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Hall of Famer Chuck Daly blazed trail for other coaches

By Rob Peterson,
Posted May 9 2009 6:40PM

Chuck Daly, the head coach of two Detroit Pistons championship teams, the first head coach of a U.S Olympic basketball team featuring NBA players and a 1994 Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame inductee, died Saturday morning in Jupiter, Fla. He was 78.

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

PETERSON: Daly blazed trail for other coaches

PHOTO GALLERY: Daly through the years

- Huber: Remembering a legend
- Chuck Daly: 1930-2009

Coaches and players throughout the league have praised Daly's impact on the sport.

"You hear players all the time say that Oscar Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Dr. J or Larry Bird kind of paved the way for the current NBA players to make the type of money they make or live the lifestyle they live and be known as the best players in the world of basketball," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown, the NBA's Coach of the Year, said recently. "And Chuck Daly has done the same thing for guys like myself and Eric Spoelstra and Lawrence Frank. He's paved the way.

"He's allowed us to make the salaries we make. He's allowed us to, in people's eyes, be held in a high regard in terms of the level of where we're coaching at. Without pioneers like him, guys that paved the way for guys like us, we wouldn't be enjoying the fruits of their labor like we are right now."

Last month, the National Basketball Coaches' Association announced that it would dedicate the 2009 Playoffs to Daly. Coaches and broadcasters in the postseason have been wearing "CD" lapel pins to honor the Hall of Fame coach. The NBCA also announced the creation of the Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award, a yearly honor for a current or former NBA coach who has made a contribution to the sport and had a positive impact on other coaches.

"Chuck has played such an important role as a friend and mentor to so many NBA coaches," said Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, the NBCA president.

Boston coach Doc Rivers, who succeed Daly as Orlando Magic coach in 1999, was one of those coaches.

"He's meant a lot to me personally," Rivers said. "My first job was following Chuck Daly. He's been an advisor to me my whole coaching career."

Daly, affectionately called "Daddy Rich" by his Pistons players for his dapper suits, compiled a 638-437 record in 14 seasons as an NBA head coach and holds the Pistons' record for most wins -- 467, in nine seasons -- in franchise history.

"He was a unique kind of coach," fellow Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame coach Dr. Jack Ramsay said. "He coached the back-to-back champions at Detroit. They were good, but I didn't think they were a championship team. I think he got them to be a championship team.

"He got Isiah and Laimbeer, the team leaders on that team, got them thinking the same way he did and then used them to kind of bring everybody else in. He was a very shrewd guy in his coaching and how he would use his players to gain the team unity that he wanted."

Daly was hired as Pistons coach on May 17, 1983. At the time, Julius Erving -- who played for Daly when Daly was an assistant to Billy Cunningham in Philadelphia -- praised the Pistons' choice.

"Chuck Daly is a natural," Erving said. "I have no doubts about the job he can do in Detroit."

Dr. J's diagnosis proved correct. Daly immediately turned around a franchise that had eight winning seasons in its previous 35. The Pistons were a high-powered offensive team when Daly took over. But by 1988, when Daly led Detroit to its first NBA Finals appearance in 32 seasons, the "Bad Boy" Pistons were one of the more rugged and physical teams in the NBA.

In the 1988 Finals, the Pistons took a 3-2 series lead to Los Angeles, but lost a hard-fought, seven-game series to the defending NBA champion Lakers. The next season, Daly and the Pistons would complete the franchise's run to its first title with a sweep of the Lakers. In 1990, the Pistons beat the Portland Trail Blazers in five games, winning a second consecutive NBA title.

Daly never finished with fewer than 46 wins in a season in his nine years in Detroit.

Daly's success and ability to relate to players led him to be named coach of the U.S. men's Olympic team for the 1992 Barcelona games, the first to feature professionals. That "Dream Team" -- which some called the greatest team ever assembled -- boasted some of the best players in NBA history, including Bird, Magic Johnson, Jordan, Karl Malone and John Stockton.

The U.S. team stormed through the competition with an 8-0 record, winning by an average of 43.8 points per game en route to a gold medal. Famously, Daly never called a timeout the entire tournament.

"It was great," Dream Team member and Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing said. "He was a great coach; he knew how to relate to the players. We had a lot of fun playing for him."

Charles Jerome Daly was born July 20, 1930 in Kane, Pa. Daly received his bachelor's degree from Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania in 1952 and was Bloomsburg's leading scorer during his senior season, with 13.5 points per game. After being discharged from the Army in 1955, Daly began coaching at the high school level when he took the job at Punxsutawney (Pa.) High.

In 1962, Daly accepted his first college coaching position, serving as an assistant at Duke University. In 1969, he was named to his first college head coaching job when he took over for Hall of Famer Bob Cousy at Boston College. Two years later, Daly returned to his native state and was named head coach at the University of Pennsylvania where he succeeded Dick Harter.

Daly led the Quakers to four consecutive Ivy League titles and four NCAA tournament appearances from 1972 to 1975. In all, Daly spent six seasons at Penn, compiling a 125-38 record.

Daly took his first job in the NBA in 1977 with the Philadelphia 76ers, when Billy Cunningham hired him as an assistant.

"Billy took the job right out of a TV booth and didn't have any real coaching experience so he brought Chuck in right away with him because he needed somebody to do the X's and O's," Ramsay said, "and Chuck was excellent at that."

Daly's first stint as an NBA head coach came with the Cleveland Cavaliers during the 1981-82 season as the Cavs' second interim coach that season. Daly went 9-32 in that brief stint before then-owner Ted Stepien fired him.

"After three weeks," Daly said, "I realized [Stepien] wasn't going to listen. He just didn't want to accept good advice about his team."

Daly then spent the 1982-83 season with the Sixers broadcast team before the Pistons plucked him from behind the microphone.

Daly never had a losing record in 13 full seasons as an NBA head coach with the Pistons, New Jersey Nets and Orlando Magic.

"The Daly family and the entire Detroit Pistons and Palace Sports and Entertainment family is mourning the loss of Chuck Daly," family spokesman and Pistons vice president of public relations Matt Dobek said in a statement. "Chuck left a lasting impression with everyone he met both personally and professionally and his spirit will live with all of us forever."

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