Saturday, March 7, 2009

The people who restrict themselves on time will never advance beyond a certain point

My heart sank when I heard the news about Chuck Daly, one of my favorite people and caring mentor to me and a lot of other coaches over the years.

In a 2001 article in Investor's Business Daily, Coach Daly provided some insight into his rare communication and persuasive abilities.

According to the article, Coach Daly would sell "his players on the game's less glamorous aspects, such as defense, by seeking their input."

"One of the things I learned along the way is that if you ask a player, for example, about (defending) a pick and roll, you would say to him, 'How do you want to play this?' Once he commits to a way of doing it, he's going to try very hard to make it successful. Harder than when you say, 'We will do it this way.'"

The article describes how Coach Daly "made sure he was up on every aspect of basketball, from statistics to playing styles. That's because he loves the game.

"You've got to have a passion and a belief in what you're trying to sell or teach. I spent my whole life without working, because I had this passion for the game. I was passionate about what I was doing."

"Chuck gained the respect of the players because they had a great deal of respect for his basketball knowledge," said Billy Cunningham, one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history and a former coach of the 76ers for whom Coach Daly worked as an assistant for five years in the late 1970s and early '80s.

Throughout his career, Coach Daly studied the game intensely, dedicating hours to watching games and learning as much as he could from great coaches.

"I started following John Wooden to his clinics. Whenever he went, I went," Daly said. "They used to have a lot of clinics around the country, and I got to be known as a guy that went to every clinic. People thought I was crazy. But what I was trying to do was learn as much as I could about the business.

There is no time limit on your job. The people who restrict themselves on time will never advance beyond a certain stage. None of my success came until after I was 52 years old. I don't think there was anything wrong with that process."

Said Magic SVP Pat Williams, "Chuck would say you cannot be a teacher unless you're a lifelong learner."

As a coach, he has a wonderful way of connecting with players and others that's based on a genuine interest in them.

"If you're going to coach, you've got to be one of the great salesmen. Particularly today, because your players are already millionaires or multimillionaires. So you've really got to sell them on why they have to do something and the reasons for it. You must get into social situations and into in-depth conversations to find out who this person is, what this person is all about, and their likes and dislikes. So you, as the person who is supposed to get this person to perform, can have a better understanding of them. And everybody has different things that push their buttons."

"Chuck had a wonderful ability to relate to players. They also looked at him as a father and as a friend, someone they could talk to if they had a problem," said Coach Cunningham.

Coach Daly's philosophy was grounded in defense and a deep respect for work ethic. In his book, "Daly Life," he wrote how, after studying the game for years, he decided that "defense was the answer to winning."

"My conclusion seemed logical because defense was the one thing that could be consistent every night."

And while talent wins games, Coach Daly said he'd "take a little less talent if a guy has a great work ethic, a great attitude and is a good person."

Perhaps Coach Daly's greatest gift is his outlook on life and the ability to keep things in perspective. Horace Grant, who played for Coach Daly, once said:

"What makes Chuck Daly successful is his attitude toward life. He doesn't make basketball into a life-or-death situation. He's a great coach and most of all a great, great person."