Bill Davidson stayed out of the limelight at Chuck Daly's press conference yesterday afternoon but it was clear that he was pleased with General Manager Jack McCloskey's choice for a new Pistons coach.
"I feel this is a step forward," said Davidson, the chief stockholder and operating partner of the 11-member group that owns the Pistons. "I talked with Daly before Jack made the decision. We never got that far with Jack McKinney,"
McKinney, the other leading candidate for the Pistons' coaching job, apparently wants to stay with the Indiana Pacers where he coached last season.
Davidson fully concurred with McCloskey's decision on Daly as he had when Scotty Robertson was fired April 18.
"I felt we had to make a change," said Davidson, who prefers to stay in the background but wields veto power in any decision concerning his team.
With this in mind, Davidson was asked if the Pistons planned to make an offer for free agent forward Kevin McHale of the Boston Celtics.
"You've got to be realistic about McHale," said Davidson. "Boston is going to sign him. There's no reason to bid them up unless there were problems with the coach (Bill Fitch) and player. I don't think there is."
Davidson pointed out that free agency had changed a great deal since NBA owners signed a new agreement with the NBA Players Association. The agreement places a limit on maximum team salaries. In order to make room for an expensive free agent on a team roster, the bidding club must be prepared to chop another big salary from its own roster in order to stay within the team's salary maximum.
"With the new rule, it's a much different situation," said Davidson. "You're talking about semifree agents and semitrades. You reach an agreement with a player and with the management of his team. In a sense, you're still making a trade.
"This will be our problem when Kelly (Tripucka) and Isiah (Thomas) come up for free agency."
The implication was clear. It will be difficult enough for the Pistons to meet financial demands of Tripucka and Thomas when they become free agents. McHale, or any other highly regarded free agent, would make it a three-fold problem instead of two-fold.
Tripucka will be a free agent after next season and Thomas' contract expires in 1985.