench with the Orlando Magic in 1997, won 74 games over two seasons, then retired at 68 because he was weary of the travel. He was replaced by Doc Rivers, now head coach of the Boston Celtics.

In retirement, Mr. Daly split time between residences in Jupiter, Fla., and suburban Detroit.

The Pistons retired No. 2 in 1997 to honor Mr. Daly’s two NBA titles.

"Without you, there wouldn't be us," Mahorn told the coach during the ceremony.

Mr. Daly leaves his wife, Terry; daughter, Cydney; and grandchildren, Sebrina and Connor.

OTHER OBITUARIES | Page B10

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