Roughly 100,000 fans came out to celebrate with head coach Chuck Daly and the Detroit Pistons, who had just defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1989 NBA Finals. Downtown Detroit was crazy partying after the Pistons got revenge against the team that knocked them out in the championship round the previous year.
Daly was basking in the glory of winning a title. Then he got word of some tough news that no longer had him in a celebratory mood.
Chuck Daly and the Detroit Pistons earned the first of two straight titles in 1989
The Pistons finally broke through. The Boston Celtics had dominated the Eastern Conference with four straight NBA Finals appearances from 1984-87. Those Celtics frustrated the Pistons, especially in the 1987 Eastern Conference Finals, a memorable series highlighted by Larry Bird’s key steal in Game 5 that turned the series around.
In 1988, the Pistons finally made their way to the championship round. The Lakers outlasted them in seven games but found themselves in a rematch the following season.
Daly’s Pistons, led by the “Bad Boys” of Dennis Rodman, Rick Mahorn, Bill Laimbeer, and Isiah Thomas, wasted no time with the Lakers. Led by Finals MVP Joe Dumars, the Pistons made quick work of their West Coast rivals, sweeping them in four games.
They didn’t stop there. Detroit made its third straight NBA Finals trip in 1990, winning its second straight championship. They defeated the Portland Trail Blazers in five games.
Chuck Daly went from an emotional high to an emotional low during the 1989 parade
It should have been an exciting time for Daly as fans lined the streets of Detroit to celebrate the team’s championship — and it was. During a pep rally inside the Palace of Auburn Hills immediately following the parade, Daly got some somber news. He was notified that one of the key “Bad Boys” was no longer a part of the team.
The Minnesota Timberwolves selected Mahorn, a favorite of Daly’s and a favorite of the Pistons fans, in the NBA expansion draft. Daly was stunned when he heard the news.
“It’s the happiest day in my coaching career in terms of celebrating of the world championship, but the saddest moment because this is one of the truly, really, good guys,” he said, according to United Press International. “That’s about the best I can say. I’m devastated.”
During the parade, Mahorn was apparently unaware of the situation.
“I’m glad to be the baddest Bad Boy you’ve ever seen,” he said.
Daly wasn’t the only one upset to see Mahorn go
According to UPI, Mahorn left the arena after hearing the news. He was flanked by security guards and refused to answer any questions.
Dumars also had a tough time celebrating after hearing the news.
“I had never heard that Rick would be unprotected,” he said. “You’re still celebrating, but it takes it right out of you.”
Dumars said that moment was a quick reminder that the NBA was business first.
“Things like that happen,” he said. “As much as you don’t want to face it, unfortunate things happen in this business.”
Pistons GM Jack McCloskey said he worked until as late as possible to keep Mahorn with the team.
“As a matter of fact, on the float today (during the parade), I had a portable phone and was in contact (with teams),” McCloskey said.