Dailey turns around his life and those of others in an unlikely place

March 25, 1994|By John Steadman

How Baltimore's Quintin Dailey is going about establishing a new life for himself merits attention and applause. He was caught in a tailspin of turmoil and, if the pattern continued, would have crashed against the wall in a certain dead end.

Charges of assaulting a nurse and using drugs, problems he created, involved him in serious trouble. He paid substantial fines, offered apologies and tried to break with the past. Over-eating, drinking and, finally, depression overwhelmed him.

Dailey's productive 10-year career in the National Basketball Association had played out. He decided he would take his wife Angela, who he calls a "Chicago lady," and their two young children to a city that afforded year-round sunshine and a chance where the future might offer a different kind of opportunity.

He picked Las Vegas, not exactly perceived as an appropriate site for finding yourself, where the neon entices and the action goes nonstop. It's certainly a different environment for self-reformation, but facts show Dailey has brought about positive change.

It was his previous desire to stay in the game as a referee, but he didn't know how to begin. He heard about the Las Vegas Boys & Girls Club, so he called to volunteer as a coach with the basketball program.

His inquiry was handled by activities director Tish Murray, who told him, coincidentally, that a paid position was open and interviews were under way to fill the job. Dailey showed up, made a favorable impression and won the appointment.

"He has been remarkable," says Murray. "His rapport with the kids is incredible, far more than I ever hope to have. Quintin relates well. He has been down a lot of the roads where they are tempted to go and tells them in no uncertain terms the problems they need to avoid."

The Las Vegas Boys & Girls Club has a membership of more than 500 and answers the needs of children, ages 7-18, of diversified backgrounds and nationalities.

"We have blacks, whites, Mexicans and most are from low-income environments," Dailey says. "Some of them come to the club because they have nowhere else to go."

Dailey has a natural way of instilling confidence. Children crowd his office since he's willing to discuss their troubles and answer questions.

"They tell me their deepest secrets," he says. "Most of them don't want to do bad things. They just get in the wrong place at the wrong time. I sometimes deal with gangs. My idea is to attack their attitudes and point them in the right direction. Often, they'll come back later and tell me I was right. It's satisfying to know you can make a difference."

He says he thinks often of the coach in Baltimore who once disciplined him because he was unhappy with his conduct. That was Ray Mullis at Cardinal Gibbons High School.

"He had a firm hand and made me do what was best for the team -- not just for me," Dailey recalls. "As a sophomore, he put a check on me when I got too big for myself. I quit, thought about it and asked for another chance. He let me come back, but I had to earn it."

Dailey's high school abilities were such that Michigan, UCLA, North Carolina, Notre Dame, Oregon and N.C. State -- over 500 schools in all -- wanted him to enroll. He went to the University of San Francisco, where he averaged 20.5 points per game before entering the NBA and playing with the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Clippers and Seattle SuperSonics.

"I'm blessed to be here, carrying a message, something like Moses, to these kids," is the way he describes his role as coach, counselor and confidant. "My feeling is parents have to take notice of the kids, even tap their butt once in awhile if they're out of line. That means they care. I don't look back on heartbreak and pain, only to do good things. The city of Las Vegas offers top recreational opportunities for children. A volunteer coach who helps in the club a lot is Frank 'Spoon' James, who played at Mount St. Joseph's in Baltimore."

From his NBA days, Dailey talks about Michael Jordan, a deified teammate with the Bulls.

"When I saw him as a rookie, I said he was God's gift to basketball," Dailey says. "He had cat-like quickness, big hands and could jump out of the gym. And he studied defenses. Just the best ever. My thrill of all time was to be on the same floor with him."

For now, though, Dailey is elated with what he's doing. At a recent awards banquet, tears filled his eyes when mothers and fathers were concerned enough to show up and cheer their children's accomplishments. The kids call him "Q" and hold him in high trust.

Such responsibility has brought out the best in Quintin Dailey, who has rebounded to demonstrate the good and helpful qualities that are inherent within the human spirit.

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