Gifted but combative, Dailey's NBA legacy will be one of unfulfilled potential

December 13, 1991|By Steve Kelley | Steve Kelley,Seattle Times

CHICAGO -- Some lives are fated to be incomplete. Some careers don't blossom. Some athletes never mine their deep potential.

A decade ago, the world belonged to Quintin Dailey. He was a smooth-as-butter guard for the University of San Francisco after starring at Cardinal Gibbons High. A born scorer. He could wake from a slumber, walk out to the asphalt and drain a jump shot. Winter or summer. Swish.

He was an All-American. He was a guaranteed first-round draft pick. His future was brimming with the promise of All-Star games and championship rings.

But some things never happen. Some lives take irreversibly bad turns. Some careers explode.

Earlier this week, the Seattle SuperSonics released Dailey and activated Bart Kofoed. An All-America was replaced by a journeyman. A first-round draft pick lost his job to a free agent. A career may have died.

was having difficulty with the minutes he was playing," Sonics coach K.C. Jones said. "He couldn't get along without the minutes. His attitude was becoming difficult because of the lack of minutes."

His season never got started. It was almost a metaphor for Dailey's sporadic 10-year career. He missed all of training camp because of a behavior disorder known as adult residual attention difficulty disorder. It was hoped that by recognizing the disorder all of Dailey's past problems -- the bouts with drug abuse, the melancholia, last season's missed practices -- would disappear.

He missed the beginning of the regular season, but when he returned to the team he was relaxed, happy and some 20 pounds lighter than last season. For all of his problems, Dailey was always personable, one of the friendliest players on the team.

But Dailey, 32, wanted to play and, in Seattle, he was buried under a benchful of guards. He played only 98 minutes in 11 games, shot only 24.3 percent from the field and averaged 2.8 points per game.

The more he sat, the more he simmered. He argued several times with Jones, then met for the last time with the Sonics coach Sunday.

One University of San Francisco All-American talking to another. One generation of player, telling the facts of life to another. K.C. Jones, one of the game's greatest success stories, told Dailey, one of the game's great tragedies, he was finished in Seattle.

"The only minutes he was getting, he was getting because Dana Barros was injured," Jones said. "If it wasn't for Dana's sprained ankle, Quintin wouldn't have gotten any minutes."

It is sadly ironic that the announcement of Dailey's release came with his team in Chicago. This is where his troubles began.

After allegations that he raped a nurse in San Francisco, he was a first-round draft pick, of the Bulls in 1982, the seventh pick overall.

Chicago's reaction was ugly. Pickets from members of the National Organization for Women paraded outside Chicago Stadium. Chicago sportswriters sliced him in column after column. He was booed every time he touched the ball.

He lasted four seasons with the Bulls, but played in only four playoff games. He left Chicago as a restricted free agent in 1986, played off-and-on with the Los Angeles Clippers, in between drug troubles, for three seasons and was rescued from the Continental Basketball Association by the injury-riddled Sonics on Feb. 2, 1990.

Tuesday night, Michael Jordan seemed surprised when he heard of Dailey's waiver. They played together for Jordan's first two years in Chicago.

"A lot of people said he had problems with me, but I think we competed well against each other every day," Jordan said. "He was a good guy to be around.

"He taught me a lot. The tricks of basketball. How to hold guys, push off. What to do when you go inside to draw the foul. How to throw your body into a defensive player and maintain your balance. How to draw a foul."

Jordan calls what happened to Dailey in Chicago, "a professional tragedy."

"Quintin had to deal with adversity throughout his entire basketball career," Jordan said. "The things he had to deal with here had nothing to do with basketball. It was unfair for him because he was being judged guilty here for a rape that he had been cleared of in San Francisco. He never really got a fair shake here.

"I think all of the things he went through here had a lasting effect. They had something to do with the problems he had the rest of his career in terms of the drugs and things."

Dailey still will make about two-thirds of the $450,000 contract he signed this season. But the future? Can he still play? Can he accept a diminished role? Can he accept his diminishing skills?

"If he's in condition, he's a player," Jones said. "He was a great player. He was bright, knew how to play. But he had all of those problems and, after that, things became very difficult for him."

He played a mere two minutes in the Sonics' overtime loss to the Bulls at the Kingdome last month.

"Based on that, I don't know if he still can play or not," Jordan said. "I know a lot of people have tried to be patient with him, but I'm not sure they really have been. You have to be patient with Quintin.

"But it works both ways. Quintin's got to be patient too. I guess, in Seattle, he wasn't."

The Sonics were in Chicago Stadium on Wednesday night. Quintin Dailey was 2,000 miles away.

The All-Star appearances, the championship rings, the wonderful promise of a decade ago are gone. Too many problems. Too many pressures.

Sometimes lives don't follow their intended script. Careers collapse. Jobs and dreams are lost. A meeting is called. Bad news comes down from the boss.

?3 This week, it happened again to Quintin Dailey.

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