Monday, September 30, 2002
Outside the Lines: The Mystery of Bison Dele and Talent and Turmoil
Here's the transcript from Show 131 of weekly Outside The Lines - The Mystery of Bison Dele and Talent and Turmoil
SUN., SEPT. 29, 2002
Host: Bob Ley Reported by: Tim Keown, ESPN The Magazine. Guests: Pat Croce, former team president, Philadelphia 76ers; LeRoy Butler, 12-year NFL veteran.
BOB LEY, HOST- September 29, 2002. Former NBA player Bison Dele and two companions are missing and presumed dead. Suspicion has centered on Dele's brother.
KEVIN PORTER, DELE'S FRIEND AND BUSINESS MANAGER- I just kept asking him, "Where the hell is Bison and Serena? Where are they?"
LEY- Today for the first time, Dele's oldest friend reveals what he discovered about the murders.
PORTER- I got a recorded message. "Hey, this is B. Leave a message." But it wasn't Bison's voice. It was his brother's voice.
LEY- Also this week, Randy Moss.
RANDY MOSS- I don't know if trouble's out to find me or whatnot, but I'm certainly not out there to find trouble.
LEY- A player of limitless talent, but at what point is that talent overwhelmed by the turmoil that comes with it?
MOSS- It doesn't affect me as being a leader of this team.
LEY- Today on Outside The Lines, how much should teams tolerate from a productive superstar, and new information in the mystery of Bison Dele's death.
When word first reached the U.S. three weeks ago that former NBA player Bison Dele and his girlfriend were missing in the South Pacific, there was, of course, concern, but no surprise about the dateline because Dele was always different. From the time he was known as Brian Williams, the only thing he seemingly had in common with the NBA life was his six-foot, eleven-inch height.
Dele's interests and his travels were unusual and exotic. Now he is presumed dead, a victim of a triple murder committed sometime around July 7th off the coast of Tahiti. Investigators this month found Dele's 55-foot catamaran partially repainted, with a new name, and with traces of blood and gunpowder residue. Just 36 hours ago, Dele's brother, Miles Dabord, the only person who might have been able to solve this mystery, died in a California hospital.
Tim Keown of "ESPN The Magazine" has been reporting on Dele's disappearance for an article that will be appearing this week. His report this morning includes new information from a friend of Dele's with firsthand knowledge who speaks for the first time.
PORTER- Bison had retired and was traveling the world, and in some respects, wanted to get away from the world, and the world comes and finds him. They find him, and they take him.
TIM KEOWN, ESPN THE MAGAZINE- Bison Dele's death marks a tragic, confusing end to an eccentric life. In the structured world of the NBA, Dele was unconventional and mysterious.
TOM TOLBERT, DELE'S TEAMMATE ON MAGIC (1992-93)- He loved the culture. He loved music. And I'm not talking about rap music and things that everybody else likes, but he was into jazz and culture. And he was just -- he was a different guy.
KEVIN O'NEILL, DELE'S ASSISTANT COACH AT ARIZONA (1988-89)- I remember one day he told me he's having a tuxedo party at his apartment. I was, like "Tux? Black tie party?" He's having black tie parties. He was having wine and cheese parties instead of the old draft beer, sloshing it down type stuff after playing.
KEOWN- During Dele's rookie year with the Orlando Magic, it became apparent that his eccentricities were accompanied by a troubled side. He admitted to a half-hearted attempt at suicide and sought treatment for depression. Kevin Porter, Dele's long-time friend and business manager, remembers those dark times.
PORTER- He's just -- just angry all the time, just frustrated and angry and confused. He admitted that -- he said, "Man, I was just young and confused."
KEOWN- Dele played for five NBA teams and won a ring during a short stint with the 1997 Chicago Bulls. Following that season, he signed with the Detroit Pistons. The next year, he changed his name from Brian Williams to Bison Dele to honor both his Cherokee heritage and the first slave on his mother's side. With five years remaining on his contract, he retired abruptly, walking away from more than $30 million.
TOLBERT- I always got the feeling with Brian, basketball was, you know, means to an end. His passion was doing what he was doing after he retired, which was traveling around the world, experiencing different cultures and just kind of soaking up life.
