LOS ANGELES -- Chuck Daly looked like a loser.
The TV cameras picked him up as he started off the floor following the Pistons' title-clinching victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, and he looked as if his team had just blown one to the New Jersey Nets or the Portland Trail Blazers.
What was this all about?
More than half-hour after the game, they brought him into the interview room, and he was asked how it felt to win his first basketball championship.
Daly thought for a moment and said it was different from what he thought it would be. He said it wasn't as exciting as he thought it would be. He said he had a few moments earlier in the day when he got a little emotional about the possibility of winning it all, but when it got right down to it -- the moment of triumph -- it was ... well, it was OK.
He then offered the time-honored comment that it would probably hit him later on, when he had more time to think about it.
What this was all about is that an honest man was displaying his honest feelings. He was pleased he had won -- who wouldn't be? But he knew what it took to get there ... the great sacrifices that were needed to become a champion ... and this seemed to occupy his mind more than the moment of victory.
He showed one bit of emotion out on the court. That's when he embraced Coach Pat Riley of the Lakers after it was over. Daly smiled. This was inside stuff, coach-to-coach, is smile telling Riley that he now knew how hard it was to win it all.
Daly probably will be back with the Pistons. You don't walk away from a winner. And besides, he likes the attention his position gives him. It is something he has worked toward for his entire life. He likes the good life -- the clothes, the food, the recognition ... the fact he is now somebody in his own world.
You can't begrudge him any of this, because he has maintained his modesty all the way. In fact, you have to feel good for him because he is such a decent person.
Yet, he knows what is now expected of him. Even in the flush of victory, he knows everyone will expect him to do it again next season ... and all those practice sessions, all those meetings, all those film studies, all those takeoffs, all those landing, all the cajoling of his players, all the threats, all the screaming, all the yelling, all the private thoughts that occupy his mind deep into the night ... all of this has to be flashing through his mind.
It's not easy winning a championship. It took the Pistons 32 years to get there. Winning two in a row can even be harder. The Los Angeles Lakers practically had to turn themselves inside out to do it before the Pistons dethroned them the other night.
Daly must wonder how his players will react to winning. Will they want it again? They will say they do. That's natural. Every winning team says it.
Will they be willing to make the same sacrifices they made this season?
Will they use the summertime to prepare themselves for an even greater effort next winter? Or will they become filled with themselves and lose their sense of purpose?
Anyone can win once. Only the great teams repeat. The Lakers did it. The Edmonton Oilers did it. And that's about it.
The Pistons certainly deserve this moment of victory. Nobody gave them anything. They went out and earned it. It may have looked easy in retrospect -- 78 wins and only 21 losses.
But, the pressure was on all the way. They had to go out and win those games. Each one had to be played and won. I give them credit for being so good for such a long period of time. That's the mark of a champion.
Now comes the real test. Can they do it again? I think they can, but I am not sure of it. The makeup of the team will change. That's guaranteed. It may not be a big change -- a player here, a player there -- but the chemistry will never be what it is today.
It will be interesting to see if they can keep the same dedication, the same motivation, as they displayed in the past year. It'll be hard to call them great until they do.
It's up to you, men.