2:00 PM ET
The National Basketball Coaches Association honored longtime NBA coach Del Harris with the 2020 Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award on Friday.
Harris compiled a record of 556-457 over 14 seasons as a head coach with the Houston Rockets, Milwaukee Bucks and Los Angeles Lakers. He coached Houston, led by Hall of Fame center Moses Malone, to the NBA Finals in 1981.
“Mainly a funny guy,” Harris said with a chuckle, when asked how to describe his coaching style.
“I was flexible. If it called for slowing the game down, pounding it in, we did that. If it called for a moderate pace, as with the Bucks, we did that, and if it called for up-tempo, with the Lakers, we did that.
Del Harris won the NBA Coach of the Year Award with the Lakers during the 1994-95 season. Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images
“Adjustability, flexibility … maybe being a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none? I don’t know. That’s kind of what I did, I think.”
Harris also was an assistant for the Rockets, Bucks, Dallas Mavericks, Chicago Bulls and New Jersey Nets over his 30-plus years in the NBA. He has spent the past decade involved with the Mavericks’ G League team, the Texas Legends, where he currently serves as a vice president.
He also coached internationally, including the Chinese national team, which in 2004, with Hall of Famer Yao Ming on the roster, reached the medal round at the Olympic Games in Athens.
Rick Carlisle, the current coach of the Mavericks as well as the NBCA president, also credited Harris’ creativity as helping the sport to evolve since he began coaching in the NBA in the late 1970s.
“When he coached the Houston Rockets in 1981 to the NBA Finals, he was the first guy — and he was coaching Moses Malone at the time — he developed a play where Moses blocked out his man under the offensive boards, and then they threw a pass off the board, and Moses threw a pass off the board, went up and dunked it,” Carlisle said. “Plays like that, thinking like that, really cultivated the creativity of all coaches from that point going forward. And it has really manifest in the beautiful game that we see today.”
The panel that selects the award includes Bernie Bickerstaff, Billy Cunningham, Joe Dumars, Phil Jackson, Gregg Popovich, Pat Riley, Donnie Walsh and Lenny Wilkens. The award honors Daly, who died in 2009 from pancreatic cancer.
“What a great example to follow,” Harris said of Daly, joking that he and the Hall of Fame coached remained friends even after losing money in a business venture together. “I quote him from time to time with people. … He would try to avoid confrontations wherever he could, and the old-school coaches, they actually looked for confrontations and accepted them as a challenge.
“But Chuck didn’t do that. … I had great respect for Chuck Daly.”
Prior winners of the award, which has been given out since 2009, are Frank Layden, Doug Moe, Al Attles, Hubie Brown, K.C. Jones, Jerry Sloan, Dick Motta, Bickerstaff, Bill Fitch, Pat Riley, Wilkens, Tex Winter, Jack Ramsay and Tommy Heinsohn.
“When you went over the list of those coaches that have gone on before and won this award, and knowing how great those coaches were,” Harris said, “I coached against just about every one of them in that kind of golden era of the late ’70s, the ’80s and the early ’90s of NBA basketball, when it really rose to what it has continued to become. Just the names of the men on the committee, again, I either coached against them as a coach or a player, in the case of Joe Dumars and some of the rest, and I regard them to be friends.”