Daly had stints with four NBA teams -- Cleveland, Detroit, New Jersey and Orlando -- but he's most remembered for guiding the Pistons' to back-to-back championships in 1989 and 1990 and leading the Dream Team to a gold medal at the 1992 Olympics.
When I think of Daly, however, I don't think of those "Bad Boys" Pistons teams or the ridiculously talented pro players he coached in Barcelona. No, I think of Chuck Daly every time I hear the argument that college coaches cannot succeed at the NBA level.
Daly coached the Penn Quakers from 1971 to 1976, and he ended up doing pretty well in the pros. If you can coach, you can coach. That's what Daly was about.
True, Daly spent a few years as an NBA assistant before getting his first head coaching opportunity, but the fact remains that he had coached in high school and college for more than 20 years and only been a pro guy for three seasons when he got his first job.
Daly combined a kind of irascible tenacity with an uncanny knack and penchant for X's and O's. Those Pistons teams in the mid-1980s were not easy teams to coach. They had big personalities and struggled for years to overcome the Boston Celtics.
There are some parallels between how John Madden used to coach the Oakland Raiders and how Daly coached his Detroit teams. He had a wonderful ability to be hardcore and old-school, instilling an inflexible discipline and yet also allowing his star players the freedom they needed to be great.
But as impressive as anything he did with the Pistons or Dream team or any other NBA team for that matter was what Daly did for Penn in the 1970s.
Quite simply, he was responsible for the greatest recruiting class in Ivy League history, and one that eventually turned into the 1979 Penn team that went to the Final Four. Daly wasn't around for that magical run (Bob Weinhauer was the coach), but he brought in players such as Tony Price, Bobby Willis and Tim Smith.
Of course, that's the last Ivy League team to make it to the Final Four. And what's the over-under on the year that will happen next?
All we're really saying here is that Chuck Daly was a brilliant coach, whether it was in college or the pros. And if you're a brilliant coach, you can coach anywhere. Chuck Daly proved that.
For every John Calipari, Leonard Hamilton, Lon Kruger, Tim Floyd, Rick Pitino and Mike Montgomery, you'll have your Chuck Daly, or your Bill Fitch, or your Dick Motta, or your Del Harris, or your Flip Saunders (Golden Valley Lutheran College, for goodness sakes), or your Stan Albeck, or even your Bob Hill, who had some darn good years in San Antonio.
Or Jack Ramsay or Larry Brown.
There's a big difference between coaching in college and coaching in the pros. But the great coaches -- the truly great coaches -- can win on any level.
And Chuck Daly was a great coach.