While watching television clips from Chuck Daly's funeral earlier today, and later, speaking with a few people who attended the memorial services in Jupiter, Fla., I was reminded of how skillfully Chuck dealt with the huge egos and personalities on the Detroit Pistons' championship teams (1989-90), as well as being the perfect choice to coach the original Dream Team in 1992. A college coach before becoming an NBA assistant and getting his first head coaching job with Ted Stepien's hapless Cleveland Cavaliers, Daly had a terrific temperament, and never sweat the small stuff. He was one of those coaches who clearly enjoy the attention that comes with the job. I'll never forget how graciously he dealt with the international media during the Dream Team's summer tour (La Jolla, Portland, Monte Carlo, Barcelona), and how he went to great lengths to accommodate journalists whose English language skills were lacking. He was unfailingly patient, helpful, and good-humored. I'll miss calling and pestering him for his insights.
The last time we spoke, incidentally, he said he couldn't understand why Laimbeer - whom he called "Billy" - wasn't coaching in the NBA. As he described his former center as intelligent, strong-willed, and not nearly as nasty as his image, Daly's voice became louder and louder. He was clearly ticked. He finished by saying that some club should take a chance on Laimbeer because "they'll get themselves one helluva coach."
Okay, so I wasn't going to say that the Kings should give Laimbeer a call if they intend to expand their list of coaching candidates beyond Eddie Jordan and Paul Westphal, but I changed my mind. Laimbeer has won three WNBA titles in his six seasons with the Detroit Shock, owns an impressive NBA pedigree, has a toughness and swagger about him, so, no, I don't understand it, either.
Speaking of swagger, defense, dynamic ....
When I filled in for Kings beat writer Sam Amick on the Kings final road trip to Denver, I asked Nuggets coach George Karl what prompted his change in philosophy. Or, I should say, what prompted his return to his old philosophy. Until the past few years, he was a disciple of the Larry Brown/Gregg Popovich school that stresses defense over offense. So, here is his explanation, which was offered weeks before his Nuggets eliminated the Dallas Mavericks and advanced to their first conference finals since 1985: "Two years ago, we decided to teach the game from the offensive end of the court, which I've never done before. But the (Mike) D'Antoni success, the Doug Moe philosophy ... so we threw it all out there. It's sort of like teaching the triangle or the Princeton offense. Offense comes first. Your practices are offense, spacing, timing. And I've never coached that way. We did it. We had some success. But last year, when it was all over (first round playoff exit), Grg (assistant Tim Grgurich) and I went in my office, and he said, 'we can't do this (bleep) any more.' And I said, 'you're right.' And so, much of it is me being comfortable again. And we started at training camp, with the culture, everything being defensive drills, defensive stations. The practice evolved, and. I would say for the first two months, we had 20-30 minutes of stations, thinking that pro guys would rebel from it, but saying this is what we were going to do. We went further with it, a lot further than I had ever done before. It kind of rubbed off a little bit. Plus, we have really good defensive guys. Chauncey (Billups) coming in this year, he believes in that ..."
Goodbye to Koz
Can't log off without wishing the best for Jim Kozimor, the longtime Kings/Monarchs broadcaster who was among the club's employees laid off earlier this week because of budget cuts. I was particularly appreciative of his passion and professionalism regarding the Monarchs. Hopefully he isn't out of work for long.