HE’S ON THE REBOUND : After Some Major Setbacks, Clippers’ Quintin Dailey Has Bounced Back and Is Now Winning Game of Life
Guard Quintin Dailey of the Clippers used to figure that cocaine was his only friend.
Of course, it wasn’t. It was his worst enemy.
“I’d be dead or in jail if I hadn’t stopped using coke,” said Dailey, who has been off drugs for 22 months.
An orphan at 13, Dailey grew up as a loner. He said he used drugs because he felt he had nobody to turn to.
"(Cocaine) gave me someone to talk to,” said Dailey, who has been through drug rehabilitation three times in the last four years. “All I wanted to do was to tell someone how I felt. A drug can’t talk back to you, so it became my best friend.
“I’d never get high with anyone else. I’d lock myself in my room and do my coke alone. I snorted and I (free-)based.”
Dailey’s addiction almost ruined his National Basketball Assn. career. Far worse, it nearly destroyed him as a person.
He was out of control, yet another cocaine casualty. He filed for bankruptcy because he had spent all his money on drugs. He was so broke that he seriously considered enlisting in the Army to support his family after being dropped by the Chicago Bulls in early 1986.
Dailey, 26, is getting another chance with the Clippers. It’s his last chance, however. He will be banished from basketball if he has another relapse.
He has been a model citizen, on and off the court, since joining the Clippers almost exactly a year ago. And he has been sober since Feb. 5, 1986, when he entered the ASAP Clinic in Van Nuys, the NBA’s designated drug treatment center.
Although the Clippers can’t test Dailey without probable cause because of the league’s drug policy, Dailey undergoes voluntary testing every two to three days at the Van Nuys clinic because he wants everyone to know he’s clean.
“I don’t want anyone to have any reason to think that I’m on drugs again,” Dailey said. “If I have a cold and have a runny nose, I don’t want people to think I’m using drugs.
“Sure, I’ve been offered drugs since I left rehabilitation. I guess people figure that I was on coke once and they can make some more money off me. But I just walk away. I look at it like I’ve been down that road before and it leads to nowhere.
“I’m only 26, but sometimes I feel like I’ve already lived a lot longer than that.”
He says he is committed to staying sober. He says he has found stability and responsibility in his life with Angela, his wife of 2 1/2 years, and Quinci Angela, their 8 1/2-month-old daughter.
“Quinci is the second-best thing that ever happened to me,” Dailey said. “My wife is the first. She has stuck by me through all of this.”
Said Angela: “A lot of people said, ‘You should leave him. He’ll never get off drugs.’ But (drug addiction) is an illness. I wouldn’t leave him if he had cancer.
“But I also let him know that I wouldn’t go through this 100 times. He didn’t do this to hurt me. I know he really loves me. One difference is, I think he has more confidence in himself.
“The baby makes him feel needed. Because his parents died at such a young age, he wants to be a good father. This is the first baby he’s ever been around and it makes him feel needed. Now he realizes that he’s important.”
Team officials say that Dailey has had a positive impact on the Clippers, a team trying to rebuild its negative public image.
“I judge a person by what he has done,” said Coach Gene Shue. “I’m certainly aware of his past, but he has done a good job here and I hope he stays the same way.”
Dailey is also trying to help others avoid the degradation drugs have caused him.
He makes more public appearances than any other Clipper, speaking to youth groups on the evils of drugs with the zeal of a missionary.
“If I have the time, I’ll speak to anyone about drugs,” he said. “Maybe I can help a kid not go through the things I went through.
“PR people love me. I went to the NBA rookie seminar and I shared with them what has happened to me. Afterwards, a guy came up to me and said that I wasn’t at all like what the newspapers had made me out to be, and it made me feel good.”
Quintin Dailey can look back at his troubled past now and laugh, but it’s really no laughing matter.
He was well acquainted with trouble even when he came into the NBA five years ago, after having been convicted of assaulting a nursing student at the University of San Francisco in 1982. For that, he was put on probation and paid the woman he had assaulted $100,000 in an out-of-court settlement.
Dailey’s conviction, however, uncovered a scandal that resulted in USF dropping its basketball program for several years. Dailey revealed in his probation report that a booster had paid him for a job at which he did no work. Excerpts from Dailey’s probation report, which he thought was confidential, were published in San Francisco newspapers and a national magazine.
It was almost as if he, single-handedly, had brought down one a basketball program that had won consecutive national championships in 1955 and ’56.
Dailey, who showed little, if any, remorse throughout the USF incident, quit school after his junior year, making himself available for the NBA draft. The Chicago Bulls picked him seventh that year.
If Dailey thought his problems were over, though, he soon learned different.
Women’s groups, outraged that Dailey had done no jail time, protested at Bulls’ games. On the road, fans taunted him by showing up at games dressed as nurses.
