Chuck Daly won’t ever be known as the greatest basketball coach of all-time, but he’s definitely one of the best. He led the Pistons to a pair of titles and delayed the long reign of Michael Jordan. He installed a defensive identity that helped forge the identity of Detroit basketball and Detroit itself. And he coached the Dream Team. That’s right, not the second bogus Dream Team or the subsequent Team USA squads stocked with NBA stars. The original Dream Team, with MJ, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Barkley and co.
(The hair changed color, but the style didn’t.)
Daly passed early Saturday morning from pancreatic cancer, losing a battle he’d been fighting for months. The NBA wasted little time in announcing that they’d honor his memory with “CD” pins on the lapels of all coaches’ jackets during the playoffs. They NBA Coaches Association is also creating the Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award, which tells you just about all you need to know about how other coaches feel about Daly.
Of all the tributes to Daly flooding out across the internets today, none may be more spot-on than this piece, written by FANHOUSE’s Matt Steinmetz, who connects Daly’s success with his early career as Pennsylvania’s coach and draws parallels with another former coach who’s been in the news: former Raiders Super Bowl boss John Madden. There’s something to that comparison, with both coaches instilling hard-working identities and bringing a no-nonsense attitude to the game: You don’t worry about the mistakes you’ve made or the obstacles your team has to overcome, you just go out and push through them.
Still, we keep coming back to Daly’s time with the Dream Team, mostly because he was the perfect man for the job. Why? Because he deserved it, and he knew how to handle it. No testament was more fitting than the afternoon when he coached a group of college all-stars past the Dream Team in a scrimmage, setting the stage for their furious romp through the Olympics.
Daly’s take on his impromptu college squad’s victory? “I was the happiest man in the gym.”
See, he just loved to win. What more can you ask for from a legendary coach.