KEOWN- Dele became a full-time adventurer. He once lived out of a pick-up in the Australian outback. He eventually found a floating home aboard his boat. And this spring, he convinced his girlfriend, Serena Karlan, to join him, leaving her life and debt behind.
SCOTT OHLGREN, KARLAN'S STEPFATHER- And I remember Serena calling and saying, "I just got this package from Bison," and in the package was a $50,000 check with a note saying, "This is what I think of your financial troubles."
KEOWN- In early July, Dele, Karlan and boat captain Bertrand Saldo were joined by Dele's brother, who went by the name Miles Dabord. The group planned to sail from Tahiti to Honolulu, but in late July, Serena's mother, Gael Ohlgren, grew concerned when her daughter's frequent communication ceased.
OHLGREN- Gael started getting really suspicious and nervous that she hadn't heard from Serena -- no e-mails, no phone calls or anything for something like six weeks. And so in the middle of August, she started calling around. And she actually came to me and said, "I'm really scared."
KEOWN- Porter began investigating Dele's whereabouts. During the search, Dele's personal banker gave Porter some unsettling news.
PORTER- She said, "Did you write any checks?" And I said, "I wrote a check for storage a long time ago." And she said, "No, this is a pretty large check. This check is for $152,000."
KEOWN- Porter learned the check was intended to purchase gold coins from a dealer in Phoenix. After contacting the dealer, Porter obtained a phone number for the man who signed the check as Brian Williams, Dele's legal name.
PORTER- When I called the number, I got a recorded message, and on the message it said -- your typical B-Dub message, "Hey, this is B. Leave a message." But it wasn't Bison's voice. It was his brother's voice. And my heart fell out. It dropped.
OHLGREN- You know, and at that point, we all knew something was -- something really bad had happened.
KEOWN- Dabord, posing as his brother, traveled to Phoenix on September 5th, attempting to pick up the gold coins using his brother's identification.
PORTER- He signs a few receipts with Brian's name. He shows them Brian's passport for identification. And after that, the Phoenix police nab him.
KEOWN- Dabord was detained for several hours. During questioning, he admitted his true identity, but without a complaint from Dele, the Phoenix police were forced to release him. Dabord then spent an emotional night with Porter.
PORTER- The first thing out of my mouth was, "Where's Brian? Where's Bison? And where's Serena?" And he wouldn't tell me. And I'd asked him, "Are they in trouble?" And he said, "Yes, they're in trouble." And then it went from there. "What kind of trouble are they in?" He's not going to tell me. And it got to the point where I physically grabbed him and shook him and choked him, at one point, and hit him upside his head because I was so mad because he wasn't telling me anything. And I was just so flustered, and I just kept asking him, "Where the hell is Bison and Serena? Where are they?" And he kept saying, "I don't know."
While we were fighting with each other, he wanted me to first go home with him. And I said, "I'll go wherever you want me to go." And then he said, "Well, I want to go home, and then I want to go to Mexico." And I'm questioning, "Well, why do you want to go to Mexico?" I said, "Why don't you tell me everything right here and now." He says, "K, we're in a" -- Miles says, "K, we're in a state that carries the death penalty."
KEOWN- Dabord left Phoenix. Ten days later, he was found comatose on a Tijuana beach after an apparent insulin overdose. He was transported to a California hospital, where he was taken off life support Thursday and died shortly thereafter.
OHLGREN- I had a feeling he called somebody and told them the truth. I want to know. You know, if that person's out there, call us. Tell us what the guy said. What did he say? If he contacted -- if he contacted the police or anybody, if he contacted you, let me know what he said.
KEOWN- Dabord and Dele's mother, Patricia Phillips, says she received a frantic cell phone call from Dabord four days before he was discovered in Mexico. He repeatedly said, "You know I would not harm my brother" before telling her "Nobody would believe my story." Adding to the mystery, law enforcement officials have not ruled out Dele's possible involvement in the murders.
PORTER- I don't think Bison killed anyone on that boat. I think one person killed three people on that boat, and I think it may have been temporary insanity, at first, and then knowing this and knowing all the evidence and facts, premeditation afterwards.
OHLGREN- I do believe Miles just killed them. He just killed them. He killed one probably by mistake. I think he killed his brother by mistake. And then, being the kind of guy he is, he looked up and realized, "I got to kill these two people."
KEOWN- What does it mean to you, knowing now that, in all likelihood, the secrets and the story will die with Miles?
