A shy freshman, a journeyman basketball player and a college dropout who lived in a posh apartment near the University of Maryland campus surrounded Len Bias during his last hours, shortly before the all-America forward collapsed, intoxicated with cocaine, in his dorm suite and died Thursday morning.
A passion for basketball apparently united David Gregg, Terry Long, Brian Lee Tribble and Bias. The four men came together in the early hours of Thursday morning to celebrate Bias' good fortune in being the second player chosen in the National Basketball Association draft. At 8:50 a.m. at Leland Memorial Hospital near the campus, Bias was pronounced dead of what medical examiners said yesterday was a cocaine-induced cardiac arrest.
As a grand jury begins to probe the circumstances of Bias' death, interest centers on his final hours, and who may have been with him. Long and Gregg were Bias' friends, dorm mates and teammates, and may be offered immunity in exchange for their testimony. Tribble's link to Bias is not as well defined. Police efforts to question the three have been unsuccessful.
From interviews with friends of Bias and Tribble, a picture emerges of a relationship based on an attraction to each other's talents and possessions -- each seemed to have something the other wanted.
Tribble, for example, was the proud owner of a silvery Mercedes-Benz 450SL -- the type of car Bias often told reporters he wanted to own. Bias' brilliant basketball accomplishments were out of reach for the shorter, stockier Tribble, a one-time Maryland junior varsity player whose athletic pursuits were ended, one friend said, by injuries from a motor scooter accident.
Tribble, 24, lived in a luxury apartment near campus on Cherry Hill Road, where Bias is known to have gone at about 12:45 a.m. the morning he died.
On an application to purchase the Mercedes, Tribble listed himself as president of Interior Services, Inc., of 3010 Vista Street NE, which is his parents' home. D.C. Corporate Records show no such firm registered.
Bias went with Tribble on one occasion to look at the Mercedes, which Tribble bought May 16. According to Harvey Miles, sales manager for Brown's Volvo and Subaru of Alexandria, the total cost of the Maryland-registered Mercedes was $26,124. He still owes $13,000 after being given a $10,000 trade-in allowance on a 1984 Volvo, and paying $3,000 in cash.
Tribble and Bias were seen frequently at a dancing club called Chapter III in the southwest section of the District. But Walter Scott, Bias' uncle and the family's spokesman, said, "We don't know him. I never saw him at any family gatherings, or anywhere else."
By all accounts, Bias spent at least some of his final night with Tribble, at Tribble's apartment and then back in the dorm suite Bias shared with five teammates. Three of those dorm mates say they were asleep in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Police have received statements indicating that those with Bias when he collapsed were Long, Gregg and Tribble.
Gregg is a 6-foot-9, 19-year-old freshman with a slim build, who attended Northwestern High School in Hyattsville with Bias, who helped Maryland recruit him. Gregg, baby-faced, shy and extremely quiet, was certainly influenced by Bias. "Len was a good model for a lot of kids, and I'm sure David looked up to Len," said Bob Wagner, both players' coach at Northwestern.
Bias would not seem to have had much in common with Long, whose career at Maryland was as obscure as Bias' was brilliant. But it was Long, 21, who was administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation to Bias when paramedics arrived at the suite.
A 6-8, 247-pound junior, Long is built like a football player. He was a highly regarded prep star out of Hermitage High School in Richmond, but he has rarely lived up to his reputation, or his size. He is a polite, soft-spoken sort with an easy smile, but an anxious demeanor.
The low point of Long's career probably came during his sophomore year, when he briefly considered transferring to another school, unhappy with his playing time after he fell out of Coach Lefty Driesell's good graces. During this past season, he sprained a knee in the season opener, then was declared academically ineligible for a couple of games because of an incomplete course, but finally regained his starting position.
He also has faced larger responsibilities: the birth of a daughter, Jovan, 1 1/2. She lives in Baltimore with her mother. Long sees her about once a week, and has generally kept that side of his life private.
"It was something for me to get adjusted to that," Long said during the NCAA tournament in March in one of his rare conversations on the subject. "I'm sure I'm not the only college player that's had a child. It happens. Once I realized it was natural, it was all right. Overall, I think it's the best thing that's happened to me. It's made me mature faster."
Staff writer Greg Dowling contributed to this report.