NBA loses a pioneer

FRANK ZICARELLI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:55 AM ET

The basketball world is in mourning following the death of Chuck Daly, whose courageous battle with cancer came to an end early yesterday morning.

Daly's imprint on the game can't be measured in NBA championships or Olympic gold. His legacy cannot be found in the amount of wins he produced.

Above all else, he had a unique style that will forever separate him from his coaching peers.

Whether it was reflected in his fashion taste, the way he understood the modern-day player, the way he communicated, Chuck Daly was, in many ways, a pioneer.

He was among the first to recognize that the NBA is a players league and he allowed teams to enforce themselves.

Daly will be best known as the coach of the Bad Boys, Detroit's rugged Pistons who captured back-to-back titles in 1989 and '90. He took over in Detroit in 1983, with his ringleader being Isiah Thomas.

Daly also will be remembered as the coach of the original U.S. Olympic Dream Team in 1992.

"Chuck Daly was known best for the outstanding work he did on the sidelines, from guiding the Detroit Pistons to back-to-back NBA championships to leading the Dream Team to the gold medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics,'' NBA commissioner David Stern said in a statement released by the league yesterday.

"But Chuck did much more than coach basketball games. He positively impacted everyone he met, both personally and professionally, and his love of people and the game of basketball helped develop the next generation of coaches.

"The void left by his death will never be filled."

It can't be replaced because Daly was one of those figures who comes along once in a generation.

NBA coaches have honoured Daly this post-season by wearing a pin bearing his initials -- CD.

Daly was voted one of the 10 greatest coaches of the NBA's first half-century in 1996, two years after being inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

He never won coach-of-the- year honours, but Daly was the first to win both an NBA title and Olympic gold.

He had that innate ability to touch the right button when dealing with players, regardless of their background.

"He did an unbelievable job of taking a bunch of different personalities and moulding them into a team," Rick Mahorn said.

Thomas, meanwhile, is fully aware of Daly's impact.

"I can't explain in words how much he gave me as a player and a man,'' Thomas said.

"This is an immeasurable loss for the NBA and the entire basketball world."

Daly, 78, died in Jupiter, Fla., with his family by his side.

Two months ago, it was revealed that he was diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer.

"I never understood how a great man, a nice guy, coached the Bad Boys," Charles Barkley said.

Welcome, Matt

One of the featured guests at Burlington's Youthfest on May 28 will be Matt Devlin, the TV voice of the Raptors.

If you catch Devlin's work on TNT alongside P.J. Carlesimo, you might confuse Devlin with the Matt Devlin who finished his first season in Toronto.

For reasons only the people who operate the NBA club can explain, it appeared Devlin had to call games by having a schtick.

But when you listen to him call a game as an unbiased announcer, minus the gimmicky lines and shameless promotions, Devlin is one of the best.

One day, the Raptors should realize that people, or at least the majority who know basketball, don't need to have some over-the-top announcer insult their intelligence.

Kudos to Devlin in proving his value as an NBA broadcaster and here's hoping the folks associated with the Raptors are tuned in, even though most post-season games aren't even made available in this market.

Burlington's Youthfest celebrates youth by promoting volunteerism, philanthropic initiatives and leadership through a better knowledge of the community.

Devlin is scheduled to appear at 6 p.m., at Giraldo's Banquet Centre, located in LaSalle Park on North Shore Blvd., in the Aldershot part of Burlington.

FRANK.ZICARELLI@SUNMEDIA.CA


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