PORTER- I'm thinking maybe it won't die with Miles. I'm hoping someone knows more than we do that was actually there in Tahiti. There's only one person that's accounted for that isn't dead or presumed to be dead, and that's Miles' girlfriend. So I'm hoping that she has some information because there are some people with some heavy hearts.
LEY- And I'm joined in the studio by Tim Keown of "ESPN The Magazine."
Nice reporting, Tim. Let's talk about Erica Wiese. She is Miles Dabord's girlfriend. She went down to Tahiti in early July, encountered and saw no one else except Miles. Two months later, back here in the U.S., Miles tells her his account of what happened on the boat. What was that?
KEOWN- Well, Miles told Erica a story that the incident began with an argument between himself and his brother, Bison. It escalated to the point where Serena Karlan attempted to intervene. In this confrontation, she was thrown to the deck of the boat, hit her head and was killed instantly. After that, the captain apparently wanted to radio for help. Bison objected to that, to the point where he grabbed a wrench off the deck, killed the captain with the wrench. Now we're left with Bison and his brother on the deck of this boat with two dead bodies. Bison, according to Miles, threatened his brother with the wrench. Miles found a handgun aboard, killed his brother, threw the bodies in the sea.
LEY- That's Miles' account.
KEOWN- That is.
LEY- What was Erica Wiese's reaction when Miles related this back here in the States in September?
KEOWN- Well, when I spoke to Erica, I asked her directly, "What do you think of this story?" There was a pause on the other end, and she said, "I have a lot of questions."
LEY- Now, there was a published report that Miles told someone else that pirates might have been involved. It's important to note that Miles Dabord was never charged by federal officials, though he could have been even while he was hospitalized. What else might be out there in the way of a lead to bring closure to this?
KEOWN- Well, Bob, there's one further loose end, and that comes from Satellite phone records taken off the boat, which indicate that Miles made a phone call to a number in Australia on July 8, the day after investigators believe the murders occurred. The phone call, according to Kevin Porter, was made to a former girlfriend of Miles' in Australia. So far, that person has not been willing to cooperate.
LEY- And it appears the official law enforcement investigation is over. Tim, great reporting. Thanks a great deal. That edition of "ESPN The Magazine" is out this week.
As we continue, next up-Randy Moss and the bigger issue of a balance between talent and turmoil in a team's locker room. I'll speak with the man who was Allen Iverson's boss and a 12-year veteran of the National Football League.
RANDY MOSS- I don't know if trouble's out to find me or whatnot, but I'm certainly not out there to find trouble.
LEY- But when he finds it, Randy Moss ratchets up the question of just how much a team should put up with from a superstar. Tuesday's phone conversation between player and coach encapsulated the issue.
MOSS- I just said, "Man, I'm in trouble. Coach, I don't think I did anything wrong." I said, "You need to come and get me."
MIKE TICE, VIKINGS HEAD COACH- I spoke to him only when he asked me to come down and see if I could get him out of jail.
LEY- Moss' on-field fines are viewed through the prism of his documented personal issues -- Jailed for a high school assault, a marijuana test that cost him a Florida State scholarship, a domestic battery arrest for which charges were dropped, and this week, a traffic arrest disrupting the game preparation for a winless Vikings team.
TICE- I have 52 other players that I have to get ready to go out and try to win our first game together.
LEY- But Moss is arguably a first among equals, with skills that change game plans and defenses and lifts the level of drama on the field. Although he was fined, Moss was not suspended. He will play in tonight's nationally televised game.
And joining us to consider the question now of talent and turmoil is the former president of the Philadelphia 76ers, Pat Croce. He's in Villanova, Pennsylvania. LeRoy Butler for 12 years was a safety with the Green Bay Packers, and a darn good one. This is his first season retired as a player. He analyzes games for ESPN News and ESPN.com. He joins us from Bristol.
Good morning, gentlemen.
LEROY BUTLER, GREEN BAY PACKERS SAFETY (1990-2001)- Good morning.
PAT CROCE, PHILADELPHIA 76ERS PRESIDENT (1998-2001)- Good morning, Bob.
LEY- Well, Pat, let me begin with you. You have been the boss in this situation. What are the factors you have to take into account when you make a decision of "I've got a player that's got a problem that might be resonating in the locker room? What do I do?" What do you think about? What do you weigh?
