Everyone knows Chuck Daly led Isiah Thomas and the Pistons to two titles, but it's less well-known how many coaches Daly led to careers in the NBA. (Detroit News staff)
Most of us have had someone who, wittingly or not, either opened doors for us or showed us our particular path in life.
For Doug Collins, former Pistons coach Chuck Daly was that man.
"You know, for guys of my generation, there were people who you looked up to and respected so much that just about everything you did in your career, you did with the hope of making them proud," Collins said in a telephone interview from North Carolina. "Chuck was that guy for me."
Collins, the former Bulls, Pistons and Wizards coach and TNT analyst, was among the first to reach out to Daly when he learned the Hall of Famer was battling pancreatic cancer.
"For all he's done for me, I would do anything in the world for him," Collins said.
Their relationship dates to the late 1970s when Daly was an assistant on Billy Cunningham's staff in Philadelphia and Collins was the team's shooting guard.
When Collins' playing career was cut short by injuries in 1980-81, he began working the 76ers radio broadcasts. In the summer of 1981, Daly was hired as coach in Cleveland, which triggered a chain of events that brought Collins to television.
Matt Guokas, who was doing 76ers television, replaced Daly on Cunningham's staff. Collins replaced Guokas on the television broadcasts and the rest is history.
But as brilliant as he was and is as a broadcaster, Collins had other aspirations -- namely coaching.
"I remember Chuck and we lived real close to each other (in New Jersey)," Collins said. "At night I would ride my bike about seven or eight miles over to where Chuck lived in Cherry Hill and I would sit and talk basketball. I wanted to learn and he was always so patient, always such a good teacher."
Their friendship never waned, even when Collins was coaching the Bulls during those memorable playoff series in the mid- to late-1980s.
"Chuck's guys beat us in five games," Collins said. "I remember talking to him and he said, 'You did a great job. You just didn't have enough weapons to beat me.' "
Flash ahead to the summer of 1995. The Pistons were searching for yet another coach. When Tom Wilson, then president of basketball among his other duties, sought a recommendation from Daly, Daly whole-heartedly endorsed Collins.
"I probably wouldn't have been in Detroit had it not been for Chuck telling them to hire me," Collins said. "After I took over, he backed away and kind of let me be myself. But he was always there when I needed advice."
A teacher's pride
If there's any healing power in love, if it in any way warms Daly's heart to know that one of his protégés is carrying on his teachings, his elegant manner and his respect for the game, then Collins would be honored.
"I saw him before we went to Beijing (for the Olympics last summer)," Collins said. "I had given an emotional speech to the players about what the Olympic experience was all about and I guess it got back to Chuck. He put his arm around me and he said, 'Doug, I am proud of you. I heard you gave a hell of a speech.'
"He will never know how much that meant to me."
There are eight teams fighting for the final five playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. Here's a breakdown of the race and strength of schedule through Monday:
Chris' top five
Chris' bottom five
Players who have logged the most games since 1995-96, according to the Elias Sports Bureau:
|Michael Finley||San Antonio||1,038|