NBA

Former head coach Rudy Tomjanovich earns Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award

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Every year the National Basketball Coaches Association bestows a single winner of the Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award, and this 2024 it has gone to Rudy Tomjanovich. The former player, who was an NBA head coach for 13 seasons and compiled a 527-416 record, earned back-to-back championships in the 90s in Houston. 

Besides leading the Rockets for eleven-straight years, he also coached the Los Angeles Lakers for the 2004/05 campaign. Tomjanovic is just one of the nine trainers in league history to conquer consecutive championships and a member of the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame.

“Chuck Daly and Rudy Tomjanovich have many of the same amazing accomplishments and traits — both won back to back NBA titles, both coached the United States to Olympic gold and both are absolutely beloved in the coaching community because of their great way with people,” said Rick Carlisle, who besides coaching the Pacers, is the president of the NBCA.

Rudy’s 1994 and 1995 squads, which were led by legend Hakeem Olajuwon, was the team that bridged a gap between the pair of three-peats earned by Michael Jordan and the Bulls during that decade.

During his time in Texas, he guided the Rockets to the playoffs in seven occasions, including three runs to the conference finals. When the NBCA called him to deliver the news, he said he was spending time with his son in Houston.

“I got emotional,” the Hall of Famer said this Sunday, as the award was presented before Game 2 of the NBA Finals at Boston’s TD Garden. “My son kept asking, ‘Are you OK? Are you OK?'”

As soon as the call ended, he assured his son everything was all right. “And then I did cry,” Tomjanovich admitted. “And the reason is, when something like this happens, I’m not thinking about the championships. I’m not thinking about all the good stuff. I’m thinking about the dark days — the days when I doubted myself.”

 Tomjanovich mentioned two of his former Houston players when attending the press, explaining why they deserve more recognition

Rudy was full of gratitude when attending the media after he received his award in Boston, and showered praise for two of his former pupils, who he believes still deserve more recognition. One of them is Sam Cassell, who is currently helping the Celtics as an assistant coach.

“I’m looking forward to the day that Sam Cassell is a head coach, and I want to see him cussing at players the way I cussed at him,” Tomjanovich said of the ex-Rockets star, who was present during Rudy’s press conference to pay respects to him.

“I made a lot of good moves. I made some crazy moves. I traded Robert Horry twice,” the former coach recalled. “But I really believe he belongs in the Naismith Hall of Fame. He’s proven it time and time again. He’s made so many teams champions playing a role, and that’s so important. It isn’t about just the stats. It’s about getting results. I pray that one day he’s going to be able to stand up there and accept that honor.”

The 75-year-old also excelled as a basketball player, as he was the No. 2 overall pick selected by the San Diego Rockets in the 1970 NBA Draft. During his 11 campaigns as a professional, he was named an All-Star 5 times.