CROCE- Bob, first of all, you have to know there are team rules, there are man's laws and then there's the commissioner in the sky's commandments. So when you break any one of them, you're going to be penalized, whether it's a fine, a suspension, the government fining you, jail. It doesn't matter. But right now, you have to consider the frequency of the infractions, the player's response -- is he remorseful? -- and the severity of the crime.
LEY- Remorse is easy, Pat, isn't it? How often is it sincere?
CROCE- Well, with -- right now, with Randy Moss, I saw that he apologized to his teammates, but he didn't apologize to the 27-year-old traffic control agent. Come on!
LEY- All right, LeRoy, when something like this goes down, when the out-of-town press pours in, people you've never seen before crowding around your locker, a guy who's had issues before, what does it do to a locker room?
BUTLER- Well, it separates it. I think if you look at my situation, I was a leader for seven years, when Reggie White retired, I thought about -- I had to live my own life a certain way, you know, for the younger guys. I think in Randy's situation, he's not scared of anything. He's been -- like you say, he's been to jail a couple of times. And you know, you take a guy like me, I'm scared of jail, so I would avoid the lady. Not only would I avoid her, I'd give her a ride to her next destination.
But these guys got to know that it's going to hurt the team. Ultimately, it's the team. I think Randy's bored. You know, for five years, he's ripped the league up. He's always did things that other receivers can't do. So I think that, you know, now he's got a little complacent. It makes him try things that other guys wouldn't try.
LEY- You mentioned Randy's not afraid of things. Are there -- do you think that's prevalent among -- LeRoy, among young athletes, that they're not afraid? What leverage does a team have with a young player?
BUTLER- It's very hard. I mean, even Pat knows, when you deal with a guy you just gave $18 million or $75 million deal, if you're a coach with no power, you know, I'm just a coach, you know, I'm not the guy who can trade him. I'm not the guy who can do any of these things. I think it puts the coach in a tough spot. But the first guy he called was a coach. So you put yourself in a tough spot.
But everybody in the league wants to be hard and thug, and they just -- not just the perception of a very violent sport, but some guy -- you know, some guys on the team feel like, "Look, I just want to make a good living for my family and be on the cover of magazines," ESPN The Magazine -- and just do some of the good things. See, no one writes about some of the good things some of the players do because stuff like Randy Moss and some of the other players do overshadows that.
LEY- But Pat, what kind of leverage do you have, as the boss, when something like this goes down? How do you get to a player? How do you reach him?
CROCE- The only way is the checkbook, and get them out of the game. It truly is...
LEY- But Moss will be fined less than $50,000. He has an $18 million bonus drawing interest.
CROCE- But make them not play. They love to play the game. Whether it's Randy Moss and football or Allen Iverson and basketball, they love playing the sport. And sometimes, as we've seen with professional athletes, all this adulation from the fans leads to a sort of arrogance and they feel they're above the law. I don't think it's right at all that he didn't apologize to her. What if that was his mother? If that was his mother as the traffic control agent, would he have done that? Would he have nudged her along half a block? Or would he have apologized after he made the mistake?
LEY- Well, where does it say, guys -- LeRoy, before he apologized even to his mom in this press conference, he apologized to Nike, to Jumpman and to Michael Jordan personally.
BUTLER- Well, Pat said it. You know, you got to go to a -- you know, you can't really go to his wallet. It isn't really -- What you should do to Randy Moss is make him block for three quarters and don't throw him the ball.
BUTLER- You see how he acts if he doesn't get the ball.
LEY- How realistic is that, LeRoy?
BUTLER- I know, but you -- either you go to do that or you got to suspend him. You got to do something to make the guy who's about two lockers down, who's the 53rd person on that team, you know, blood, sweat and tears, saying, "Well, look, they're going to treat me different if I get into trouble, so what I got to do is punish a guy." And the only way you can punish guys, you know, like, you know, top guys is not putting them on the front covers of sports magazines and, you know, talking about them. You got to almost ignore these guys, and you can't play them. If you can't play them, it doesn't work.
CROCE- Bob, if I can add to LeRoy? LeRoy is right. Many times, these players, all they want to do is play. And he said it. This is an arrogant move. He should be seated on the sideline. There will be a penalty, and what happens is the Players Association will contest it. They'll challenge it. But at least the coach and the team have made a point.
