Blog Entry

Daly's imprint on the game is forever (UPDATE)

Posted on: May 9, 2009 12:08 pm
Edited on: May 9, 2009 3:56 pm

It's a credit to Chuck Daly's lasting influence that on the day we lost him to cancer at 78, the topic of conversation in the basketball world was something he practically invented: the hard, playoff foul.

Nothing could be harder than saying good-bye to Daly, who slipped away Saturday morning with family by his side only three months after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

Oh, he will be missed. But as long as professional basketball is being played, Daly's legacy will live on. If I sat here in my hotel room on the day between Games 3 and 4 of the Rockets-Lakers series to diagram a family tree of coaches Daly raised like his own children, I'd be finished roughly by the time the series returned her for Game 6 on Thursday. And I'd still forget a couple dozen.

"My thoughts and prayers go out to Chuck's family following the news of his passing,” said Joe Dumars, the Pistons' president and member of Daly's championship backcourt in Detroit. “Chuck's legacy will live on with all of the people he touched throughout his Hall of Fame career. He was a wonderful coach, mentor and friend to all of us.”

Not only has Daly been present on every NBA sideline during the playoffs in the form of a lapel bearing his initials, his presence was practically hovering over Game 3 between Houston and L.A. Friday night. It was the next game after a rough, physical Game 2 that saw a flurry of technical fouls and the ejection of Ron Artest, who disagreed with a playoff elbow thrown by Kobe Bryant. Hey Ron, you should have been introduced to Bill Laimbeer's elbows. Or Rick Mahorn.

Then in the final minute Friday night, Pau Gasol was gliding in for a layup, and we all know layups are a no-no in the playoffs. Why? Because Daly's Bad Boy Pistons taught us that. In fact, Rockets coach Rick Adelman mentioned the Bad Boy Pistons in his media session before the game. He used it as a way to mock the notion that his team was in any way physical compared to the standard by which such things are judged.

Physical play and hard playoff fouls. These standards were set by Daly and his hardscrabble Pistons. But that's not all. We'd short-change Daddy Rich's legacy if that were all we talked about. As much as Daly made his mark with defensive coaching, he was an underrated innovator of offense whose plays are still being run to this day in the playoffs by, among others, Celtics coach Doc Rivers. Just weeks ago, Daly was drawing up plays from his hospital bed and giving them to Rollie Massimino to deliver to Villanova coach Jay Wright so he could use them in the Final Four. Always working the clipboard, all the way till the end.

Daly's influence transcends basketball. He was about people, too. He treated his players like his children. When friends, teammates, and other coaches abandoned Isiah Thomas due to various transgressions over the years, Daly never stopped supporting him. Isiah was his favorite player, and he never stopped coaching him.

Some months back, I gave Daly a call at his Florida home. This was before cancer came and knocked on his door and took him from us. I was calling because a reliable source had told me that Daly's name had come up in a possible consulting role with the Knicks. It was before Thomas' fate had been decided, and before Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni had been hired. 

Daly couldn't have been happier to talk. He didn't remember me, but it didn't matter. I was calling about basketball, and I was calling about one of his players. So he talked. And it turned out that Daly, going on 78 years old, was still entertaining the possibility in his mind that he could bring something useful to a team in some capacity -- even if it was only as an advisor.

What he didn't realize was that he's been doing that for decades already. And that he'll always be doing it, for as long as they play professional basketball.


Category: NBA
Tags: Chuck Daly

Since: Sep 26, 2006
Posted on: May 9, 2009 1:18 pm

Daly's imprint on the game is forever (UPDATE)

Wow, three figures related to sports in Detroit die within a short time frame, George Kell, Mark Fidrych and now, Chuck Daly.  RIP Chuck!  Thanks for the memories of coaching the "Bad Boyz"! 

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