Today marks the birthday of a man who treated me to a series of great thrills by coaching the “Bad Boys” of the Detroit Pistons–and a never before and never after to be equaled Dream Team win of the Gold Medal of the Olympics. CHUCK DALY, the best dressed man in basketball, was born on July 20 and seeing that on my morning “this was the day” alert brought back some great memories of my sons and I enjoying two great seasons of professional basketball playoff series between the Pistons and the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan.

Daly was one smooth as silk coach—taking the mind-boggling egos of the “Bad Boys” Dennis Rodman, Bill Laimbeer and John Salley and blending them with Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars into a Piston ego for the court was a masterful job perhaps only equaled by Phil Jackson’s doing the same with the Bulls.

One of the encyclopedic information sources discussed Daly except as here:

Charles Jerome “Chuck” Daly (July 20, 1930 – May 9, 2009) was an American basketball head coach. He led the Detroit Pistons to consecutive National Basketball Association (NBA) Championships in 1989 and 1990, and the 1992 United States men’s Olympic basketball team (“The Dream Team”) to the gold medal at the 1992 Summer Olympics.[1]

Daly is a two-time Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee, being inducted in 1994 for his individual coaching career,[2] and in 2010 was posthumously inducted as the head coach of the “Dream Team”.[3]The Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award is named after him.[4]

That is the analytical skeleton, but the flesh on that frame cut a stylish look onto every court, rarely appearing in a twice viewed suit. I spent an hour and a half this morning just going through YouTube videos of those playoff games and the formation of “Jordan Rules” by the Pistons. What a great ride down memory lane!

This was one of those hundred thousand things that have happened during my lifetime that I’m glad I witnessed. It wasn’t just sports—it was an historic set of events in which minds went to work to overcome the skills of one of the greatest basketball players ever assembled by God—minds of men who could not have been more different.

Daly won two consecutive NBA championships, torching the Michael Jordan-led Bulls along the way. And after winning those titles, the first two in Pistons history, he coached the Dream Team, that never to be forgotten team of Marvels that dominated the Olympics in 1992.

Daly always “dressed to the nines,” and patrolled the sidelines with calm and order, bringing some sense of order to the “Bad Boys” of Detroit for the 1989 and 1990 championship runs. They have been called “the defense of defenses”, the “best there ever was”, and other names not nearly so flattering. Being a Bulls fan, I called them the “gangsta five”.

They were my son Andrew’s team: Bill Laimbeer, the big Notre Dame hunk of defensive steel, Dennis Rodman, he who was born to hit, Rick Mahorn and John Salley—and then Isaiah Thomas the brilliant scorer and ball handler, and Joe Dumars a likely double of Thomas. How mean, how physical they were. And to look at Daly on the sideline you would never figure that he was their coach.

Mr. Nice Guy, everybody liked him, dressed impeccably in it seemed a new suit every game, he proved capable of melding ten volatile personalities into a team where for the most part there was only one personality on the court: the Pistons’, and one on the sideline: Daly.

Of his wardrobe, he is quoted in one interview as saying, “You read the article that said I had 199 blue suits?” Daly said before coaching the East against the West squad of the fashionable Pat Riley in the 1990 N.B.A. All-Star Game. “Now I have 200. I went into a store and sure enough I bought a blue one. Nobody ever looks bad in a blue suit.”

Of his coaching, I was ready when the playoffs came and the Bulls faced the Pistons and told Andrew that his run was over, It was MJ who would win this thing. And I was right through the first three games. Michael scored 43 in that game. And then the Pistons, this gang of misfits and ne’er do wells who mugged their way to victory with the largesse of a Sherman tank in the form of Laimbeer, Rodman and Salley, those who played such a stingy “wear them down” defense that it made the game easy for scoring genius like that of Thomas and Dumars.

All of a sudden, the announcer was talking about “the Jordan Rules”, a new game plan that the Pistons had come up with to stop Jordan. In interviews, none of the players would admit what they were, Laimbeer being the premier game player who looked innocently toward the interviewer and said “Jordan rules? Are you sure you guys aren’t just making that up?” Rodman just grinned and said “Ain’t no Jordan rules, they is one rule about a man driving at you to come under the basket and that is Bill and I just throw that man to the flooow.”

That night we saw the Jordan Rules—-double team him when he has the ball, four team him when he is trying to break inside to the forecourt, the house and finally either Rodman or Laimbeer took him down.

Here’s how Daly himself later, much later, recited the Jordan Rules:

“If Michael was at the point, we forced him left and doubled him. If he was on the left wing, we went immediately to a double team from the top. If he was on the right wing, we went to a slow double team. He could hurt you equally from either wing—hell, he could hurt you from the hot-dog stand—but we just wanted to vary the look. And if he was on the box, we doubled with a big guy.

The other rule was, any time he went by you, you had to nail him. If he was coming off a screen, nail him. We didn’t want to be dirty—I know some people thought we were—but we had to make contact and be very physical.”

After getting Detroit its wins, Daly was picked to coach the Dream Team in the Olympics. The team was a display of magnificence and joy and hype and spirit and finesse and pure sport beauty all rolled up into one roster to represent the U.S.A. I have often wondered if anyone but Chuck Daly could have coached that group and left their egos in the locker room.

They won every game, winning the gold medal after watching Jordan average 43 points and the team winning its games by an average of 43 points. Daly started a different five every game and never called even one timeout during the entire tournament. How did he do it? As Brendan Suhr, an assistant to Daly, put it: “Chuck is a communicator. In the pro game, 95 percent of coaching is knowing the people. With Chuck, I’d raise that to 99 percent.”

It was indeed a dream come true to be able to watch all that professional talent and put it together for the American flag in the Olympics.  One of those top-of-the-mountain-sports-events that I got to witness—one of many in a life blessed by length.


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