Commentary

Basketball loses a great one

Updated: May 9, 2009, 4:54 PM ET
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

It was so sad to hear of the passing of Hall of Fame coach Chuck Daly. He was one of the most brilliant leaders in NBA history.

Chuck had such a rich career. Of course people remember him for leading the Pistons to championships and his success coaching an Olympic champion is well documented as well as his brilliance coaching Penn in the Ivy League.

I'm not sure that people realize he was an assistant at Duke with another future Hall of Famer, Hubie Brown. That staff was led by Vic Bubas, an outstanding mentor in his own right.

Daly was masterful with the Pistons. He was wise enough to pair Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars in the same backcourt. Daly knew how to mesh different personalities to work together as a team. Having Bill Laimbeer, Dennis Rodman and Rick Mahorn up front … wow.

What really separated Daly from many was not only his knowledge of the game of basketball, but also the way he carried himself. He handled himself with dignity and class and was respected and acknowledged as a true gentleman.

I will never forget Daly coming to one of my basketball camps in New Jersey many years ago. Back then guys attended camps for $25 and a bologna sandwich. Standout future coaches like Brown, Richie Adubato, Mike Fratello and others would go around because of their love of the game.

Let me tell you, Daly was the ideal teacher. He loved the 94 x 50 and utilized it like a classroom. Daly was a masterful communicator who know how to get into the mindset of players. You could learn so much about the game by listening to him.

Daly's lost his fight with pancreatic cancer so fast. Last year at this time he was at our gala for the V Foundation, sitting with Notre Dame coach Mike Brey and former NBA coach Fratello.

I was so thrilled when he took the time to come to Sarasota for the event, and now tragically he is gone just one week from our next effort to raise $1 million for cancer research. It was an honor to have him there.

He was so happy to raise money to help others. News like this gives us further reason to raise the dollars to battle this disease. You'd better believe there will be a moment of silence at the event on May 15, remembering a legend both on the court and off of it.

Chuck Daly was a winner in life because he never forgot where he came from. He treated people the way he wanted to be treated. I will always treasure the time I spent with him.

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.