May 9, 2009 at 9:57 am

From the archives: May 18, 1983

Pistons' choice to hire Daly as coach surprises

A shock wave tan through the National Basketball Association when the Pistons introduced Chuck Daly as their new head coach instead of Jack McKinney.

For weeks, most NBA insiders were convinced McKinney would leave the Indiana Pacers and sign with the Pistons. Hadn't Jack McCloskey himself said McKinney was his first choice?

"I never said McKinney was my first choice," said McCloskey. "I said he was a leading candidate."

McCloskey nodded toward the 52-year-old Daly and added, "This is the man I want to coach this team."

McCloskey then went on to explain the McKinney negotiations without denying that McKinney was his first choice.

"Last Friday, I told Jack that we'd have to make a decision very quickly," said McCloskey. "He wanted to talk again Monday. We did. He's riding with the Indiana and San Diego thing."

McKinney, a free agent, likes the Pacers because they have new owners and fresh money and will be involved in tomorrow's coin flip with the Houston Rockets for the rights to Ralph Sampson in the June 28 NBA draft. San Diego has Bill Walton, another great center.

"I talked to Jack (McCloskey) and I told him he had to do what he had to do," McKinney said in Indianapolis. "They couldn't wait any longer for an answer."

Asked if he were leaning toward returning to the Pacers, McKinney replied, "Yes."

McCloskey talked to McKinney Monday morning. Monday afternoon, he offered the job to Daly, who quickly accepted.

Daly said he wasn't bothered being the second choice.

Jack McKinney was "heavily involved" as a choice for the Pistons job, said Daly. "So was I. That's the way this business is. The way it falls, it falls."

Neither McCloskey nor Daly would discuss terms of the contract other than to say it was a multiyear deal. That suggests that it may not be guaranteed beyond the first year and that Daly better put the Pistons in the playoffs next season.

It's believed to be a three-year deal for about $125,000 per season. Daly said he had a $500,000 deal over three years at Cleveland in 1981-82 where he lasted only 41 games and was fired with a 9-32 record.

"This one is not quite that good," admitted Daly.

Daly replaces Scotty Robertson, who was fired April 18 after failing to make the NBA playoffs. When McCloskey fired Robertson, he said the team's lack of defensive progress was the major reason for his decision.

Actually, Daly turned down the job Robertson accepted three years ago. At that time, Daly also turned down a chance to coach the San Antonio Spurs, largely because his wife, Terry, who was raised in the East, couldn't face up to the "culture shock" of moving to Texas.

Daly has said he turned the Pistons down because his daughter, Cydney, was in high school and he didn't want to uproot her.

At the time he was Billy Cunningham's top aide with the Philadelphia 76ers.

"I had an outstanding situation in Philly," said Daly. "I was treated well financially.

"The circumstances were different then. This is a much better club than the one Detroit had three years ago."

Daly called the young Pistons "a club of the future" and said he found out in nearly five years with the Sixers and his brief tenure in Cleveland "how difficult it is to win every day at this level."

He didn't promise a playoff berth but was quick to point out that he believed that defense was the key to winning.

"If you want to move in this league, you've to do it defensively," said Daly. "If one thing can be taught, it's defense.

"From what little I've seen of the Pistons, they have too many turnovers and get too many shots blocked. I'm a true believer that you win with shot blocking and steals along with quickness to loose balls."

Daly will commute to Detroit until his broadcasting commitments are resolved. He worked this season as a radio and television commentator on Sixers' broadcasts.

Daly said he would talk to Don Chaney, Robertson's chief assistant, but would make no immediate commitment to rehire him.

It's no secret that McCloskey is impressed with the fact Daly coached in the famed Big Five Conference in Philadelphia. McCloskey coached the University of Pennsylvania a few years before Daly got the job.

Daly had a 125-38 record in six years as head coach at Penn, where he won four Ivy League titles and finished second twice. Daly's teams won three Big Five championships.

His college coaching career also included a stint as an assistant at Duke and head coach at Boston College.

In 1977, Daly joined forces with Cunningham, who had no experience as a head coach, to assist with the Sixers. Cunningham leaned heavily on Daly's knowledge of the coaching of Xs and Os. During the five years Daly was with the 76ers, the club posted a 236-104 record -- the best in the NBA.