Teammates quickly learn that Dalton will make them look good. After his first couple of no-look passes bounce off a teammate's head, he'll stop throwing passes the player can't catch. When he sees that a teammate likes a certain spot on the low block for turnarounds, even against bigger guys, he'll wait for the player to get into position and then give him the ball where and when he wants it. Teammates know he trusts them, and they trust him. At game point he'll motion for a teammate who shoots well from the outside to set a pick for him at the top of the key. Both Dalton's man and the teammate's defender will go with Dalton, naturally. Double-teamed, Dalton will flip the ball back to the all-alone teammate, who has set his feet and is waiting to shoot the jumper that will win the game.
Dalton not only makes his team better, he makes the game better. If he knows the players, he tries to make sure the sides are fair, or maybe slightly in favor of the other team. He doesn't get too high or too low. He's there to win every game, but not if winning means yelling at his teammates. He is happy to lend his considerable credibility to a teammate's argument with opponents, but only briefly, and as long as the discussion doesn't slow down the game. No argument is worth slowing down the game. If an opponent calls cheap fouls or makes other bad calls, Dalton clamps down on him on defense or embarrasses him on offense or both.
He himself rarely calls fouls; the infraction has to be something that he believes might cost his team the game. Instead, if his opponents play too aggressively against him, he will play them exactly the same way at the other end of the court. Nor does he make calls that cheapen a game: charging, palming, traveling, three seconds, moving picks, or the out-of-bounds that is seen only by the guy who calls it. If the calls are obvious enough, someone else will make them. If Dalton is called for a foul or some other infraction, such as traveling (he travels very rarely, and he is more likely to call it on himself than to have someone call it on him), he will never argue. He turns the ball over without comment.
Dalton is not especially friendly or sociable. His pickup relationships are cordial, more like business than pleasure. Some players go out for beers or a bite to eat after pickup sessions, or get together for dinner with their wives. Dalton never joins them. He will chat before and after games, or while waiting to play, but the talk is always basketball.
A Ridgewood Y regular describes having seen Dalton get into a trash-talking dunkfest on a tough playground in Miami. When Dalton finally touched the ball, several minutes into the game, he got his teammates' attention with his signature move, a behind-the-back feint. From the top of the key he faked left with a jab step and then drove past his defender down the right side of the lane. As the opposing center stepped up to cover him, Dalton cupped his right-handed dribble behind his hip and looked left, as if he was going to pass behind his back. The opposing center, and everyone else on the court, looked and leaned in the direction of the seemingly inevitable behind-the-back pass. But Dalton pulled the ball back in and swept past the center for an unmolested lay-up. The next time down the court his teammates gave him the ball. He brushed off his defender on a pick and went up for a three-pointer, but instead of shooting he zipped a bullet pass to a teammate alone beneath the basket for another lay-up. Within minutes the game was transformed. Dalton was at the point, and the play had gone from undisciplined one-on-one to what could have been a Princeton instructional video, complete with pick-and-rolls, screens off the ball, and back-door cuts and passes. Dalton's team won four straight games, and his teammates were certain he was a former NBA player. "What's your name, man?" they asked. "Who'd you play for?"
Allan Dalton was a schoolboy star at Hyde Park High School, in Boston, and averaged twenty-six points a game as a senior in 1970-1971 for Suffolk University, a Division II team in Boston. He was incredibly quick, and could drive past almost anyone back then. One of his teammates in club games during the 1970s was Jim O'Brien, a former Boston College star who played in the American Basketball Association and is now the head basketball coach at Ohio State. "Allan was your prototypical gym rat," O'Brien says. "I always called him the poor man's Pete Maravich. Great shooter, great moves ... an unerring ability to pass the ball."