Outwardly, Dailey seemed unaffected. Inside, though, he was going through hell, he said.
“I was scared. Everything had been settled, but I was still going through a lot of grief. I was torn up inside. I didn’t talk to anyone on the team during my first three months my rookie year. I only had one friend, cable TV.”
All he had ever wanted was to be loved and appreciated by the fans. In the midst of rejection, Dailey turned to drugs. He had experimented in college and he fell easily into cocaine addiction.
“Cocaine helped me to fill a void in my life,” Dailey said. “I never used drugs while I was playing. I’d get high the day before a game, but it stays in your system.
“Everyone wants to be liked and when I first came into the league I was the worst thing people had ever laid eyes on. People looked at me like I was worse than a piece of . . . I’d walk into a restaurant and people would look at me and get up from their table.
“I was always prejudged the wrong way. But I helped out, too. I did my share of stupid things. People said that I was a bad boy and I said, ‘I’ll show you what a bad boy I am.’
“But I hurt myself more than I hurt others. Instead of taking it out on others, I took it out on myself. I couldn’t see the positives. I only saw the negatives.
“I thought if I won games, I could win the hearts of people. I worked so hard that I was hyperventilating.”
Dailey checked into a drug clinic at the end of his rookie season, where he underwent attack therapy.
“What’s attack therapy? You’d sit around in a group and everyone would (verbally) attack you,” Dailey said. “It was wrong for me, but I went through it. The Bulls told me I had to go to therapy.”
A spokesman for the Bulls said that the team would not comment on Dailey.
Dailey left the hospital and returned to Chicago for his second season, but his drug problem was not cured.
And besides his problems off the court, Dailey also clashed with Kevin Loughery, the new coach of the Bulls.
He had started the last 25 games of his rookie season under Coach Paul Westhead, but he said he quickly became Loughery’s whipping boy.
“I was so worried about him yelling at me that I couldn’t play,” Dailey said. “I started a couple of games my second year, but he put me on the bench.”
Loughery, now the coach of the Washington Bullets, could not be reached for comment.
Despite his problems, Dailey managed to play for three seasons in Chicago. He made the NBA’s all-rookie team, averaging 15.1 points in 76 games, then averaged a career-high 18.2 in his second season and 16 in 1984-85.
He hit bottom in 1985-86.
Dailey began missing practices, team planes and buses. He once ate popcorn on the bench after taking himself out of a game with an injury.
Dailey, however, didn’t decide to undergo drug rehabilitation until one day when he was so stoned that he looked at Stan Albeck, who had replaced Loughery as the Chicago coach in 1985, and saw Loughery. He checked into ASAP drug rehab in October.
He said he left the program early to return to the Bulls, who were having a terrible season.
Predictably, he had a relapse and re-entered the ASAP Clinic again on Feb. 5, 1986, after having missed a game the previous night.
“He wasn’t ready when he left the program the first time,” said Rex Fine, Dailey’s drug counselor at the ASAP Clinic in Van Nuys. “Some people need to stay in for a little longer. Now, I think he wants to make a change. He feels better about himself.”
Dailey moved to Los Angeles on his own after he was discharged from the Van Nuys clinic a month later because he wanted to be complete his out-patient care.
He had also developed close relationships with his drug counselors, Fine and Richard Knight.
“All my life I’ve been looking for friends,” Dailey said. “Rex is my friend, so I grabbed onto him. All my life I’ve had people who wanted to be friends, but I couldn’t tell the good from the bad.”
Said Knight: “I’m very proud of Quintin. He’s an excellent example of the fact that people can turn their lives around. He’s very helpful to others in the program. When someone has walked down that road before, they can be helpful to others.”
Even so, Dailey faced a long road back to the NBA after leaving the drug clinic.
He had been dropped by the Bulls and no other team would touch him because of his reputation.
He started his comeback in the Continental Basketball Assn., in the fall of 1986, playing briefly for the Jacksonville Jets. He was averaging 17.9 points when the Clippers signed him last winter.
He got that break because the Clippers were crippled by injuries as they struggled through a 12-70 season. He signed a two-year contract for the NBA minimum of $75,000 a season. Chicago, which still had the rights to Dailey, let him go without asking for compensation.
“I felt Quintin’s chances of beating his drug problem were far greater than other guys,” said Elgin Baylor, the Clipper general manager who signed Dailey.
“He worked hard to lick this thing. Most guys only spend six weeks in rehab because their teams need them back. I’m no expert on drugs, but I don’t see how anyone with a serious drug problem can be cured in six weeks. But he was in (the drug clinic) for a lot longer.
“You can never predict what anyone will do with their life, but from the moment we brought him in, he has been nothing but a positive for us. I just hope it continues. I have no question about his ability or character.
“A lot of people in the NBA probably didn’t think Quintin would make it back. But I think everyone should be given another chance. The guy paid his dues. He went through hell. He gave me his word that he wouldn’t use drugs.
