"No comment," he says.
A friend of Daly's who has seen his closet (though Daly doesn't know it) says that Daly probably owns 100 blue suits. And he has perhaps half as many in black, his second favorite color.
Daly's hair is as important to him as his clothes. His closest boyhood friend, Don Magnuson, vice-president of the Hamlin Bank and Trust in Kane, claims that Daly would rather lose a limb than his wavy hair. "You ever drive behind Chuck?" says Magnuson. "Every time he stops for a light his hands go to his hair, patting it, straightening it." During a visit to Los Angeles last summer, Daly made a subtle yet significant modification to his coiffure. While walking down Rodeo Drive—Daly has more memories of Rodeo Drive than the Gabor sisters—he entered a hair salon and told a stylist to redo his 'do.
"He threw me down in a chair—had no idea who I was—did some cutting, charged me 34 bucks and let me up," says Daly. "And you know what? I loved it." The top of his hair is the same, but the sides are considerably thinned out, making Daly look younger and less jowly—less like, say, the well-dressed head of the stevedore's union.
But Daly's concern for his appearance has cost him a price much steeper than retail. Over the years, the whole package—clothes, hair, the quick smile, the easy one-of-the-boys conviviality that he evinces weekly on his popular Detroit-area television show, Chuck Daly 's One on One—has led some observers to believe that he is, well, a show pony, a guy who puts....
"Style over substance, something like that?" says Daly. "Sure I've heard that. Many times. I can't do anything about that. I know that since I was a freshman in high school, reading John R. Tunis books, I never wanted to be anything but a basketball coach. Never. And I know how hard I've worked in this profession, how many times I drove hundreds of miles to hear lectures. I'm one of the few guys old enough to have heard Clair Bee, for god's sake. Frank McGuire. Adolph Rupp. All of them. I know the game. And the people who know me know I know the game."
He does. But that's not the main reason he has been successful in Detroit. The main reason is that after nearly four decades on a basketball bench, Daly knows people. That's important when your job is to stir the big beef stew of personalities that is the Pistons.
Daly has long been known as "a players' coach," but what does that mean?
"A lot of people think it means being buddy-buddy with his players," says Suhr. "That's not it at all. The players have to like him, and have the kind of relationship with him that they can come up and, say, smack him in the gut, as Rodman did. But they've got to respect him, too. He's got to be like a father to his players. The players have to know who's boss, and on this team. Chuck Daly is the boss."
Indeed, it's hard to imagine a smoother fit than Daly and his Pistons, a more natural act than Daddy Rich—as most of the players call Daly—jiving and trading barbs with these ornery Bad Boys, alternately pushing them and protecting them. Daly himself is a charter Bad Boy, having gotten into a shoving match with Stan Albeck, then coach of the Chicago Bulls, during the 1984-85 season, before the Pistons wore the Bad Boys tag. (What a surprise: The incident was precipitated by Detroit center Bill Laimbeer's hard foul on Jordan.) Yet how many times have Daly's humor and tact defused a tense situation involving the physical duo of Mahorn and Laimbeer? For example, after Game 1 of a fierce Eastern Conference final series against Boston three seasons ago, Celtic president Red Auerbach blasted Mahorn and Laimbeer in the newspapers for what he considered dirty play. The following day reporters asked Daly to respond.