Tony Daly, a doctor for sports stars who became one in his own right because of this work, died Friday at his home in Beverly Hills after a six-year battle with prostate cancer. He was 74.
At the time of his death, Daly was director of sports medicine at the Diagnostic and Interventional Sports Care and Orthopedics center in Marina del Rey. He had been the Clippers’ team doctor since the NBA franchise moved to Los Angeles in 1984.
“Tony’s accomplishments in his profession have been many; his contributions to the Clippers endless,” team owner Donald T. Sterling said in a statement Saturday. “First and foremost, though, the way his unique personality lifted everyone he met is what will be most remembered and most missed.”
As an orthopedic surgeon, Daly held local and international sports medicine positions. He was the team doctor for USA Hockey in 1980, when the famous “Miracle on Ice” victory in Lake Placid, N.Y., over the Soviets punctuated the U.S. team’s march to a gold medal.
“There were at least a half-dozen of those players who might not have played,” said Peter Ueberroth, a longtime friend of Daly’s and chairman of the United States Olympic Committee’s Board of Directors. “But Tony got them on the ice.”
Daly recently recalled that at the end of that hockey game against the Soviets, with the U.S. protecting a lead, “those last seven minutes were the longest of my life.”
Anthony Francis Daly Jr. was born in 1933 in New Brunswick, N.J. He graduated from Rutgers University and Hahnemann Medical College in Philadelphia and spent time as a military doctor before moving west and becoming a pioneer in sports medicine.
Among his positions in sports, Daly was a member of the International Olympic Committee’s medical staff at the Sarajevo Winter Games in 1984; was team doctor for USA Basketball for the Summer Olympics in Montreal in 1976 and Athens in 2004; was medical director for the international soccer federation (FIFA) at the World Cup in 1994 in Los Angeles; and was medical director for the L.A. Olympic Organizing Committee for the 1984 Games.
“He was one of the pillars of the ’84 Olympics,” said Ueberroth, who ran those Games as president of the L.A. Olympic Organizing Committee.
Ernie Vandeweghe, former NBA player, former Laker doctor, and longtime medical associate of Daly’s, said, “Athletes shy away from doctors. Not from Tony. When he worked on you, you were his friend for life.”
Daly treated athletes in all sports. He worked with boxers George Foreman, Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr., to name just a few. He performed numerous operations on NBA star Bill Walton’s injured foot, being called to that duty when a contentious court case over the injury sought to identify a doctor suitable to both sides and Daly’s name was the only one on both lists.
Daly reached track star Mary Decker within seconds of her dramatic fall during the 3,000-meter race in the Coliseum in the ’84 Olympics and directed her treatment. He also worked recently with U.S. Olympic swim star Dara Torres.
“I talked to him from Beijing,” Ueberroth said. “He asked me to wish [Torres] well, but to not tell her he was close to death. He didn’t want to take her focus away from her events.”
Daly was married three times and had six children. They, along with his third wife, Carla, survive him.
Services will be held at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Beverly Hills, with burial at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills.
Donations in Daly’s name may be made to the Concern Foundation, 8383 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 337, Beverly Hills, CA, 90211. For more information, call (323) 852-9844.