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Former Pistons coach Chuck Daly dead at 78

Posted May 9 2009 5:34PM

DETROIT (AP) -- The Detroit Pistons made plenty of enemies while winning titles and throwing blows two decades ago. Chuck Daly, though, was universally admired for his class and coaching acumen.

"I never understood how a great man and nice guy coached the Bad Boys," Charles Barkley said.

Daly died Saturday morning at 78 in Jupiter, Fla., with his family by his side, the Pistons said. The team announced in March he was being treated for pancreatic cancer.

Official release | Daly remembered by colleagues | Stern's statement

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The Hall of Fame coach led the Dream Team to the Olympic gold medal in 1992 after winning back-to-back NBA championships in Detroit.

Daly 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 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," Daly once said. "Once they stop allowing you to coach, you're on your way out."

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.

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.

NBA commissioner David Stern said the "void left by his death will never be filled."

"Chuck did much more than coach basketball games," he said in a statement. "He positively impacted everyone he met, both personally and professionally, and his love of people and the game of basketball helped develop the next generation of coaches."

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

"Chuck was a great leader," Jordan said. "I only wish I could have played for him outside of the Dream Team."

Added Bird: "He handled that team and its talent as well as anybody could," Bird said. "He treated us all with respect and had us all vying for the same goal. For me, it was an honor to play for him."

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," Daly said.

In Barcelona -- a team also bolstered by Patrick Ewing, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson, Chris Mullin, Karl Malone and John Stockton -- the Americans scored more than 100 points in each of their eight wins and their victory margin topped 43 points. Daly did not call a timeout during the tournament.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was an Olympic assistant under Daly.

"For that, I am eternally grateful," he said. "There was no better ambassador for the game of basketball than Chuck Daly."

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.

Thomas, the former New York Knicks coach and president who now coaches at Florida International University, said Daly's death was an "immeasurable loss for the NBA and the entire basketball world."

"I can't explain in words how much he gave me as a player and a man," he said.

Former Piston John Salley gave 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 Daly. The organization also established the Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award, which will be given annually.

Despite his success, 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," 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.

He began coaching in the NBA 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, 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, 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."

Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson went up against Daly while coaching the Jordan-led Chicago Bulls.

"In the heat of those battles, Chuck was always a friend of coaches," Jackson said. "A good guy. He was always in the coaching fraternity and always extended a friendly hand."

After leaving Detroit, 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 in 1997 with the Orlando Magic and coached them two seasons, then retired at 68 because he was weary of travel. Daly joined the Vancouver Grizzlies as a senior adviser in 2000. In retirement, he divided time between homes in Jupiter and suburban Detroit.

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

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

Daly is survived by his wife, Terry, daughter Cydney and grandchildren Sebrina and Connor.

The funeral is Wednesday in Tequesta, Fla., at St. Jude Catholic Church. Visitation is Tuesday in nearby Jupiter at Aycock Funeral Home.

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