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Former Penn Basketball Coach Chuck Daly Passes Away

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Courtesy: Penn Athletic Communications

PHILADELPHIA — Chuck Daly, a true basketball luminary who made the University of Pennsylvania one of his early head-coaching stops, passed away on Saturday, May 9. He was 78.

The Associated Press reported that he died in Jupiter, Fla., with his family by his side. Prior to that, in March, the NBA’s Detroit Pistons -- which he coached for many years -- announced that the Hall of Fame coach was being treated for pancreatic cancer.

Daly came to Penn to serve as head coach prior to the 1971-72 season. In six seasons at that position, he led the Quakers to an overall record of 125-38, and went 74-10 in the Ivy League with four titles. During what many consider to be the heyday of Philadelphia Big 5 basketball, he led Penn to a 19-5 record and four city championships.

Penn’s 1971-72 team, his first, went 25-3 overall and 13-1 in the Ivy League (he would have three teams go 13-1 in the Ancient Eight). That Quaker squad advanced to the NCAA East Regional final before losing to North Carolina.

"As long as I knew him, Chuck was the same good coach and good guy," said Penn Athletic Director Steve Bilsky, who played basketball at Penn and graduated just before Daly's arrival on campus. "That was true whether he was coaching high school, college, the pros, or at the Olympic level."

"I speak for the entire Penn basketball community when I say that we are saddened to hear the news of his passing," said Penn head coach Glen Miller, who recently completed his third season with the Quakers. "He coached this program to some of its greatest successes, and whenever he spoke of Penn and the Philadelphia basketball community he spoke of it fondly. However, such was his stature that this is a loss not just for Penn and the city of Philadelphia, but for the entire basketball world."

"Chuck was the consummate coach and teacher," said Bob Weinhauer, who spent four years as an assistant under Daly at Penn and succeeded him as the Quakers' head coach. "For those of us who had the privilege of working with him, it was exactly that -- a privilege. I know that my coaching career would have been nothing without the mentoring and guidance that he gave me at Penn and throughout my career. I was fortunate enough to be able to express that to him about a month ago, and for that I am grateful."

"Coach Daly was a great representative of basketball thoughout his years, from his time at Penn and in Philadelphia right up to his NBA and Olympic success," said former Penn and current Temple head coach Fran Dunphy. "One particular memory for me is that, following one of my seasons at Penn, he sent me a hand-written note to offer congratulations and words of encouragement. At the time, he was coaching the Pistons. I have that letter framed, and it is in a place where I keep my treasured items."

Later, of course, Daly coached the United States “Dream Team” to the Olympic gold medal in 1992 after winning back-to-back NBA championships with the Pistons. In 1996, he was voted one of the 10 greatest coaches of the NBA's first half-century, two years after being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. He was the first coach to win both NBA and Olympic titles.

Daly 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 of the NBA. "Once they stop allowing you to coach, you're on your way out."

"I think Chuck understood people as well as basketball," Dumars told The Associated Press in 1995. "It's a people business."

Doug Collins, a former Pistons and Chicago Bulls coach, learned the intricacies of the game from Daly.

"He was a man of incredible class and dignity. He was a mentor and a friend," Collins said. "He taught me so much and was always so supportive of me and my family. I loved him and will miss him."

Daly had a golden touch at the Barcelona Games with the likes of Magic Johnson, Jordan, Larry Bird and Barkley, using a different lineup 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.

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, Rodman making headlines and Hall of Fame guards Isiah Thomas and Dumars lifting the team to titles in 1989 and 1990.

"Chuck Daly was so much more than a basketball coach," said Thomas, the former New York Knicks coach and president who now coaches at Florida International University. "He was a mentor, a father figure, someone we all looked up to in everything he did.

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' leader in regular-season and playoff victories.

"Chuck left a lasting impression with everyone he met both personally and professionally and his spirit will live with all of us forever," family and team spokesman Matt Dobek said.

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.

The National Basketball Coaches' Association is dedicating this postseason to Daly. Coaches and many broadcasters are wearing a pin with the initials "CD" during games and created the "Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award," which will be given annually.

Born July 20, 1930, in St. Marys, 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 before arriving at Penn.

Daly left Penn to join the NBA coaching ranks 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 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 straight. He persuaded Rodman, Thomas, Dumars, Mahorn and Laimbeer to play as a unit and they responded with 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 times.

He left broadcasting to return to the bench 1997 with the Orlando Magic and won 74 games over two seasons, then retired at 68 because 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 in 1997 to honor Daly's two NBA titles.

"Without you, there wouldn't be us," Mahorn told the coach during the ceremony.

Daly is survived by his wife, Terry, daughter Cydney, and grandchildren Sebrina and Connor.

Much of this information was pulled from Larry Lage’s Associated Press release, with contributions from AP writers Jim Irwin, Cliff Brunt and Tim Reynolds.