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Troubled Bull Quintin Dailey dead at 49
by Sam Smith
Posted on Nov 10
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Quintin Dailey, the Bulls’ No. 1 draft pick in 1982–seventh overall in the NBA draft and a vivid reminder of the worst of times in Bulls’ history–died at 49 in his sleep earlier this week in his Las Vegas home of heart disease.
We hadn’t heard much from Dailey for the last decade or so, which was a good thing and the way Dailey wanted it, especially as he cleaned up his life dramatically in becoming a responsible parent and respected and contributing member of his community.
Dailey had been helping troubled kids as a supervisor at the Parkdale Community Center in Las Vegas as part of his work for the Clark County (Nev.) Parks Department. He also had been working as a referee for the last decade around Nevada while his son was a starting guard for the Eastern Michigan University basketball team.
“It’s very sad,” said Rod Thorn, now Philadelphia 76ers president who then was the Bulls general manager who drafted Dailey. “He was a very talented kid who had so many problems with drugs off the court. When he was straight, he was a terrific scorer, a friendly type guy. But he never could overcome those problems with us. Once he went to Vegas, he got his life together and seemed to have everything going in the right direction. It’s unfortunate, such a young guy.”
But in the early 1980s Dailey, in many ways, symbolized the depths of the Bulls franchise which was saved two years later when Thorn was able to draft Michael Jordan.
But 1982 and Dailey was the nadir for a team that unbeknownst to Bulls management was being destroyed with misbehavior and rampant drug use that eventually saw a third of the Bulls’ roster go into drug rehab.
Dailey became the poster child for all that was wrong with the franchise and my enduring image of him, a physical guard who once scored 44 in a game for the Bulls, was him sitting on the bench in the old Chicago Stadium, barely a third filled in those brutal days, Dailey munching on popcorn and hot dogs from the concession stand.
Dailey used to pay the ball boys to bring him food during the games because of the hunger that can develop from drug use. We’d all suspected it back then with the likes of Orlando Woolridge, Mitchell Wiggins and Ennis Whatley later to have issues. But it was like the early years of the baseball steroids scandal. No one really had proof.
But it was even worse for Dailey, who was a marked man coming out of the University of San Francisco, becoming the only first round draft pick—and his franchise—to be picketed by the National Organization for Women.
“He had some real problems when he came in,” Thorn agreed in a telephone interview Wednesday. “There was that incident with the young woman. So he comes in under a cloud and he didn’t handle it very well, sort of saying it was behind him and he was moving on.”
Officially, it was.
Dailey had been charged with attempted rape for allegedly assaulting a student nurse. Though Dailey maintained his innocence and claimed he was a victim of mistaken identity, he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of aggravated assault. If he had not, he wouldn’t have been eligible to be drafted. So four days before the draft, he pleaded and was cleared for the June 29 draft.
Under California law in sexual assaults, the victim is consulted on punishment. The judge said she agreed with the sentence and no jail time for Dailey, who had no criminal record or any previous arrest history.
But coming off a series of underachieving No. 1 draft picks of David Greenwood, Ronnie Lester and Orlando Woolridge and sinking in the standings, the introduction of an accused rapist sent the community into a frenzy.
“It was a tough call,” said Thorn. “I recall our other choice was Clark Kellogg, whose career ended prematurely with injury but who was a good player (averaging almost 20-10 for three seasons before getting hurt and his career basically ending). “It went down to the wire. We decided we needed to take a scorer, and he was a real good scorer. But he couldn’t overcome the problems.”
Dailey was a big time producer, averaging more than 25 per game his final collegiate season as a junior. The idea was to produce an exciting, running team of athletes and pair Dailey with All-Star Reggie Theus.
But that opening press conference defined Dailey, and who knows how much that contributed to a severe cocaine addiction.
“Basically, nobody heard my side of the story when it happened,” Dailey said when asked about the incident. “And I really don’t want to get into it now. I have forgotten about the episode. When you’ve got other, greater things ahead of you, I can put it behind me. Right now, it’s forgotten.”
Assault. A student nurse. Just put aside with no remorse at all? Following an investigation after the Dailey incident, the university disbanded its varsity basketball program which had produced the likes of Bill Russell and K.C. Jones.
Chicago burst into flames of disgust.
Dailey was condemned in newspaper columns and around the community. Acclaimed columnist Mike Royko quoted women calling for boycotts of the Bulls
And it got worse. Everywhere the Bulls went around the NBA, Dailey was booed and condemned, becoming a league pariah much like Kobe Bryant when he had his legal issues.
Compounding it was that the Bulls were awful, going on to a 28-54 record, though Dailey averaged 15.1 points and started 32 games. He was a physical, 6-3 guard who could back much bigger players deep and shoot, a bit of Oscar Robertson without the versatility and Mitch Richmond without the three point shot. He started 42 the following season for new coach Kevin Loughery and played in all 82, but the Bulls went 27-55. Dailey and Whatley were the opening day starting backcourt, both getting caught up in a drug culture that was becoming too prevalent in that era’s NBA.
“He was an outstanding player,” recalled Loughery in a phone interview. “There were just so many problems. He was a very smart individual, not a bad guy at all to be around. But with any NBA team when there are a lot of losses, it becomes as easy as winning to accept. The problem with him was when you have problems like he did you are not dependable. It was day to day with him then. You never knew (if he would show up). He had the talent, but his problems kept him from becoming a star.”
It all boiled over for Dailey when Jordan arrived, clear then that Jordan would be the starting shooting guard and Dailey would be gone as soon as possible.
Dailey’s problems got worse and culminated when he failed to arrive for a game.
“The guys on the team probably knew what was going on before we did,” conceded Thorn. “I remember that game he didn’t show. I lived near where he did and went to his house. He was all messed up.”
Dailey went to drug rehabilitation, and he was said to be clean for two decades before his death.
But he never could shake the stigma of the assault case, his public reputation and drug problems.
The Bulls released him after the 1985-86 season.
Dailey went to Mississippi in the CBA, got signed by the Clippers, where he played sparingly for three seasons without incident, went back to the CBA with Sioux Falls, played parts of three seasons with Seattle before being waived just before Christmas in 1991 and then finished the season with Yakima of the CBA and retired.
Perhaps the irony was that Dailey was regarded as a model student and individual before the incident. His brother went to West Point. His parents died when he was 16 and he went to live with the parents of a friend. The mother’s brother was baseball star Reggie Jackson, who befriended Dailey and helped him during his case. Dailey was a good student in high school, a strict Catholic school in Baltimore, and his high school coach in a letter to Dailey’s probation officer wrote that as team captain Dailey was so responsible he reported teammates who tried to have beer on road trips.
But the dream became a nightmare.
When Dailey was with the SuperSonics, he was quoted in the Seattle Times saying, “Sometimes, I think I’ll be glad when basketball is over for me. Because people bring that (assault plea and drug use) up. I hope it will end. I’ve grown up.”
And gone too soon.