May 13, 2009 at 8:42 pm

'Bad Boys' serve as pallbearers at Chuck Daly funeral

Former Detroit Pistons players Bill Laimbeer, left, Isiah Thomas, center, chat with former Pistons coach Rick Carlisle as they attend the funeral of NBA coach Chuck Daly at St. Jude Catholic Church on Wednesday, (AP Photo / The Palm Beach Post. Sarah Grile)

Tequesta, Fla. -- Chuck Daly's team gathered around him one last time. Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn were side by side on one end, Joe Dumars on the right, Isiah Thomas and Vinnie Johnson standing together a few feet back.

The Bad Boys were together again, not as players but pallbearers who gave their coach a sad, fond farewell.

"He was coaching all of us until the day he died," Thomas said. "He was a wonderful, wonderful human being and a great mentor, a great friend."

Hundreds of mourners said farewell to the Hall of Fame coach Wednesday, including close friends like Billy Cunningham and Rollie Massimino, players from his 1989 and 1990 Detroit Pistons teams that won NBA titles, and even Rick Carlisle -- a former Daly assistant who served as a pallbearer even though his Dallas Mavericks faced playoff elimination later that night.

Here's how much Daly meant to Carlisle: His team was in Denver, a playoff game was six hours away, and Carlisle was still in South Florida, helping carry his mentor out of the church.

"Missing this," Carlisle said as he walked briskly to a car that would take him to a waiting plane, "was not an option."

Daly, 78, died Saturday in Jupiter, Fla., just north of West Palm Beach. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer earlier this year, spent his final weeks in rapidly diminishing health and often surrounded by friends and family.

His funeral was a veritable who's-who of basketball -- five players from his so-called "Bad Boys" Pistons teams were among the pallbearers -- and the tribute was fitting. Many walked into the church dabbing handkerchiefs at their eyes; many of the same were laughing 90 minutes later after hearing stories of Daly's famed pessimistic, charming personality.

"Coach. Daddy Rich. Prince of pessimism. Hall of Famer. Champion," Daly's daughter, Cydney, told mourners. "He went by many different names to many people, but there was only one person who called him daddy."

Daly coached parts of 22 seasons at the NBA and NCAA levels, winning more than 61 percent of his games along the way. His legacy best revolves around a four-year stretch from 1988 through 1992, when he won what essentially were three world championships -- the pair of NBA titles with the Pistons, then Olympic gold in Barcelona with the Dream Team.

It was never in doubt: Daly's team romped to victory in every game at those Olympics. And even as the cancer grew and his health worsened in recent weeks, Daly was still coaching.

Only a few weeks ago, Daly watched an NCAA regional game between Villanova and Pittsburgh. He took notes on the way Villanova played, pointing out some flaws in the Wildcats' late-game execution, and summoned Massimino -- a former Wildcats coach -- to deliver them to the current Villanova staff.

Massimino recalled Daly saying, "Take this to Jay Wright and tell him to smarten up."

That wasn't harsh. That was Daly.

And when Massimino delivered that story Wednesday, the church broke into laughter.

"It's not a good day," said Laimbeer, his eyes reddened. "But it's also a day of celebration because everybody got up and spoke about what a great man Chuck was. And they were right."

NBA commissioner David Stern was in attendance, as was current Pistons coach Michael Curry, former Pistons player John Salley -- who gave Daly the "Daddy Rich" nickname in a nod to his tailored, ultra-expensive suits -- and several members of the Miami Heat organization, including Hall of Famer Bob McAdoo, former Daly assistant Ron Rothstein and team president Pat Riley.

As he walked away from the church, Riley pulled on a pair of sunglasses to mask his tears.

"I think we all aspired to be like him," he said, softly. "We couldn't."