Chuck Daly of the Detroit Pistons yesterday was named coach of the 1992 U.S. Olympic basketball team, becoming the first NBA coach selected for the international competition. And, with NBA players eligible for the first time, he practically guaranteed a gold medal for the United States.
"Knowing the players, with their ability, they'll have some fun with it," Daly said at a news conference in Auburn Hills, Mich. "But they'll want the gold medal too. I wouldn't expect they could lose. We wouldn't even think of anything but winning."
In winning the last two NBA championships, Daly, 60, who has the longest tenure of any current NBA coach, has succeeded with the high salaries and big egos of NBA players by maintaining control and discipline while allowing them the freedom to play their game and take the credit.
"I think the players selected for the Olympic team will accept coaching because they'll want to win," Daly said. "But you have to remember how great these players are and bend your game plan to their talents too."
The players on the 1992 team will be chosen by a 17-member committee composed mainly of coaches, and Daly will have a hand in the selection process. NBA pros will make up the majority of the 12-member team; players won't have to compete for a spot as did players of past Olympic teams, all of whom were amateurs. There are expected to be perhaps two or three collegians on the 1992 squad, to keep collegians interested in other competitions such as the Pan American Games, in which the pros will not compete.
The players will be notified of their selection in early 1992 and will play a qualification tournament of the Americas, to be held in the United States, before heading for Barcelona.
"He's definitely a players' coach," said Mark Aguirre, who joined the Pistons in the controversial trade that sent Adrian Dantley to the Dallas Mavericks two years ago. "Whoever goes on that team, they are going to like playing for him."
Kentucky Athletic Director C.M. Newton, chairman of USA Basketball, said the players probably would be notified early in 1992 so that NBA players on the team could clear their personal schedules and be available for the Summer Olympics.
"I'm excited about this," Newton said. "I've known Chuck a long time. He's representative of the coaching establishment in this country, all the way back to high school. He knows the game and he wanted the job."
"I've had a lot of good things happen to me in basketball," Daly said. "We won two NBA titles and I went to the Final Four as a college assistant. But this honor is right up there. It's something you don't dream will ever happen to you."
Another NBA coach and two college head coaches will be named as assistants.
Under the new selection rules, only NBA coaches with three years' league experience are eligible. Other finalists reportedly included Larry Brown of the San Antonio Spurs, Don Nelson of the Golden State Warriors, Cotton Fitzsimmons of the Phoenix Suns and Lenny Wilkens of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Daly started his college coaching career at Duke, as an assistant in 1963-69. He became head coach at Boston College for two seasons, then moved to Penn in 1971-77, where the Quakers won four Ivy League titles and were 125-38.
He left the college ranks to become an assistant to Billy Cunningham with the 76ers. He was hired by the Pistons for the 1983-84 season. His NBA record is 413-252.
Since winning the first six Olympic basketball gold medals, the United States has won only two of the past five, in 1976 under North Carolina's Dean Smith and 1984 under Indiana's Bob Knight. It lost a controversial final under Oklahoma State's Hank Iba in 1972 and won a bronze under Georgetown's John Thompson in 1988. The United States boycotted the 1980 Summer Games for political reasons.