Throughout the offseason, we will rank the top 15 coaches in NBA history. Want the whole list? Click here.
Total Seasons: 14
Total Championships: 2
Regular Season Record: 638-437
Regular Season Winning Percentage: .593
Playoff Record: 75-51
Playoff Winning Percentage: .595
Why he’s great: He did what no other coach coulda��beat Michael Jordan. In fact, he beat Michael Jordan three times by literally beating him. Detroit played Jordan so physically that the refs couldn’t possibly call a foul every single possession. They were exploiting the human element of basketball more brilliantly than any team ever has. Were it not for a phantom foul called on Bill Laimbeer in 1988, Daly would also be the only coach ever to beat a healthy Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson in the same playoffs.
Even without that accolade, Daly put together one of the best defensive coaching resumes of all time. His Pistons finished top-six in points allowed per 100 possessions six years in a row. Remember the lockout during the 1998-99 season? His Orlando Magic finished third despite being 21st in the league in blocked shots and being led by a 33-year-old Horace Grant.
He deftly managed some of the most difficult personalities in basketball. He and Phil Jackson are the only two coaches to coax productivity out of Dennis Rodman. Daly also kept the locker room intact after benching former All-Star Mark Aguirre, and he led a legendarily immature Nets team with Derrick Coleman and Kenny Anderson to the playoffs in back-to-back years. New Jersey’s record fell by 15 wins after he left.
Why he’s not higher: You’d think teams with stars like Isiah Thomas, scorers like Adrian Dantley and Mark Aguirre, and shooters like Bill Laimbeer and Joe Dumars would be offensive juggernauts, but they spent the last three years of the Daly era out of the top-10 in offensive efficiency entirely. They never once made it into the top-five. Similarly, he had Penny Hardaway’s last full season in Orlando and finished 21st. It’s not that Daly was a bad offensive coach, but he definitely wasn’t a great one.
Then there’s that bizarre season in Cleveland. The 1982-83 Cavaliers had four different head coaches. Though Daly had the best record among them (9-32), he was gone before the season ended. It’s hard to blame such a broken situation on just one coach, but there must have been something going on behind the scenes. Why else would Cleveland fire Daly with 23 games left in a lost season? It may be nitpicking, but at this stage of the list these coaches aren’t going to be very flawed.
For the whole list, click here.