Sunday, May 10, 2009
Chuck Daly, R.I.P.
NBA basketball coach Chuck Daly passed away on Saturday (May 9, 2009) of pancreatic cancer at the age of 78.
Daly coached the Detroit Pistons to two championships in 1989 and 1990, as well as leading the original Olympic “Dream Team” to gold in 1992.
In the modern NBA, players as well as coaches are bestowed certain titles, like LA Lakers coach, Phil Jackson, whose management style is cerebral and new-age, thus he’s labeled “the Zen Master.”
Daly was a rare person who could assemble varied and different personalities, but didn’t need to coach with an iron fist or new age mantras. He recognized what each player had and let them play; leading to fierce loyalty amongst the young men who played for him on the Piston, Nets, Cavaliers and Magic.
When opposing teams played against the “Bad Boys” during their heyday, they couldn’t figure out schemes or plays, because Daly let his Pistons scrap, scrape and (in some cases) bludgeon the opposing team with their athletic talents, indomitable will and street thug physical play. (Which most of the “Boys” would take as a compliment, by the way).
When asked about how he managed to coach the always difficult and mercurial Dennis Rodman, Daly smiled and said, “I just let him play every minute of every game. Dennis just wanted to play, so I let him play.” Rodman demanded to be traded after Daly left the Pistons, referring to the coach as a surrogate father.
It’s a simple, but hard-to-master concept with not only NBA players, but people in the job arena as well. The best managers I’ve ever had didn’t have to yell, cajole or beat me down. They recognized what my strengths and weaknesses were and let me do my job.
I think the world of business management (which like sports, breaks people, personalities and progress down to formulas and charts) can learn a lot from Chuck Daly’s style of coaching.
Coach Daly’s simple but effective means to winning was “Let the players play.”