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Thursday, May 14, 2009

RIP to Chuck Daly

CHUCK DALY: Rest in Peace, Coach.

On a very tough assignment for a story nobody really ever wanted to see written, although we all knew it was coming.... I thought Tim Povtak did a nice job with this column and I am passing it along for all to see...

By Tim Povtak as a special to

The NBA shed a collective tear -- and shared a laugh -- for Chuck Daly Wednesday.

And the Prince of Pessimism was buried like a King.

More than 400 people -- including a Who's Who of the NBA -- came to this tiny South Florida town to mourn the passing and celebrate knowing one of the most revered coaches in basketball history.

A few have won more -- two NBA titles and an Olympic Gold Medal are tough to beat -- but none have been so universally loved as a great person, a charismatic character, and a wonderful champion like Daly.

"Missing this was not an option,'' said Dallas Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle, before rushing off to a private jet that would take him to Denver, where his team was scheduled to play a few hours later against the Nuggets.

The two-hour funeral service at the St. Jude Catholic Church, which included both serious and not so serious moments, included stories that made you laugh and cry.

The service was attended by everyone from NBA commissioner David Stern, to a myriad of coaching peers, to golfing buddies, and longtime family friends and most everyone he touched during his retirement.

"This is what we talk about -- the NBA family,'' Stern said outside the church. "I think you can see the love people had for Chuck and for what he did.''

The Detroit Pistons, who won two NBA titles with Daly as the coach of the Bad Boys, brought their entire front office staff and several friends from Michigan on the team plane, all arriving at the church in a chartered bus.

Among the pall bearers were Isiah Thomas, Vinnie Johnson, Joe Dumars, Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn -- the core of those two championship teams that made Daly famous -- who today are scattered around the country.

"I think when you go through the things we did together, there is a bond that never breaks,'' said Laimbeer. "This was a sad time, but a time to celebrate who he was, and what he did, and how loved he was.''

Carlisle, president of the NBA Coaches Association, once worked as an assistant coach under Daly. He, too, forged a bond that never broke, like many of those Daly touched through a life of coaching. Carlise is the one who created the 'CD' lapel pins that coaches have been wearing through the Playoffs. Everyone was wearing one Wednesday.

Daly, 78, died Saturday after a bout with pancreatic cancer.

"Chuck was a fighter, and he fought until his dying breath,'' said Thomas, now basketball coach at nearby Florida International University, who visited him often in the final days. "But right up to the end, he was more concerned about everyone else, all his basketball friends, making sure they were alright with this. That's the kind of guy he was. I think this turnout speaks for itself.''

There were coaches and former coaches like Pat Riley, Carlisle, Michael Curry and Mike Fratello. There were coaches-turned-broadcasters like Dick Vitale, Dick Versace, Hubie Brown and Matt Guokas. There were coaches-turned-golfing buddies like Billy Cunningham and Rollie Massimino. There were NBA executives like Rod Thorn of the Nets, John Gabriel of the Knicks and Bob Vander Weide of the Magic.

"I think Chuck would have loved the turnout,'' said longtime NBA executive Pat Williams.

Throughout the service, they joked about the tailored suits he wore -- always sharp; the perfect hair; the closets filled with shoes; the self-deprecating humor; the back-against-the-wall mentality; and the depression-baby upbringing that never left him.

Daly gave everyone something to laugh about.

"He never paid retail for a closet filled with designer suits,'' Massimino said. "He lived the good life, without ever spending very much. If he had known all these people were coming, he would have gotten out a brand new suit, made sure his shoes were shined and combed his hair to perfection.''

Unlike many coaches today, Daly never played in the league. He didn't reach it until he was 48 years old, as an assistant in Philadelphia. He never forget how lucky he was to be part of it. As much as anything, that's why people like him. He didn't act like someone in the Basketball Hall of Fame.

"I never got to know him very well, just as a competitor,'' said Riley, another Hall of Fame coach and now president of the Miami Heat. "But he became an inspiration because he taught some things to all of us.''

Riley, like many, was brought to tears, when he talked about Daly's impact on the game.

"He was a great coach,'' said Pastor Charles Notabartolo, during his sermon. "And now we're sending him to be with the greatest coach of all.''

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