“The only problem I’ve had with Quintin is that he occasionally will get into the cookie jar. I’d like to see Quintin lose a few more pounds. He has his quickness back, but he’ll be even quicker once he loses more weight.”
Dailey is listed at 6 feet 3 inches and 180 pounds in the NBA Register but has battled a weight problem since joining the team. He became a junk-food junkie after giving up cocaine and still weighs 210 after a rigorous off-season conditioning program.
“I want to lose weight so I look more like a basketball player than a football player,” Dailey said. “I was going to try out for the Washington Redskins, so it would be me and the Hogs.”
Dailey, who moved like a cheetah in college and during his early pro career, now waddles a bit when he runs up the court.
Dailey averaged 10.6 points in 49 games with the Clippers last season. He had his big moments, though. He scored a season-high 28 points in a game against the Utah Jazz, sinking a shot to send the game into overtime and then making two free throws to win it as the Clippers broke a 17-game road losing streak.
This season, his role is to provide instant offense off the bench. He scored a season-high 23 points in a 106-97 loss to the Boston Celtics last Saturday at the Sports Arena and Celtic Coach K. C. Jones said: “Quintin Dailey is a piece of work.”
He has played in all 23 games this season, averaging 11.7 points, fifth-best on the team. He’s shooting 41.6%, up from 40.7% last season. A free agent at the end of the season, he is under self-imposed pressure to produce.
“Quintin is playing very well,” Shue said. “He’s coming off the bench and scoring and that’s a unique ability. And he’s also playing good defense and hustling.”
Pro basketball has become a game of specialists and Dailey’s forte is driving the key and drawing fouls. Only one Clipper, Michael Cage, has attempted more free throws than Dailey this season.
Dailey was 13 and growing up in Baltimore when his father died of cancer. His mother died a month later, after a nervous breakdown.
“I was (angry) at God after my parents died,” Dailey said. “I couldn’t understand if there was a God why he would take my parents away from me.”
Dailey moved in with an aunt but said he basically raised himself after his parents’ deaths.
“I had no structure in my life,” he said. “I used to get my personality from movies. At the time, karate movies were big. I felt like a warrior. I made my body hard as rocks.
“I was driven by anger. Anger made me a great basketball player. Every time I’d get mad, I’d go play basketball. I worked 18 to 20 hours a day on the court. Anger drove me straight to the top.
“But I missed not having parents. In college, if the other kids had a good game they’d call home. But I had nobody to call.”
Said Angela: “I think it really does bother him during the holidays and during his parents’ birthdays. His parents died at an age when you form your life.”
Dailey said he even felt empty after realizing his dream of playing in the NBA.
“Sure, I had money, nice clothes and a Mercedes,” he said. “But I didn’t have anyone to share it with. I had a lot of material things, but they didn’t fill the void. I was lonely.”
That changed when he met Angela, 26, a former Chicago fashion model. They were married July, 20, 1985, nine months after they had met.
“I met her in a garage,” Dailey said. “I knew her cousin who parked cars there and we met through him.
“She’s a strong woman. I needed a strong woman. My mother was a strong woman. Angie has opened up a lot of feelings I have.
“She gives me someone to talk to. I can tell her how I feel.”
Angela is Quintin’s biggest fan now, but she wasn’t a basketball fan before they met. In fact, she had never heard of Quintin Dailey, wasn’t especially eager to meet him and wasn’t impressed by his status as a pro athlete after she had.
She also didn’t learn of Dailey’s background until friends told her a month into their courtship.
“A friend of mine said, ‘You’re going out with Quintin Dailey, the drug addict and rapist.’ I didn’t say anything, but I asked Quintin about it and he told me the whole story. He really opened up. I had faith in him and if that’s what he said, that’s the way it was. He hadn’t lied to me.”
Dailey had told her, though, that he didn’t have a problem with drugs. Then he entered drug rehab three months after the wedding.
“I was floored,” Angela said. “He never did drugs at home and he never did drugs around me. I didn’t have a lot of knowledge about drugs at the time and I didn’t think drugs would be a problem. I thought if you get off, you get off.”
Angela stayed with relatives here while Dailey was in rehabilitation the first time and attended family support meetings at the clinic.
She said everything seemed fine after he was released. But the nightmare wasn’t over.
She was on her way from work to watch a Bulls’ game when Dailey’s agent called on the car phone and said that Quintin wouldn’t be at the game.
“I thought something (an accident) had happened to him,” Angela said.
She caught a plane to California, and she remained here again while he underwent treatment once more.
Dailey’s struggle seems to have strengthened the bond between them.
“He’s started to tell me his feelings and has opened up more,” Angela said. “We’ve got a lot closer. I realize that he didn’t do this to hurt me. I know he really loves me and I really love him.”