A Daly Reminder: Paying Tribute to the Detroit Pistons' Greatest Coach

Daniel MuthSenior Analyst IMay 9, 2009

5 Nov 1997:  Coach Chuck Daly of the Orlando Magic watches his players during a game against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.  The Bulls won the game 94-81. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel  /Allsport

As peppered as we are in this day and age with the obituaries of famous actors, politicians, or athletes, it’s easy to become rather detached from this parade of endless death.

It’s a march we’re all on, after all, and to consider it too deeply is an uncomfortable reminder of our own place line, whether we be leading the band or still marching near the back.

It’s the conundrum of time and a question that mankind’s greatest philosophers, poets, and deep-thinkers have all wrestled with until they too vanished, leaving nary a word about their destination or a forwarding address.

For those of us left behind, however, there is still the permanence of the lives touched, the world bettered, the exuberance of a perfect gloriously-framed moment.

And for those of us who followed the life and career of Chuck Daly, we will carry a bevy of these moments, as real and tangible as they ever where, even with the departure of the great architect himself.

But I still miss Chuck Daly.

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There I've said it.  I have never met the man, or exchanged a letter or a phone call, but somehow his passing has effected me this day in a way that so many others have not. 

Maybe it’s because his glory years with the Pistons represented my own maturation as a fan, culminating in back to back titles that I could fully appreciate. 

Though I was alive for the Detroit Tigers 1984 World Series win which was officially my first taste at the cup of glory, I was but a boy, excited because my family was excited, but not truly understanding the rarity of the moment. Chuck Daly taught me the rewards of fandom.

Maybe it’s because Chuck always purported himself with such class and dignity. From a small Michigan town that valued humility over pomp, action over word, and guts before glory, I always admired Coach Daly for his quiet intellect, his burning intensity, and his willingness to take risks without being risky. 

Chuck Daly embodied many of the qualities coveted by hard-working Middle America.

Maybe it’s because he won. I’ll admit that. 

Being enough of a fan to realize how precious the titles that come through Motown can be, Daly worked his way into my own needs and desires, delivering not one, but two titles for the Detroit Pistons, compiling wins and playoff victories, and gifting a new brand of basketball that would completely change how the professional game was played. Chuck Daly was an innovator.

Maybe it’s because he was so widely respected.  I can’t remember anyone, even those who derided the Piston’s physical style of play, that had a bad thing to say about Daly. 

Generally, words like “genius,” or “class-act,” were used, and I remember how proud I was when it was our guy that was chosen to lead the Dream Team into battle, when it was our guy that brought home the gold, proving to the world that American basketball was still the standard. Chuck Daly was a leader.

Maybe it’s because he seemed to represent a bygone era when a coach was more than the guy that simply called the plays, but the guy who taught us how to be better people, who imparted life lessons, who genuinely cared about the players. 

Isiah Thomas used the words “mentor” and “father figure” in his released statement about Daly.  How many players would say the same thing about their coach in today’s NBA?  Chuck Daly was real, and concerned, and committed.

Maybe it’s all these things and more because I feel like I’ve lost a member of my family today. I had genuine love for the man and it saddens me that I’ll never hear his professorial breakdown of a game, or hear another update about his life after basketball. 

Like all the greats before him, Chuck Daly has made the journey beyond our vision.  But like them too, he has left a great body of work behind, framed in trophies and champagne yes, but forged in integrity, respect, good-will, and love. 

Goodbye Chuck. 

May I be as worthy as you when my time comes, and may I take up the parade leader's baton unafraid.

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