Published January 14, 2015
Chuck Daly, who coached the original Dream Team to the Olympic gold medal in 1992 after winning back-to-back NBA championships with the Detroit Pistons, died at age 78 Saturday morning, the Pistons said.
He 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 Charles 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."
The Pistons announced in March that the Hall of Fame coach had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and was undergoing treatment.
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 an NBA title and Olympic gold.
"I think Chuck understood people as well as basketball," Hall of Fame guard Joe Dumars told The Associated Press in 1995. "It's a people business."
Daly did famously at the Barcelona Games with NBA superstars such as Magic Johnson, Jordan, Larry Bird and Barkley, using a different lineup in every game.
"I played against Chuck's teams throughout the NBA for a lot of years. He always had his team prepared, he's a fine coach," Bird said shortly after Daly's diagnosis became public.
"Chuck did a good job of keeping us together," Bird said. "It wasn't about who scored the most points, it was about one thing: winning the gold medal."
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 afterward.
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, Dennis Rodman making headlines and Hall of Fame guards Isiah Thomas and Dumars lifting the team to titles in 1989 and 1990.
Former Piston John Salley gave Daly the nickname Daddy Rich for his impeccably tailored suits.
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' all-time leader in regular-season and playoff victories.
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. Mary's, Pa., Charles Jerome Daly played college ball at St. Bonaventure and Bloomsburg. After two years in the military, he coached for eight seasons at Punxsutawney (Pa.) High School and then spent six years as an assistant at Duke.
Succeeding Bob Cousy as coach at Boston College, Daly coached the Eagles to a 26-24 record over two seasons and then spent seven seasons at Pennsylvania, leading the Quakers to the Ivy League championship in 1972-75.
Daly joined the NBA coaching ranks 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 over 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 consecutive winning seasons. He persuaded the likes of Rodman, Thomas, Dumars, Mahorn and Laimbeer and to play as a unit and they responded with back-to-back 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."
After leaving Detroit, Daly took over the New Jersey Nets for two seasons and led them to the playoffs both years.
He left broadcasting to return to the bench 1997 with the Orlando Magic and won 74 games over two seasons, then retired at the age of 68 because he said he was weary of the travel.
Daly joined the Vancouver Grizzlies as a senior adviser in 2000.
In retirement, he split time between residences in Jupiter, Fla., and suburban Detroit.
The Pistons retired No. 2 to honor their former coach's two NBA titles in January 1997.
"Without you, there wouldn't be us," Mahorn said to Daly during the ceremony.