If Chuck Daly took the TV job, he was not going to move out of Detroit. Not as long as Koko was alive.
You've heard of Koko. She is Daly's "handicapped" dog. She is a poodle and the love of his life. She is somewhere between 17 and 18 years old, and is blind and deaf, and no way was he going to take her into a new home.
She can make it around the Daly house, bumping her nose into the walls and feeling her way along the carpets and marble floor. That's where she has lived for these last seven years, since this man came to us from Philadelphia, and that where she is going to die.
Call it pure love, but that's the kind of man the Pistons rehired on Tuesday -- the kind of man they could not afford to lose.
Brendan Suhr, who is one of Daly's assistant coaches -- a man who might have lost his job if Daly had gone elsewhere to work -- called it all the way.
He knew his man was staying because he couldn't give up the life of coaching -- the only life he has ever known, since Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney High, when he lived in a small apartment and then turned it over to the groundhog when he went on to seek his fame and fortune in college and pro coaching.
Even though the pro game is an eight-month rat race that works on the minds, bodies and psyches of men in ways that are almost unbelievable -- Phoenix tonight, Golden State tomorrow, Madison Square Garden in two days and back to Detroit -- Suhr knew Daly couldn't give it up.
He couldn't give it up because he needs it in his life.
This man cannot sit still. Ask his wife. Ask his daughter. Ask his coaches. Ask his players. He always has to be doing something, going somewhere, working, talking, making speeches, making commercials, appearing on TV, doing a radio show. If you know him at all, you know he hardly has time to sleep. Three hours, four hours a night, max. Then he is up and running again, grabbing a cup of tea here, a bagel there, maybe stopping in at church, visiting his favorite clothing store, hitting a few golf balls, talking on the phone for two hours, looking at tapes, studying statistics, working out new plays on his magnetic board, reading newspapers, books, magazines ... all while trying to figure out one more variation to his celebrated "Jordan Rules," the complicated scheme he developed to slow down the star of the Chicago Bulls.
The thought of giving up all this scared him. He is a man who does not want to get old. Soon, he will be 60. He wants to be 30. His fear was that a career in TV -- one game a week, maybe two a month -- would slow him down, and Father Time would start making up ground on him.
As long as he is storming up and down the sidelines, the gods will leave him alone.
The Pistons were so wise to give him a contract that satisfied him.
Not because he is the game's best coach, but because they need him as much as he needs them.
The hang-up all through the years -- and this is the first time the Pistons have given the man what he is worth -- was the salary of Jack McCloskey. The Pistons GM came from an era when 20 bucks was a lot of money, and since he never paid himself a large salary, it was hard for him to pay his coach a large salary.
But now -- from Bill Davidson on down -- they've come to understand the worth of this man, his value to all of them in this organization. Daly has turned the Pistons into a true team -- one that has learned to play unselfishly -- and this is why they have been champions the last two years. He has taught them all the meaning of team play, which is almost impossible in this era when individual accomplishments translate into staggering contracts.
The fact he got Isiah Thomas to change his style of play is worth millions of dollars alone. Without Isiah, there is no championship team in Detroit. And without Chuck Daly, there is no Isiah Thomas leading the way to these championships. The marriage has not been without its spats, but they've hung in there and proven they can coexist for the good of the family.
Daly said he made up his mind the night before the big announcement. That's not entirely true.
He began to waver the day the town turned out to honor the Pistons with that parade through downtown Detroit.
As he sat on his float and looked across the river to Windsor, he saw the Hilton Hotel standing out on the horizon.
That grabbed at him.
He thought to himself: "You mean I'm not going over there for practice the first week in October."
He felt himself choking up.
He knew, in that moment, that it would be very hard, if not impossible, to give up the thing that has meant everything in his life.
This man loves the game of basketball. He likes the celebrity status it has given, and he sure likes the money, because he never made much of it until late in life.
But more than any of his, he loves the exhilaration he gets from the game. He loves the excitement, the challenge. He loves the sounds, the smells, the sights of the sport, and he simply couldn't give it up.
His greatest accomplishment has been to get his team to play defensive basketball. Defense is nothing but hard work. The glory is in the field goals. He has sold his players on the value of working hard because defense is the only thing that can be controlled during a basketball game.
It's not fun, but it's effective, and this is what he taught them over the course of seven years in Detroit, which is why he is worth every penny of his contract.
It won't be easy to make it three titles in a row. Daly knows this better than anyone. The holes are starting to appear in the roster. Vinnie Johnson -- if he comes back -- will be a year older. He did not have a good season in 1989-90 despite his title-clinching basket. They can't expect the same minutes out of James Edwards. Bill Laimbeer, like Johnson, will be a year older.
And, if you looked carefully, you saw Mark Aguirre losing a half-step, and there is always the concern of how he will take care of himself during the off-season.
The nucleus is there to win again, but it is an eight-month grind that isn't always measured on talent. Injuries can kill a team. So can the aging process.
Personally, I think Daly made the right move. The game does keep him young. He needs his daily fixes.
I'm glad he's back because when you lose his kind of integrity, a lot of things suffer.
We have been writing a book together, and he has taught me two things I hope I can incorporate into my own life.
He has taught me to look at both sides of every issue -- something that is easy to say and hard to do.
And he has taught me about his midnight rule -- that no matter what is said and done, you forget about it and start out new at one minute after midnight. This one can help marriages, much less basketball teams.
And, I know Koko is glad Daly is staying because she knows where the sofa is, and when Daly is home she knows how to jump up there so the two of them can watch television together.