Isiah Thomas says Pistons fired, then rehired coach Chuck Daly before back-to-back titles

Detroit News

In an interview on the July 18th edition of the “Bad Boys and Beyond” podcast with Mike Payton and Keith Black Trudeau, Thomas revealed the story behind it all: “I’ll tell you a story here that not too many people know, that hasn’t been told.”

Thomas said Pistons GM Jack McCloskey fired Daly after a lengthy losing streak in the 1985-86 season.

After Thomas drove to then-owner Bill Davidson’s house and convinced Davidson to reinstate Daly, Thomas said he gave Daly the good news by phone and then they met at the McDonald’s on Orchard Lake Road for “two cheeseburgers, a large fry and a vanilla milkshake.”

Thomas’ description of the lines up with a 4-15 stretch — which dropped the Pistons to 16-21 — and ended with a home game against the Philadelphia 76ers on Jan. 11, 1986.

TRANSCRIPT(At the 27-minute mark)

“I’ll tell you a story here that not too many people know, that hasn’t been told,” Thomas said on the podcast. “Chuck Daly was fired from the Detroit Pistons. I’ll never forget. Jack McCloskey fired him. This was early in the season. We had lost 15 out of 19 games. I’m not sure what year it was. It could’ve been ’86.

“In ’86, we had lost 15 out of 19 and Chuck Daly got fired that afternoon. I’ll never forget. I drove to Mr. D’s (owner Bill Davidson) house and I said, ‘We’re making a huge mistake.’ He goes, ‘What do you mean?’ I go, ‘This is not the coach’s fault.’ I said, ‘We don’t have the kind of talent to compete the way everyone thinks we should. If we lose this coach, I don’t think we’ll ever win here.’ He said to me, ‘Do you think Chuck Daly is that good?’ I go, ‘Absolutely. He’s the perfect coach for us.’

“And then I called up Chuck and I said, ‘Do you want your job back?’ And he goes — he was in a (foul) mood — he said, ‘Yeah. I want my job back.’ So, we met at the McDonald’s on Orchard Lake and he and I just talked. And then Mr. D called. I think he called Jack and said, ‘Hey, we’re hiring him back.’ And Chuck Daly got his job back. The next day, we started turning things around.”

After that tailspin, the Pistons went 24-6 over their next 30 games and turned their season around.

When asked if he remembered what he ordered at the McDonald’s, Thomas said, “Two cheeseburgers, a large fry and a vanilla milkshake. The regular cheeseburgers. Not the Quarter-Pounders.”

Thomas went on to talk about the team improving defensively with shot-blockers John Salley, Dennis Rodman, the trade for Adrian Dantley and adding Rick Mahorn.

More: Q&A with former Pistons great Isiah Thomas: Bad Boys culture didn’t need to change

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