Posted on: April 7, 2011 at 08:55:01 CT
THE NEW MIZZOU : Missouri Appears to Be on a Mission With Assistant Serving as Interim Coach
"What's my home phone number?" Daly asked a reporter. "Three months ago, I could rattle off 150 phone numbers but my mind has been shot since I took this job."
Daly has also forgotten to eat and sleep. He spends hours tossing and turning, thinking about games.
He used to sleep like a baby when he was Missouri's chief recruiter.
"When things got bad around here, I'd just get a plane ticket and get out of Dodge City to recruit," Daly said. "I don't care how good a coach you are, you can't win the Kentucky Derby with a Missouri mule."
He was nicknamed Dr. Detroit for his success in signing the seven Tigers who call Detroit home.
"Rich Daly is the world's greatest recruiter," Derrick Chievous, a former Missouri star, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "Rich Daly could sell you a pair of bad underwear, that's what kind of recruiter he is."
A tireless recruiter who calls seven recruits seven nights a week, Daly has easily made the transition to bench coaching.
"Coaching is like riding a bicycle," Daly said. "You never forget how to do it."
When did he learn to coach?
A native of Moberly, Mo., Daly, 47, began his coaching career at Moberly High. He moved on to Moberly Junior College, where he was an assistant under Cotton Fitzsimmons, now coach of the Phoenix Suns.
Daly's next stop was Pensacola Junior College in Florida, where he spent six years as head coach before leaving for Tennessee Chattanooga, where he spent five years as an assistant coach-recruiter.
Daly, who arrived at Missouri in 1983, recruited all of the players on this year's squad, which is a mix of inner-city players from Detroit and small-town players from Missouri.
Doug Smith, center from Detroit, arrived at practice the other day wearing a coonskin cap, and monster cables, the thick gold rope chains favored by rap musicians.
"Doug's the only guy I know who looks good with a squirrel sitting on top of his head," quipped Gary Leonard, senior center.
Greg Church, a senior forward from Palmyra, Mo., looked as if he was ready to go deer hunting when he arrived at practice in jeans.
Despite their cultural differences, the two factions peacefully coexist on and off the court.
"We've got a weird chemistry," said Leonard. "But I think that's what's helped us through all this. Everybody's unique, but we all blend together on and off the court."
Whereas Stewart ruled this eccentric bunch with an iron hand, Daly's touch has been kinder and gentler.
"I can't be Norm Stewart," Daly said. "I've got to be Rich Daly."
BASKETBALL; Missouri's Daly Passes Big Tests
The small groups of reporters who stay hot on his trail after a game have become a familiar sight. Rich Daly would have to cut short this particular interview, however, because there was a radio show to do. He also wondered aloud about where his pilots were, the ones flying the Missouri Tigers from Dallas to Columbia, Mo., on a charter last Sunday. They were probably at the airport waiting, a slightly hassled Daly decided.
Until Feb. 9, this had been a routine basketball season for Daly, a 47-year-old assistant coach and chief recruiter at Missouri. When he was not sitting in high school bleachers scouting potential recruits, he was on the bench alongside the head coach, Norm Stewart, and the chief assistant, Bob Sundvold, occasionally offering advice as the third in command, but mostly watching.
''I remember the Oklahoma State game this year when they were beating us by 8 points,'' Daly said. ''I suggested we go to a zone defense. Coach Stewart said, 'O.K., but remember it's your idea if it doesn't work.' ''
It worked, and the head coach received the credit. Surgery for Head Coach
But a series of events that may alter the future of the Missouri program have now thrust Daly into the spotlight on the biggest stage in college basketball. He is the interim head coach who has guided the Tigers into the regional semifinals for the first time since 1982.
Stewart was hospitalized Feb. 9 with a bleeding ulcer and eventually underwent surgery for cancer of the colon. Sundvold had already been suspended, pending an investigation into allegations that he violated National Collegiate Athletic Association rules by paying for a player's airline ticket.
Oddly, Daly is not even unique among the 16 coaches whose teams are still in the tournament. When Bill Frieder abruptly quit as Michigan's coach last week to take the coaching job at Arizona State, Steve Fisher, his top assistant, became the interim coach. The Wolverines have advanced to the Southeast Regional semifinal in which they will play North Carolina tonight.
Daly's life has become a blur of events, leaving him alternately thinking about the team, his own future and a house he has sold and must vacate by the end of the month. He purchased a lot and is having a new home built.
Missouri is in the upper echelon of teams remaining in the N.C.A.A. tournament. The Tigers, who are 29-7 and face Syracuse in a Midwest semifinal Friday night in Minneapolis, looked impressive winning the Big Eight Conference postseason tournament and their opening two games in the N.C.A.A. tournament.
