Chuck Daly, head coach of the 1992 U.S. Olympic basketball team, was officially presented with his "Dream Team" of 10 NBA superstars yesterday. But he still was haunted by the selection committee's snub of Isiah Thomas, the captain and leader of his Detroit Pistons.
"I'm disappointed because Isiah is a great player and deserves to be on the team," Daly said in a conference call after the team announcement in an hourlong television special yesterday.
"If I had my druthers, I would have had three of my players -- Isiah, Joe Dumars and Dennis Rodman -- on the team, but I didn't have a vote and all those chosen are great players in their own right."
Those "great players" who will represent the United States next summer in Barcelona, Spain, included Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls, Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics, Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers and Patrick Ewing of the New York Knicks.
Daly was far more diplomatic than Pistons general manager Jack McCloskey, who resigned from the selection committee in protest over Thomas' absence.
Other committee members held out the carrot that Thomas could earn one of the remaining two roster spots, but McCloskey countered they "were penalizing perhaps the greatest small man ever to play the game."
The snub of Thomas had been linked to his frosty relationship with Jordan, as well as his unsportsmanlike behavior after the Pistons were eliminated by Jordan's Bulls in the Eastern Conference playoffs last spring.
Jordan said he regretted the "finger pointing" and that his festering feud with Thomas had "been blown out of proportion." He said his willingness to play in the Olympics was in no way
tied to Thomas.
But Bulls teammate Scottie Pippen, also named to the Olympic team yesterday, was more outspoken.
"I feel Isiah brought it on himself by the way he handled himself last season," said Pippen, referring to the behavior of the Pistons captain and his teammates after their playoff elimination.
Otherwise, it was all peace and harmony among the players selected. Their names had been public knowledge for close to a month, and there were no last-minute surprises.
In addition to Jordan, Pippen, Ewing, Bird and Johnson, those named were John Stockton and Karl Malone of the Utah Jazz, David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs, Chris Mullin of the Golden State Warriors and Charles Barkley of the Philadelphia 76ers.
Ewing, Jordan and Mullin were members of the championship team in the 1984 Olympics before the United States fell on hard times in international basketball competition. In 1984, Barkley and Stockton were cut by Indiana coach Bob Knight, who chose Hoosiers sophomore Steve Alford over Stockton and Terry Porter, now a star with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Looking back, the usually outspoken Barkley said: "I deserved to be cut, and I've told that to Knight. I was really only looking at the Olympic trials as a way to become a higher NBA draft pick."
Stockton, who has led the NBA in assists the past four years, said: "Being cut in 1984 was one of the great disappointments in my life. But I never felt another opportunity to play in the Olympics would fall in my lap."
Picking an NBA all-star team was not an admission that college stars no longer could compete with the likes of the pro-dominated teams from Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, said Celtics vice president Dave Gavitt, who headed the USA Basketball committee.
"This was simply recognition by FIBA [the organization that governs international basketball] that after five decades, the United States was the only country being discriminated against in not being allowed to use professionals," Gavitt said. "For the first time in Olympic history, we've been placed on an equal basis with the rest of the basketball world."
There has been widespread speculation that the NBA stars will make a mockery of the Olympics, especially if the usually strong teams from Yugoslavia and the U.S.S.R. are affected by the current political strife.
Three stars from war-torn Croatia -- Toni Kukoc and Dino Radja, who are playing in the Italian League, and Drazen Petrovic of the New Jersey Nets -- have said they would not represent Yugoslavia. Lakers center Vlade Divac, a Serb, has not commented.
Asked about a possible negative response from repeated blowouts in Barcelona next summer, Barkley said, "Some people might say we rubbed it in, but these are the same ones who complained about us not having the best team when we lost the last Olympics and in the Pan-American Games."
The Dream Team
Here are the 10 NBA players named yesterday to the 1992 U.S. Olympic basketball team:
Player.. .. .. ..P.. .. Team
Charles Barkley..F.. .Sixers
Larry Bird.. .. .F.. Celtics
Patrick Ewing.. .C.. .Knicks
Magic Johnson.. .G.. .Lakers
Michael Jordan.. G.. ..Bulls
Karl Malone.. .. F.. ...Jazz
Chris Mullin.. ..G/FWarriors
Scottie Pippen.. G.. ..Bulls
David Robinson.. C.. ..Spurs
John Stockton.. .G.. .. Jazz
What the snubbed said
* Isiah Thomas, Detroit Pistons: "I'm sure they had some tough choices to make because there's a lot of incredible talent in the NBA. There are other players that were left off the team."
* Clyde Drexler, Portland Trail Blazers: "I have no reservations at all about the players that were named to the Olympic team. I don't think they could go wrong with their selection. There's so many great players to choose from."
* James Worthy, Los Angeles Lakers: "There are a lot of great players who didn't get invited, so I don't feel bad at all. I wish them the best of luck."