Dailey finds neurological disorder, not drugs, was the source of trouble

November 10, 1991|By Glenn Nelson | Glenn Nelson,Seattle Times

SEATTLE -- Balance, more than anything, is what Quintin Dailey finds when he steps on a scale these days.

Rejoining the Seattle SuperSonics this week after a mysterious disappearance last spring, he weighed in at a near-svelte 210 pounds. That's 25 to 30 pounds lighter than the Pillsbury Doughboy look-a-like who comically tried to throw his weight around a basketball court at the end of last season.

Yet a scale alone cannot measure the excess baggage Dailey, a graduate of Baltimore's Cardinal Gibbons high school, has lost in recent weeks.

While being treated for a neurological disorder at a Calabasas, Calif., hospital the past month, Dailey uncovered "a bag of anger so heavy I couldn't even pull it." No wonder. He'd been saving it up for years.

At Woodview-Calabasas Hospital, he was diagnosed with a form of hyperactivity called adult residual attention deficit disorder, which could be the cause of his deviant behavior over the years.

Hyperactivity, in children, is marked by overactivity. When it continues into adolescence and adulthood, it can manifest itself in sluggishness, depression, moodiness and anti-social, even criminal, behavior.

In essence, that describes Dailey's longtime behavior pattern, much of which has been related to basketball. The sport has supplied his identity, both good and bad. Now, for the umpteenth time in his nine-year National Basketball Association career, Dailey claims it is Dr. Jekyll, and not Mr. Hyde, who has resurfaced.

"I'm still the same Quintin," he said after practicing with the Sonics for the first time in nearly six months, "but I'm not the evil, mood-changing Quintin anymore."

In the best of times, Dailey was a scorer with few peers, especially in the post, where 6-foot-2 guards are not expected to venture. He was an All-American at Gibbons and the University of San Francisco. He made the NBA's all-rookie team in 1982-83.

In the worst of times, Dailey was a tortured soul with even fewer peers.

"Everybody has their problems," he said. "I just happen to be in a sport where all the problems are magnified."

In Dailey's case, they didn't need much magnification.

While a senior at San Francisco, he assaulted a nursing student and was sentenced to three years' probation. Twice while with the Chicago Bulls, he ran afoul of the NBA's drug-abuse guidelines. He warred openly with Kevin Loughery, then the Bulls' coach, and once removed himself from a game and ate a tub of popcorn on the bench.

His next team, the Los Angeles Clippers, suspended him for a week for being overweight. A tryout with the Los Angeles Lakers ended after he missed the flight to the team's Honolulu training camp, fainted during one practice and missed the bus to another.

It might seem cruel to recite this long and twisted dossier, especially when a man is seeking to set his life straight. But after all Dailey learned about himself recently, much of it is beginning to make sense to him.

What Dailey long has known about himself is his tendency to withdraw when things didn't go as planned. He was orphaned at age 13, when his father died of lung cancer and, a month later, his mother died of a stroke. Probably then, he discovered that special haven within himself, one that he often shared only with his demons.

One of them was cocaine. For loners such as Dailey, it is an especially desirable friend. As Dailey once said, "Drugs never talk back."

Yet Dailey has been sober since Feb. 5, 1986, the day he entered the ASAP Clinic, an NBA-approved treatment center in Los Angeles. He submits to drug testing every Monday and Thursday. So, for the past five-plus years, drugs have not been at the root of Dailey's problems; in fact, they may never have been.

Last season, Dailey began playing for a new coach, K.C. Jones, whom he was eager to show a new face. But after the Sonics reshuffled their deck at midseason, Dailey found himself the sixth guard in a six-guard rotation.

Dailey also had turned 30 and suddenly was staring at his basketball mortality. It was a disturbing viewpoint. For most of his life, he'd been Quintin Dailey, star basketball player.

"All of a sudden, I'm wondering, 'Damn, what am I?' " Dailey said. "You go out in public, and people say, 'Who are you?' At least you used to be a name."

Dailey responded as he always had. He withdrew. His weight ballooned and his attention span waned.

When the Sonics met Portland in the first round of the playoffs, Dailey wasn't even on the active roster. He watched the first two games in Portland, from the Sonic bench in street clothes. When the series moved to Seattle, Dailey didn't move with it.

Without notification or explanation, Dailey went to his off-season home in California. As far as the Sonics were concerned, he had disappeared. As far as their angered coach was concerned, Dailey had disappeared for good.

"What we went through last year, under those circumstances, no, I didn't want him back," Jones said. "It was anger, for the most part. That's what I got out of last year."

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