Saturday, May 9, 2009

Good Luck Chuck

So you don't like the NBA because it's a bunch of thugs. And you can't stand the San Antonio Spurs because they play a basketball style that could put Robin Williams to sleep.

You can thank Chuck Daly for that. Actually, you can't because he's dead now.

Daly is best known for coaching the "Bad Boys" Detroit teams that won two titles during the late 80's and early 90's. Those teams won by basically beating the crap out of opponents while arguing as many fouls as possible. One game I think they actually attempted to kill Chicago's Scottie Pippen.

Not much of a legacy is it?

But when you look deeper, you realize what Daly actually accomplished. The NBA (as I've often lamented) is a superstar league. One year a team sucks and then they win the draft lottery and get to pick Jumpy McScoringmachine and he's supposed to change everything. Sometimes it works with LeBron James, other times the top player is a nostrum who may or may not help you. Basically it's a lottery to win the lottery during the right year.

But Daly actually built an NBA champion slowly, like the way you're supposed to cook BBQ. While the NBA was all caught up in the Magic vs. Bird act, Daly was adding to his Detroit puzzle piece by piece. Sure, he grabbed top end Isaiah Thomas with the second pick of the 1981 draft, but of the superstar champions of the past 30 years (Tim Duncan, Shaq, Jordan, Magic, Bird, etc), Thomas was the least unstoppable.

Between 1981 and 1988, Daly acquired his future championship squad by putting pieces to a puzzle together. He grabbed Bill Laimbeer and Vinny "The Microwave" Johnson in trades. Then he drafted Rick Mahorn and Joe Dumars. Then he got John Sally and Dennis Rodman. He added a post player in James Edwards.

It was seven years after Daly drafted Isaiah Thomas when the Pistons finally took out the Celtics in the eastern conference. That whole time, Daly was putting his team together and letting them gel.

When the Pistons did win, every player knew they're role and played it just as Daly intended. Dumars was the point guard, Thomas the scorer, Edwards scored from the post, Laimbeer, Rodman, Mahorn, and Sally would mash the other team's scorers into the floor. Vinnie Johnson would come off the bench and rain down threes. It all came together.

And Daly still managed to keep the team focused when they were winning. This is a team with Bill Laimbeer and Dennis Rodman. Yet Daly held them together and they all did what they needed to do.

Later Daly coached the first "Dream Team" and he managed to keep all of those egos in check as well.

So while I hated the Bad Boys and the way they turned basketball into wrestling, I will always hold a soft spot in my heart for Coach Chuck. He actually built a team over time in the NBA without the aid of a consensus top five player. It isn't done very often, so enjoy it when it happens.

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