May 9, 2009 at 7:42 am

From the archives: Oct. 18, 1985

Pistons like Daly's style on the court -- and off it

His reason for wanting to relocate wasn't anti-Detroit reaction. After all, Chuck Daly didn't need to go searching for any Brotherly Love. And, yes, that Philadelphia Freedom tune sure puts out a nice beat, but then Daly always seemed more the Dancin'-In-The-Street type anyway.

Still, when Billy Cunningham retired at the end of last season, the 76ers came knocking on Daly's closet, offering irresistible incentive. In "Daddy Rich's" own stylish terms: Do you realize how many custom-designed suits can be purchased in three years by earning nearly $1 million? Daly would have needed a dozen new closets.

Until the Pistons finally stepped in to stop the deal by demanding compensation of a first-round draft choice, Daly was set to hit Philly's finest menswear locations this season. Tonight, in fact, he should be at the Sun Dome in Tampa, Fla., where the Sixers face the Atlanta Hawks. He would start Moses Malone at center. Instead, Matt Guokas gets the honors.

Charles Jerome Daly remains with the Pistons -- his $175,000 contract to expire at season's end. A bit disgusted no doubt, but as the consummate professional, Daly never reveals his inner feelings for public record.

"It all happened so quickly," said Daly, reviewing the developments of four months ago. "I was just a third party. There was nothing I could do. But it would be foolish to dwell on it. I just have to accept all that and be happy with what I've got. And I think that's the type of person I am. I'm flexible. I can adjust to situations, I think. This is just another one of those. You guys can talk about the contract. I just like to be coaching."

But not always did this adaptability come so naturally. Daly recalls many moments during the beginning of his coaching career at Punxsutawney (Pa.) High School when he exhibited more of a Bob Knight tough-guy demeanor than his own easy-going style that's made him so popular and successful within the NBA circle. "To be honest, that's probably one of the biggest things I had to overcome," said Daly, whose team opens the regular season Oct. 25 against Milwaukee at the Silverdome.

"You're constantly fighting your own ego. That was one of the hardest things for me. In high school, I was very, very strict. I thought I had to be the hard guy. If one of the kids didn't play aggressively one day, I'd make him wear a towel around himself the next. It looked like a dress, and it told him he was a sissy.

"I learned over the years, though, and I became more open-minded. I remember when I was a (biology) teacher. I used to be so organized and strict in taking attendance. And I did everything straight out of the book. I thought that was being such a good teacher. At the same school, there was another guy who was really laid-back. It didn't seem like he was doing anything. He told them stories and there didn't seem to be any control in the class. At least compared to some of our classes. But we found out later he was the best teacher. The kids related to him better and did the work. I think that opened up my eyes quite a bit.

Daly's coaching philosophy has been based on that criteria. Vince Lombardi would shudder, but Daly is more or less one of the guys. At practices, he often jokes around. He can be seen practicing imaginary golf shots or trying to bounce a basketball off the floor into the hoop.

"In this business a lot of people get treated badly," said Piston Vinnie Johnson. "It means something when you know there's a guy you can trust. Some coaches are afraid to get involved with that type of relationship. They feel the players may take advantage of them then. They have to try to scare you into doing things. But that's not how it works here."

Said Thomas: "We do more for him because of that. He's helped me with things off the court. You don't forget that when you're out there."

Unlike many coaches, Daly doesn't see getting close to his players as a dangerous practice. "This is such a long grind, there are many nights they don't have to play (hard)," he said. "You better be a reason for them to do that. Anyhow, I'm not as nice as everybody always says. I put my foot down when I have to. But I just see no reason why there has to be a constant conflict if you can avoid it."

Thomas, realizing Daly eventually will leave, said, "Chuck will be missed, not only as our coach, but as our friend."

Perhaps this mutual friendship between team and coach answers why there appears to be no animosity for Daly's desire to depart. Through two weeks of camp, an atmosphere that could have been caught up in dissension, doesn't exist. While coach and several players insist Daly has never formally addressed the Philadelphia issue directly to them, both parties agree it's unnecessary.

"I think they understand what happened," Daly said. "Nothing's gong to change. I'm going to coach just as I always have. I love coaching these guys. I have no problems with being here. Really."

Perhaps Thomas sums up the situation best: "I think spiritually he's honestly glad to be back here with us. He likes us a lot. I know that. But financially, he'd rather be there."

If anyone can relate to that logic, surely it would be these basketball players. The all-holdout teams these days could contend for some division titles. Therefore, the players stood squarely in Daly's corner throughout, while their coach's opportunity to return to Philadelphia -- where he spent six years as head coach at the University of Pennsylvania and four as a 76ers assistant -- went sliding away.

"I don't think there's a player here that doesn't realize it's a business and you have to take care of yourself financially. I can't blame him. And I'll tell you, so far I see no change in him at all. His No. 1 priority is still to win basketball games."

And that, Daly has done better than any Piston coach in history since getting the job two years ago. With a 102-76 record, Daly has achieved the top percentage (.573) among the 16 coaches in the last 28 years.

At age 55, his style still is the force toward his success. "If I didn't know it, I'd say he was about 32 -- GQ," said Rick Mahorn, one of the newest Pistons. "He acts young, and he can dress."

Known to his players as "Daddy Rich" for his tendency to dress like a millionaire through he isn't, Daly deals with those 30 years younger as if the generation gape were a fairy tale. "I have for some reason gotten an understanding and feeling for their problems," he said. "I don't know, I guess it's just dumb luck or something."

It is accomplished by consolidating the ideas of friend and boss. As Thomas mentioned comparing his college and pro coaches, "They're night and day."

That's Knight and Daly.