A program that has fallen short of expectations in post-season play over the last six years under the irascible Stewart - a fixture for 22 years on the sidelines - is now closing in on a national championship with a caretaker coach.
''I wouldn't be human if I didn't pinch myself and say, 'What am I doing in this situation?' '' Daly said after Missouri routed Texas in the second round of the Midwest Regional in Dallas Sunday. ''I'm just trying to make the best of it.'' The combination of Stewart's illness and the N.C.A.A. investigation have created an air of uncertainty about Missouri basketball for the first time in many years. Stewart has won 420 games as the Tigers' coach, 517 over all, ranking him among the career leaders. He was not expected to retire anytime soon.
It is not known whether he will be able to resume coaching next season. If not, the administration might choose to look for a high-profile replacement. But how would it be able to overlook Daly should he take Missouri to the Final Four or win the national title?
And imagine the complications should an N.C.A.A. investigation reveal widespread abuses in the basketball program. Would the entire coaching staff be implicated and held accountable? Sixth Season at Missouri
Those are not questions Daly has had time to ponder. He is in his sixth year at Missouri after serving as an assistant at Tennessee-Chattanooga. His head-coaching experience had been limited to high school and junior college. He had a 155-37 record in six years at Pensacola (Fla.) Junior College.
Before that, he coached at Mobley Junior College in Missouri, succeeding Cotton Fitzsimmons, now the coach of the Phoenix Suns. ''They had won 47 in a row under Cotton, two junior college championships, and they had a long winning streak at home,'' Daly said. ''I broke it all the first day I was there. We lost our first game.''
Replacing Stewart was even more difficult. Missouri deteriorated into Team Chaos. Although he recruited many of the players, Daly had not earned their respect as a coach. Compared with Stewart, who did not spare feelings, Daly was tentative and too soft.
''We were scattered,'' he said. ''At first, a lot of players were coaching. They'd come to the sidelines with suggestions of what we should do. As an assistant, you're more like a friend to them. You handle their problems in class, with their girlfriends, things the head coach hardly hears about. You're a buffer.'' Coach Asserts Himself It was considered necessary that Daly assert himself if Missouri were to begin playing again like a contender for the national championship. The Tigers were 4-4 under the interim coach after winning 20 of 23 with Stewart in charge.
Byron Irvin, the Tigers' senior guard and leading scorer, unwittingly provided Daly with the opportunity the coach needed to make a statement. Irvin was late to practice one day and was benched for the next game, against Nebraska. Daly put him into the game with one minute left, knowing it would hurt Irvin's scoring average.
'There was some screaming and yelling but it showed the players there was someone in charge that they had to listen to,'' Daly said. ''If I had known that benching him would have had that kind of effect, I would have let the air out of his tires so he could have been late before then.''
Missouri's style of play did not change under Daly but a team is also a reflection of its coach's personality. His practices were different, which he felt was a refreshing change for players bored by drills that become repetitive late in a season.
On the sidelines and in the locker room, he began to rant and rave with the best of them. Irvin reported that Daly had a temper tantrum during halftime of the first-round game against Creighton. On Sunday, he chastised players loud enough to be heard by the press row. Depth and Intensity
''I have no qualms about chewing out the best players or sitting them down,'' Daly said. ''But I let them say what they think too. This team wants to win. We have depth and are playing hard. We have a good shot at it.''
He counts the Big Eight tournament and the opening two rounds of N.C.A.A. post-season play as his proudest achievements as a coach. He knows it can get even better. Daly has been to the Final Four before, although under different circumstances.
''I was a spectator,'' he said. ''I was even at the Final Four in Seattle a few years ago. They give assistant coaches seats in a pretty high row. I was up high in the Kingdome.''
This time, he is counting on a better view.
MIZZOU COACH WINS APPEAL BEFORE NCAA
Missouri assistant basketball coach Rich Daly has joined a circle much more exclusive than the Final Four - he appealed to the NCAA Infractions Committee and won.
Acting on new information gleaned from airplane logs, the committee voted unanimously to clear Daly of the unethical conduct charge brought when Missouri received a 2-year basketball probation in 1990.Daly appealed the NCAA's finding after committee members charged him with unethical conduct because he was unable to recall events surrounding an alleged recruiting trip to Detroit.
"The circumstances surrounding the explanation have satisfied (the commmittee) that what did take place . . . do not rise to the level of unethical conduct," infraction committee chairman Alan Williams said in a news conference. "What that means is we remain concerned about the total appearances of himself and other members of the staff. Their inability to recall things."