Former DePaul player, Teddy Grubbs, passes away at 62


Courtesy of DePaul University Library

Teddy Grubbs appeared in 74 games for DePaul, where he averaged 7.9 points per game.

Former DePaul men’s basketball player Theodore “Teddy” Grubbs who had a complicated history passed away on Thursday, April 25, at the age of 62. 

Grubbs, born and raised in Chicago, Illinois headlined the high school recruiting class of 1979, out of Dr. Martin Luther King College Prep High School. The former McDonald’s All-American was ranked the No. 1 player in the state of Illinois, beating out players like Terry Cummings and Isiah Thomas in 1979. 

Coming out of high school, Grubbs was considered a special talent during a time when Chicago was the epicenter for high school and collegiate basketball as it developed NBA talents like Thomas, Cummings and Mark Aguirre. 

“That kid was an unbelievably gifted player,” said Chicago sports television and radio personality David Kaplan. 

When it came to deciding where he would play his four years of college basketball, Ray Meyer’s DePaul Blue Demons was Grubb’s choice. 

Grubbs joined Cummings, Raymond McCoy and Bernard Randolph as the four incoming freshmen, following DePaul’s 1979 Final Four appearance.

After a promising freshman season, Grubbs’s DePaul career was short lived when off the court issues quickly piled on. According to Tracy Dildy, a former DePaul men’s basketball assistant coach  from 1997-2002, Grubbs was later diagnosed with schizophrenia that drifted him to homelessness in the late 1980’s. 

Standing at 6-foot-8 with a slim build and a long wingspan, Grubbs wore the number 34 at the forward position. Once he arrived at DePaul, Grubbs showed his talents quickly. 

On Dec. 15, 1979, DePaul traveled to Pauley Pavilion to play UCLA four games into the 1979-80 season. 

It proved to be Grubbs’s best performance as a DePaul player. The freshman came off the bench and scored a team-high 28 points as the 11-ranked Blue Demons upset seventh-ranked UCLA, 99-94. At the time, it had only been the Bruins eighth loss in Pauley Pavilion since it opened in 1965. 

“It was always taboo to talk about Teddy Grubbs,” said Marcus Muhammad, current Benton Harbor Mayor and former DePaul basketball player from 1993-1997. “Because on one hand, he was such a celebrated high school basketball [player], promising star and everyone always wanted to know what happened.”

Grubbs’s career never reached a higher peak, averaging seven points per game over the next two seasons before facing legal issues after his time as a Blue Demons player. 

Grubbs at age 20 was convicted of lewd fondling and simple battery on a woman on a CTA train in October 1983 and was then placed on probation for a year. 

Then, in June of 1986, Grubbs was charged with public indecency, placing him on conditional charge for a year. 

Around July 1987, Grubbs was held on a $20,000 bond for a charge of attempted rape. He was charged with exposing himself and attacking a 30-year-old woman who collected the rent where Grubbs stayed. 

Head coach Doug Bruno, who at the time was an assistant for Loyola men’s basketball, said it was unfortunate that basketball could not save Grubbs like it did to others in Chicago. 

Dildy grew a relationship with Grubbs during during his tenure at DePaul. 

Grubbs would frequently visit Dildy in his office and the men’s basketball team would gift Grubbs clothing, food and even money at times to try and help him stay off the streets. 

Dildy, who attended Dr. Martin Luther King College Prep High School like Grubbs but not at the same time, grew up watching him play in summer league games and during his time in high school. 

“I have no doubt that would have saved Teddy,” Dildy said. “There is so much help for people that struggle with mental health now a days, had we had any of those things in place in the 70’s and 80’s, that would have helped people and Teddy tremendously.” 

Dildy for some time while living in Skokie, gave Grubbs a living space in Evanston and every weekend would bring him to hang out with his family. 

“Teddy was quiet and a nice person,” Dildy said. “He loved to laugh and was an honor student. Had he not had any of the mental issues he really could of been better than Mark Aguirre. Teddy was every bit of 6-foot-8.” 

In Grubbs’ playing days, before ESPN, it was WGN that dominated television screens during DePaul’s peak. 

What head coach Ray Meyer built at DePaul allowed local players to stay in Chicago, but also attracted attention everywhere, knowing that if you were in Phoenix or New Jersey, WGN would televise DePaul basketball. 

In the class of 1979 that featured Sam Bowie, Clark Kellogg, Byron Scott, Dominique Wilkins, James Worthy, Isiah Thomas and John Paxson, Grubbs also headlined that group. 

The class is considered widely by experts and players themselves as one of the best high school classes of all-time. 

“He was one of many promising superstars coming out of high school in Chicago that everybody expected to excel in college and beyond to the NBA,” said D Fredrick Mitchell, DePaul professor and former columnist at the Chicago Tribune. 

Muhammad recalls a story that James Mitchell, the director for athletics at the time, told him about Grubbs and an interaction he had with Meyer. 

“Coach Ray used to meet with the starters before every game at the hotel, and during one of those meetings there was a knock on the door,” Muhammad said. “They were surprised because nobody interrupted the coaches meetings. It was Teddy Grubbs. Teddy came in and said after today, one of you is not going to be starting,”addressing the players in the room. 

Grubbs might not have not lived up to expectations for some and left others wondering what happened, but he will always be remembered for his superstar talent coming out of high school, his ambition and for being a DePaul Blue Demon, from Chicago.