TEQUESTA, Fla. - Chuck Daly's team gathered around him one last time. Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn were side by side on one end, Joe Dumars on the right, Isiah Thomas and Vinnie Johnson standing together a few feet back.
The Bad Boys were together again, not as players but pallbearers who gave their coach a sad, fond farewell.
"He was coaching all of us until the day he died," Thomas said. "He was a wonderful, wonderful human being and a great mentor, a great friend."
Hundreds of mourners said farewell to the Hall of Fame coach yesterday, including close friends like Billy Cunningham and Rollie Massimino, players from his 1989 and 1990 Detroit Pistons teams that won NBA titles, and even Rick Carlisle - a former Daly assistant who served as a pallbearer even though his Dallas Mavericks faced playoff elimination later that night.
Here's how much Daly meant to
Carlisle: His team was in Denver, a playoff game was six hours away, and Carlisle was still in South Florida, helping carry his mentor out of the church.
"Missing this," Carlisle said as he walked briskly to a car that would take him to a waiting plane, "was not an option."
Daly, 78, died Saturday in Jupiter, Fla., just north of West Palm Beach. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer earlier this year, spent his final weeks in rapidly diminishing health and often surrounded by friends and family.
His funeral was a veritable who's-who of basketball - five players from his so-called "Bad Boys" Pistons teams were among the pallbearers - and the tribute was fitting. Many walked into the church dabbing handkerchiefs at their eyes; then many were laughing 90 minutes later after hearing stories of Daly's famed pessimistic, charming personality.
"Coach. Daddy Rich. Prince of pessimism. Hall of Famer. Champion," Daly's daughter, Cydney, told mourners. "He went by many different names to many people, but there was only one person who called him daddy."
Daly coached parts of 22 seasons at the NBA and NCAA levels, winning more than 61 percent of his games along the way. His legacy best revolves around a four-year stretch from 1988 through 1992, when he won what essentially were three world championships - the pair of NBA titles with the Pistons, then Olympic gold in Barcelona with the Dream Team.
And even as the cancer grew and his health worsened in recent weeks, Daly was still coaching.
Only a few weeks ago, Daly watched an NCAA regional game between Villanova and Pittsburgh. He took notes on the way Villanova played, pointing out some flaws in the Wildcats' late-game execution, and summoned Massimino - a former Wildcats coach - to deliver them to the current Villanova staff.
Massimino recalled Daly saying, "Take this to Jay Wright and tell him to smarten up."
That wasn't harsh. That was Daly. And when Massimino delivered that story yesterday, the church broke into laughter.
"It's not a good day," said Laimbeer, his eyes reddened. "But it's also a day of celebration because everybody got up and spoke about what a great man Chuck was. And they were right."
NEW YORK - LeBron James should be getting used to sweeps by now. The Cavaliers star was a unanimous selection to the All-NBA first team after leading his team to a franchise-best regular-season record.
James was put on the first team on every ballot of 122 sports writers and broadcasters who regularly cover the league. Lakers star Kobe Bryant finished second in voting, making the first team on 119 ballots, while Dwight Howard of the Magic, Dwyane Wade of the Heat and Dirk Nowitzki of the Mavericks rounded out the first team.
DENVER - Behind 30 points from Carmelo Anthony and 28 from Chauncey Billups, Denver beat Dallas last night to wrap up its semifinal series in five feisty games and advance to its first Western Conference finals since 1985.
The Nuggets, who are 8-2 in the playoffs after tying their franchise record with a 54-win regular season, will face either Los Angeles or Houston for the conference championship.
They have won 16 straight games at the Pepsi Center.39.74001 -104.9923 ERROR: Template storyimage.ldo not found in theme default for section Pro!
Chuck Daly's team gathered around him one last time. Bill Laimbeer and Rick Mahorn were side by side on one end, Joe Dumars on the right, Isiah Thomas and Vinnie Johnson standing together a few feet back.