Chuck Daly has the kind of voice that comes from 43 years of yelling -- his words, driven powerfully but succinctly from his lips like every syllable is a two-handed dunk, resonate with a sandpapery undertone. It's the result of making a career out of trying to direct five guys on a hardwood floor while numbers of roaring onlookers tried to drown out his commands. However, Daly, more than almost anyone else in basketball history, made sure he was heard -- and he has the credentials to prove it. Architect of back-to-back NBA championships with the Detroit Pistons in 1989 and 1990. Leader of the original Dream Team's gold-medal performance in the 1992 Summer Olympics. Class of '93 Member of the Basketball Hall of Fame. And now, during the halftime of tomorrow's Penn-St. Joseph's game at the Palestra, another accolade will be added to this amazing list of honors -- induction into the Big 5 Hall of Fame. "It caps off a career," said Daly, also a 1998 inductee into the Penn Hall of Fame, from his home in Tequesta, Fla. "It's kind of the final leg." See, there's something tucked down at the bottom of this man's legendary resume that's oftentimes overlooked -- Chuck Daly's road to greatness includes one long, successful stretch on 33rd Street. "I look back on those days as some of the happiest days of my life," Daly, now 70 years old, said while reminiscing on his six years of coaching the Penn men's basketball team from 1971-1977. "We used to have the sandwiches from the trucks outside. We used to go to the faculty club for lunch. [Penn] really became a home away from home for us because we were there so much." Of course, there was also the basketball. In 1971, a younger Daly -- no grey yet in that famous coif -- left his first collegiate head coaching job at Boston College to return to his home state and try his luck in basketball-crazed Philadelphia. These were the hey days of the Big 5, when the City League garnered national attention and Big 5 games drew rambunctious, sold-out crowds. Even Ivy League contests -- and not just the Penn-Princeton matchup -- packed the Palestra with excited fans eager to witness some of the best basketball in the country. For a 41-year-old coach who barely broke .500 in two Big East seasons with the Eagles, the competition and exposure of this new job were admittedly intimidating. "Those games were so special, so difficult to win and so big in the city," Daly said. "The whole city, particularly in the basketball culture, was aware of what was going on, and there was a lot of bragging rights involved." But it was the talent of the team Daly was about to inherit that made the man who was destined to become one of the greatest coaches in basketball history a little apprehensive of his qualifications. The year before Daly arrived, Penn's squad had gone on a 28-0 run under coach Dick Harter, cruising through the Big 5 and the Ivy League before falling to City League rival Villanova in the NCAA East Regional Final. A solid core of players from that legendary Quakers team was returning the following fall. "It was a difficult time because they had had such an outstanding record and I was left with outstanding personnel," Daly said. "It was basically 'Don't screw it up' the first year." He didn't, and he never did. In six seasons, Daly lost only 38 of his 163 games with the Quakers -- a 77 percent winning percentage -- and only 15 of those came at the hands of Ivy or Big 5 foes. With Daly at the helm, the Quakers started off with three straight Big 5 titles, then picked up one more in Daly's final season. He left with an amazing 19-5 Big 5 record. "The Big 5, in the late '60s and early '70s, was as good as any basketball in the country," Big 5 Executive Director Paul Rubincam said. "Penn was very much a part of that -- Chuck was very much a part of that." Even more important to Daly than Big 5 success, though, was his team's continued dominance of the Ivy League, where it won four consecutive Ancient Eight championships in his first four years. Princeton and longtime Tigers coach Pete Carril beat out Penn for first place in Daly's final two years, but those results haven't spoiled Daly's memories. "The Ivy League championship was always number one," Daly said. "In those years, it was us or Princeton, as it still is. Pete Carril and I had a great rivalry." Further tribute to Daly's skills as not only a coach but a recruiter was the quality squad he handed over to successor Bob Weinhauer when Daly left Penn to take an assistant coaching job with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1977. "We recruited a team that ultimately went to the Final Four [in 1979 with Weinhauer]," Daly said. "I always wanted to go to the Final Four with the group there. We never quite did it. We fell short." Daly, of course, didn't fall short later in his career. And he credits his experience at Penn -- and his time coaching in front of the wild Palestra crowds -- with preparing him for championships with Detroit's "Bad Boys" and America's "Dream Team." "I coached against the Bulls in Chicago Stadium where it probably was as big as it gets," Daly said. "You couldn't hear a word from the person next to you, and that's what it was like when we played in the Palestra. The noise was deafening." The roots of this legendary coach's raspy voice, then, may lie within the walls of the Palestra -- as do many of the stepping stones of a hall-of-fame career. "Everywhere you coached helped build a foundation for your career, and you always can reach back," Daly said. "I just know that I reach back a lot."Comments powered by Disqus
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.