Chuck Daly Rumors

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.
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.”
In the early ’90s, the Nets looked like a team on the rise, with a young core of Kenny Anderson, Drazen Petrovic and Derrick Coleman. Led by future Hall of Fame coach Chuck Daly, the Nets were 43-39 and pushed the 54-win Cavaliers to a decisive fifth game in the first round of the 1993 Eastern Conference playoffs. But everything changed on June 7, 1993, the day Petrovic died in a car crash in Europe. “When we had Drazen die,” Anderson said last night, “that turned the organization back a few years . . . more than that.”
Bright said Rodman didn’t attend the funeral of his own coach, former Detroit Pistons coach Chuck Daly. Bright said Rodman missed Michael Rich’s funeral Friday because Rodman was contractually obligated to make a “Tonight Show” appearance that day. Bright said Rodman called the Rich family several times. James Rich said Rodman could have sent flowers. James said he lost respect for Rodman and said Rodman hasn’t treated his family very well.
SLAM: Why were you and Chuck Daly so close? DR: He just opened his heart to me, ’cause I was, like, a simple country black guy. All of a sudden comes this country redneck with boots and Levis and belt buckles and cowboy hats—you should have seen that shit, weird. You see me now compared to then, you’re like aw, fuck, damn. Tight fucking Wranglers, doing the fucking two-step every Tuesday. He just opened his heart to me and he just treated me like his son, man. I never had a dad, and he just brought me in and said, “You know, Dennis, even though you play for me, I just love you like my son. I’m not taking any charity to you or stuff like that; you just have a special place for me.” I think we just connected. I was always very, “Rah rah rah! Yay yay yay!” and I just liked to see a smile on his face. Always.
Emotions got the better of Dennis Rodman just minutes into a press conference he presided over in Auburn Hills, Michigan on Friday. Rodman is in town to have his number 10 retired by the Detroit Pistons, and though he was remarkably composed throughout the better part of the question and answer session with media, Rodman broke down while assessing his time spent as a part of Detroit’s two championships in 1989 and 1990, telling the media that he felt as if he “doesn’t deserve to have [the number] retired,” because there “was so much else I should have done” in Detroit. “I didn’t fully understand the value I had for this organization,” Rodman admitted. After his relationship with the Pistons soured following the breakup of the Chuck Daly-coached championship teams, Rodman forced a trade in 1993 to the San Antonio Spurs. He hasn’t had much contact with the organization in the years since; pointing out that this was his first time back in the Detroit area since his final season with the Chicago Bulls, back in 1998.
‘‘I don’t think it ever hurt me what the people were saying,’’ Pippen said. ‘‘I’ve been a target of criticism my whole life, especially when the Bulls drafted me as a poor, skinny unknown out of [Central] Arkansas. What bothered me was the fact I had let the team down and let myself down for not playing better the previous year when they needed me to. ‘‘It was gratifying for us to see the Pistons walk off the court before that last game ended. Actually, we didn’t expect anything less because they were a classless organization and everybody saw they were a classless team. I didn’t expect Isiah Thomas or Joe Dumars or Laimbeer or Mahorn or Dennis Rodman to come over and shake our hands. They never had anything good to say about us before then, and I didn’t care to shake their hands anyway.’’
Pippen, a seven-time All-Star, and his teammates knew that eliminating the Pistons after three previous failures wouldn’t be easy. ‘‘The Pistons were a nasty team,’’ Pippen said. ‘‘You always had to expect them to play dirty because, remember, they were the Bad Boys of Motown. They’d go out of their way to be mean and try to hurt you. And because we had better athletes, coach Chuck Daly just let them play the way they had to play to win. Bill Laimbeer was no real athlete. The same for Rick Mahorn and Joe Dumars and James Edwards. We were faster, quicker, more competitive and smarter.
While talking to folks for Sunday’s column about rookie Hassan Whiteside, I learned that longtime NBA scout/assistant Brendan Suhr has taken over basketball operations at Central Florida University. (Whiteside’s former coaches at Marshall relocated to Central Florida at the end of the 2009 -10 season). What makes this interesting is that Suhr, who spent almost a decade on Mike Fratello’s staff in Atlanta before joining Chuck Daly in Detroit, was the lead assistant on the Pistons’ 1989-90 Championship teams …. headed by Isiah Thomas. All of which means Suhr will be recruiting against his former superstar, currently the head coach at Florida International.
Even before the firing, Matt didn’t seem happy. In mid-March of last year, longtime Pistons owner Bill Davidson died. Two months after that, Daly died of pancreatic cancer. While it’s typical for a strong bond to grow between a coach and p.r. man, the one between Chuck and Matt went well beyond that. They hadn’t worked for the same organization since 1992, but they had remained extremely close. During the 2007 NBA Finals in San Antonio, Matt and I and a few other NBA types were riding home from a get-together when Matt decided to call Chuck. “It’s 1 o’clock in the morning, Matt,” I said. “Don’t worry,” Matt said. “Chuck’s up. I know when he sleeps.” Daly answered on the first ring and Matt passed around the phone.
In mid-April, I flew to Detroit to interview Detroit Pistons public relations director Matt Dobek for a book I’m writing about the 1992 Dream Team. In Barcelona, Matt served as one of four press people attached to the U.S. team, his primary responsibility being coach Chuck Daly, with whom he worked in Detroit. Matt did a superior job, which wasn’t surprising; he was a major player in those halcyon days of the NBA, someone who skillfully walked the line as both an advocate for his team and an honest resource for the press. A few weeks after our interview, Matt called to tell me that he and three other longtime Pistons employees had been abruptly fired by the team. I’m not sure what happened with the other three (I didn’t know them), but Matt was escorted out of the building, driven home by a security official and subsequently informed that he would be receiving no severance package. The stated reason for the firing was that Matt had violated a confidentiality clause in his contract.
On Coach Chuck Daly: Malone: “His hair and everything had to be perfect. When we’d go out on the floor I’d always look back and Coach Daly would be like …”. (Malone mimics a man touching up his hair and smoothing his collar.) Wilkens: “Chuck worried about everything. I mean everything. But Karl’s right. Before the game there would be Chuck …” (And Wilkens mimics a man touching up.) Barkley: “Here’s what I always thought about Chuck. He was a really good dude. I can’t believe he coached those pricks in Detroit.”