Chuck Daly once described himself as “a journeyman coach who got lucky with some players in Detroit.” He didn’t really believe that, of course, but that was part of Daly’s self-deprecating charm, his enduring appeal. He didn’t need to act important all the time, or remind people with pithy slogans how much of a defensive innovator he was.
Maybe that was because he didn’t become a head coach in the N.B.A. until he was 51, a champion with the Pistons until he was 58. He was a dues-payer and a lifer in the truest sense.