There was some sad news in the NBA today as former Hall of Fame head coach Chuck Daly passed away from pancreatic cancer. Daly will mostly be remembered for coaching the Detroit Pistons to back to back championships in 1989 and 1990.
Daly’s Piston teams epitomized toughness and glamorized defense for the first time since the Auerbach Celtics. Daly was known as a player’s coach who gave player’s leeway since Daly figured out that without the players, he would not be successful. (Most famously, gave Isiah Thomas a day off because of something negative written in a newspaper about him.) The “Bad Boy” Pistons led by Isiah Thomas, Bill Laimbeer, Joe Dumars, Dennis Rodman, John Salley and a host of others became one of the most feared teams in NBA history. The Piston players nick-named him “Big Daddy Rich” as a show of support and camaraderie for Daly.
Daly also coached the Cleveland Cavaliers, New Jersey Nets, and the Orlando Magic during his coaching tenure in the NBA. In my opinion his most impressive coaching job came in the lock-out short season of 1998-1999 where he took a team with Darrell Armstrong, Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, Horace Grant, and a random collection of NBA veterans to an Atlantic Division title at 33-17. Although the Magic lost in the first round, this might be one of the biggest underdog stories in NBA history that no one seems to mention.
Daly was also head coach of the 1992 Dream Team where he won a gold medal in Barcelona (Making him the only coach with an NBA title and Olympic Gold Medal) with arguably the greatest collection of talent in Olympic history. It is a feat within itself to deal with that many talented players but also to have the team ready every night to face an inferior opponent. The average margins of victory for those games were 44 points.
Chuck Daly was also known for his stylish suits that seemed to attract the attention near the middle of his career with the Pistons. However, Daly was more substance that style anyway. Daly’s overall coaching record in the NBA was 638-437 and his playoff record was 76-51 which ranks in the top ten of the best playoff records of all-time.
During the beginning of the NBA playoffs, many coaches and NBA analysts donned “CD” pins in honor of Chuck Daly to fight the disease which would later claim his life. Daly died his home early Saturday morning with family by his side.
Daly was a Hall of Fame coach, an innovator in NBA coaching strategies, and one of the best basketball minds to ever grace the game. Daly was 79.