Mel Daniels, one of the Indiana Pacers all-time greats from the ABA years has passed away at the age of 71, according to Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star. Pacers owner Herb Simon released a statement:
“I join our extended Pacers family in offering my sincerest condolences to (Daniels’ wife) CeCe and Mel’s family,” said Pacers Sports & Entertainment owner Herb Simon in a statement. “We will miss him greatly, but when we look at that Hall of Fame banner in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, we will be forever reminded of what he meant to this franchise.”
He led the Pacers to three ABA championships, and won two ABA MVPs in the process. He averaged 18.4 points and 14.9 points. In addition to his time as a player for the Pacers, he was the director of player personnel as recentily as 2009.
Daniels remained a member of the Pacers’ family, until his passing. In fact, per a SportsCenter report, he was at the season opener this year. Per Buckner:
In recent years, Daniels remained as a staple inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Daniels served in various capacities with the Pacers, beginning as an assistant coach in 1984 after the team moved to the NBA. Daniels was also an executive on the basketball side as the team’s director of player personnel and later, a team scout.
Daniels played in what you might call a very different era. Buckner relays a story involving a young Daniels and Slick Leonard:
At his first practice under Leonard, Daniels was practicing jump shots from 15 feet. His new coach walked up. “Next time you shoot from that far out,” Slick warned him, “I’m gonna punch you in the nose.”
“And that was that,” Daniels said with a laugh.