expectations for Dawkins impossibly high? Mike Schuler, who worked as an
assistant under Larry Brown in New Jersey and who now coaches the Portland
Trail Blazers, thinks so. "Sometimes we coaches are our own worst enemies.
We see every single wart and are so critical of our own players," he says.
"Few players will ever live up to our expectations. We just expect too
That has not
stopped coaches on other teams from being intrigued at the thought of coaching
Dawkins at some point in his career. Nelson says there was a period of four or
five years when probably every NBA coach "felt he could be the guy to
really reach him, the guy who could tap into his potential and make him a
perennial All-Star. But those expectations are gone now."
Not quite, but
they are fainter. Pistons coach Chuck Daly believes Dawkins may play again—not
necessarily with Detroit. A few other coaches say they have not written off the
possibility of obtaining Dawkins—if he is in shape, if he wants to play, if his
head is on straight. If, if, if, if.
Go back to last
November: Dawkins weighs close to 300 pounds but is telling anyone who will
listen that this season he is going to be like "Agent 0014—twice as bad as
He has not played
much for almost two years. In that time he has had back surgery twice and his
wife of one year has committed suicide. His father has been diagnosed as having
stomach cancer. There are rumors of financial trouble. He rarely answers his
phone or his doorbell. There are no more names for his dunks, because there
have been no more dunks. He was traded twice within two months, first on Oct. 8
to Utah and then on Thanksgiving Day from Utah to Detroit, where after only two
games he was placed at his own request on the suspended list because of his
He wishes he
could stop en route to Lovetron, his imaginary planet, and sort out all of
these puzzling and upsetting developments. He has not heard the word potential
for almost two years.
Dawkins and I are
sitting in a Mexican restaurant in the North Jersey suburbs. He is eating a
tortilla after having unscrewed the top of the pepper shaker and poured half
its contents onto his food. I laugh when I see him do it because it reminds me
of the first time I ate with him after becoming the coach of the Nets. He had
produced his own bottle of Tabasco sauce that day to add a little spice to the
He says the
events of the past three seasons—the operations, the death of his wife, the
trades—are finally fading from his thoughts. He has started to work out. He
wants to play again. "If not here, maybe in Europe." He's not concerned
about finding a new team. "Someone always needs a big body," he
Would he change
anything if he could do it all over again? Dawkins doesn't even pause to
reflect on the question. He has answered it to himself many times.
"No," he says, shaking his head. "I wouldn't change a damn thing. I
always liked being Darryl Dawkins."
I'm tempted to
say that this is tragic. I think of the words of the philosopher Santayana, who
once said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat