Chuck Daly Rumors
One season Dawkins had to miss several games with a sore shoulder. He was unable to lift his right arm above his head to shoot or dunk. He was sent to the see the Sixers team doctors and was given a program of rest and therapy and had to undergo treatment from a transcutaneous electronic nerve stimulator. The pain eventually subsided until the next road trip. That’s when the late Chuck Daly, then assistant coach, noticed Dawkins boarding a team flight singing aloud. “Do you think?” Daly asked, pointing at a boombox the size of a small house perched on the big man’s shoulder.
Colangelo told me it was about understanding and connecting with a vast array of personality types, getting the trust of NBA superstars who could sacrifice ego for the good of the team. First, Colangelo wanted to hear first-hand what it was like to be a player on the Olympic basketball team. It’s a unique experience, and he didn’t want to assume he had all the answers. Picking the “right” coach depended on his understanding how the players felt and what motivated them.
In what can only be described as a virtual “Who’s Who” of NBA superstar talent, in 2005 Colangelo called a special meeting of former Olympian basketball players. Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Jerry West, and Hall of Fame Coaches Dean Smith, Lenny Wilkens, and Chuck Daly, among others, gave their input. It was a superstar group therapy session. They laid bare all concerns—one of most hailed players of our time, for instance, voiced concerns about looking stupid on a global stage. At that moment, choosing the right coach became a very personal endeavor.
“Chuck Daly [the Dream Team coach] paid me the greatest compliment I ever got in my life,” says Charles. He told me, ‘It’s an honor and a pleasure to coach you. I got to play against you, but to watch you play every day, you’re the second-best player here [behind Jordan] and every time we have an important game we start you.”
I spoke with McCallum about the book, his experiences covering the Dream Team for Sports Illustrated, and some of the greatest basketball players who ever lived: ROB MAHONEY: Isiah Thomas’ non-selection still strikes a chord with so many people and so many basketball fans – it’s kind of amazing how linked he is with the Dream Team lore despite not actually being on the team. What is it about that dimension of this story that makes for such compelling theater? JACK MCCALLUM: Well, one of the factors is that there wasn’t an amazing amount of controversy once [the Dream Team] got together. There weren’t complaints about playing time. There weren’t issues during the games. Chuck Daly did a fantastic job of managing the egos. We are a society — and certainly I’m part of it — that looks for controversy, and this is one of the few things you have to latch on to. The second thing is that Isiah has always been a lightning rod; it doesn’t matter whether he’s in the league or whether he’s out of the league, he’s always been a guy to whom attention has flown. I understand it, because Isiah was a great player. But James Worthy, he was a member of four championship teams or five championship teams, and there was never that [controversy] over him.
This summer’s team will be coached by Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, who led the 2008 team to Olympic gold and was an assistant to Chuck Daly on the 1992 Dream Team that also won. Rome asked Frank why NBA players respect Krzyzewski so much. “He’s a transcendent figure in basketball,” Frank said. “His success, his class, his professionalism — everything he stands for is obviously Hall of Fame worthy.”