LEY- Would you play him tonight, Pat, if you were running the Vikings?
CROCE- If he apologized to that 27-year-old, yes. If not, no!
LEY- All right, LeRoy, would you expect him -- obviously, he's going to play, but before that decision was made, what do you think the decision should have been?
BUTLER- Well, I think he shouldn't get a pass till the third quarter. I think that's what -- make him block on screen plays and running plays and make him physically get out of him what you think you should get out of him. You got to go a different route than the norm, you know? You know, the guy doesn't respect anybody. You can obviously tell that. You know, you just can't fine him and just throw it under the rug. You got to do something. You know, I'd make him sit on the bench, you know? I wouldn't start him. I'd do something to say I took a stand to let anybody know if you do this kind of stuff, that's what you're going to get. And regardless of who you are, Randy Moss or anybody, that's what it is.
But the coach has to have more power to call an expansion team up and say, "Look, you can have this guy. I need help on defense. I need another running back. Let's just swap this thing out and put it on the rug." Until you give coaches like Steve Mariucci and other coaches, you know, power, that when their star player, you know, acts up, I can, you know, make that crucial call to get rid of him, these players are going to always do things like this.
LEY- Yes, but Pat, how realistic is it to think about trading away arguably the greatest receiver of this decade?
CROCE- That's not realistic at all. That's tough. When you're going to trade a great player, what, you'll get three for one? You're not going to get one for one. That's really tough. I think the key is to try and sit him down and get into that head. We know it's a fine-tuned athlete, but there's a mind there that can be manipulated in a way that maybe he's craving for some discipline. Who knows? But I wouldn't just trade him away.
LEY- LeRoy, what are the Vikings risking? Assuming they throw to him in the Randy ratio, as usual, get him six or seven out of every ten passes tonight, and maybe even the Vikings win their first game, still he plays -- what are the risks, looking down the line? What have the Vikings done here?
BUTLER- Well, I think one thing they may do is break up their locker room, as far as leadership is concerned. Whoever the top defensive leader may take his guys and say, "Look, we got to play better on defense. We don't know if we'll ever have this guy for the next, you know, 10 or 11 games." We got to take this upon ourselves and do it." But at the same time, I think it's up to Randy. I think it's up to him deep down inside for somebody to go over to this guy's house.
I've had problems with some guys, you know, in Green Bay, but what I've done and what Reggie White has done, we go over to the guy's house. We talk to his wife, his mom, sit him down and just let him know that we love him, he's a big part of this team, and say, "Look, you got to change this thing around off the field." And hopefully, you know, it turns around. And I'll tell you, 100 percent of the time, if a player feel like he's wanted and he's needed and expressed that way, he'll change.
LEY- Well, they need him and they want him. They want him to score some touchdowns. Guys, thanks a great deal. Pat Croce, LeRoy Butler, thanks.
BUTLER- See you later, Pat.
CROCE- See you, Bobby!
LEY- All right. NFL Countdown will have much more on the Randy Moss situation at 11:00 Eastern this morning. And the Vikes in that Seahawks game with Moss in the starting line-up here on ESPN tonight at 8:30 Eastern, right after NFL Primetime.
Next up -- the first woman to qualify for a men's PGA tour event. We'll have your thoughts on last week's visit with Suzy Whaley as we continue on Outside The Lines.
Last Sunday, we visited with soccer mom Suzy Whaley, who in her chosen profession of golf is the first lady. She won a PGA tour sectional tournament and qualified for next summer's Greater Hartford Open, a men's tour event. Whaley won that qualifier playing from tees that were 10 percent shorter than the men's tees, and now she must decide whether to play in next year's tournament.
From our e-mail in-box, a viewer in Clemson -- "I think it's a travesty that a woman was allowed to qualify for an official PGA tour event from shorter tees. This is not equality. She should have been required to qualify from the same tees as everyone else."
From Albany, New York state -- "I can't help but wonder what the uproar would be if a man hitting from the men's tees wanted to try and qualify for an LPGA event."
The keyword online, OTLWeekly at ESPN.com for our transcripts and streaming video. We look forward to your e-mails on the mystery of Bison Dele and the question of talent versus turmoil. And our address is firstname.lastname@example.org. And thanks for being in touch.