Not long ago, Chuck Daly was sleeping in bed, at home, when the phone rang.

“Are you up?” the voice said.

“Uhhhn, I just fell asleep,” said Daly.

“Wake up. Someone here wants to talk to you.”

The next voice was familiar in a weird kind of way. It was a voice you’ve heard before, on late-night television, one of those talk shows . . .

“You hockey puck! Are you crazy? You should have taken the NBC job! You should hav–“

Don Rickles.

He went on like that for 15 minutes.

Now, I would have loved to have heard that conversation. Unfortunately, it would have meant standing in the dark in Daly’s bedroom, leaning into his receiver, which could be embarrassing because, for one thing, I don’t own pajamas.

But I do have an alternative. An entire evening of famous athletes, coaches and other celebrities taking shots at Daly, insulting him, ribbing him, joking him up and down, a roast — and all for a good cause.

In other words, I am about to do something I have never done since joining this newspaper: Ask you to attend a charity event.

Now. The reason I usually avoid such pitches is because, quite frankly, everyone has one. And they are all good. And you feel like a jerk when you can’t help out. This particular one, however, is close to my heart. It means, in some ways, the future of our city. And if you participate, it sure won’t feel like charity — not with the likes of Isiah Thomas, Pat Riley, Doug Collins, Frank Layden, John Salley, Bernie Smilovitz, Jacques Demers and Jud Heathcote, to name a few, laying the insults on Big Daddy Daly.

Actually, it’ll feel like listening to that phone call from Don Rickles.

Without eavesdropping.

Now, let me tell you why it’s important: Here’s a chance to give kids a chance

Let me tell you about a girl named Gabrielle Glass. She is 14 years old. She lives in Detroit. She is the most important currency of our city, a kid with talent. All around her are kids in trouble, kids with too much time, nothing to do, no place to go.

Gabrielle has something: She has the violin. She was given one by her parents when she was 4. At that age, it was little more than a toy — “I used to swing the bow around like a sword” she laughs — but the important thing was, it was in her hand. The magic of music, the ability to create. In her hand.

And there was place for her to go.

The place was the Center for Creative Studies, in Detroit, which has been shaping futures for our kids since 1906, when Teddy Roosevelt was president. Gabrielle took lessons there. It became a second home. Mom would drop her off and Dad would pick her up, and she moved from one teacher to the next, getting better, smiling because she was good at something.

And that violin began to sing.

Today, midway through her adolescence, Gabrielle Glass, who lives in our city — the same city where kids shoot one another over a pair of sneakers — plays Haydn concertos and dreams of Carnegie Hall.

“I see myself playing there, with a big orchestra behind me, and I finish
. . .”

She smiles. “And then everyone applauds.”

Believe me, she will have earned it. Getting through life as a kid is hard enough. Doing it in Detroit, sadly, seems even harder. The best thing we can give our children is not a lecture, not a poster, not some catchy expression.

The best thing we can give them is an alternative.

Here is your chance. It’s a good cause and good time

I am talking about scholarships, like the one Gabrielle receives. I am talking about money that goes straight into the hands of the kids who need it most. Put a trumpet in their hands, or a saxophone, a pair of dance shoes, a paint brush, a canvas. Give them art. Give them hope.

Give them a dream.

As a writer, I believe the need to create is in every one of us. And I believe, in many cases, it can save us. Athletes, in their way, create, too. So when I approached Jacques Demers last year, he agreed to be the subject of our first annual scholarship roast. It went well. We raised money.

This year, Daly, who, believe it or not, once dreamed of being a lounge singer, is willing to sit on the hot seat — so that the youth of our city can have a chance at a richer future. Joining him on the dais for “Chuck Roast” will not only be Isiah, Salley, Layden, Collins, Smilovitz, Demers and Heathcote, but also Joe Dumars, Scott Hastings, Bill Bonds, George Blaha — plus long-distance roasts from Riley, Bob Costas and Dick Vitale.

The event is set for Wednesday night, April 3, 7:30 at the Troy Marriott. There are still tickets available: $75 for guests, which includes the roast and a fine dinner, or $150 for sponsors, which includes roast, dinner plus a special cocktail reception (6:30 p.m.) with the celebrities. Corporate tables are available as well.

Here is the phone number: (313) 872-DALY.

Please attend. It will certainly be worthwhile. Not to mention funny. Personally, I’m going to call Don Rickles.

And see if I can use some of his material.

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