It took a toothache to get Mike Quade to go back.

A toothache that got so bad he finally gave in despite his loathing of the dentist chair and called the only dentist he trusted then got on a plane in Florida to keep the hastily arranged appointment.

“That was my first trip back to Chicago” he said. “It was like the way the [2011] season finished. I’m going in for a root canal.”

Quade laughs when he tells the story. But the truth lingers in the air as he talks about the ends of the emotional spectrum he experienced as the last Cubs manager expected to win — and the two-year drilling Cubs fans have taken since Quade was fired by the incoming regime.

He says he doesn’t dwell on the way things ended nor the chain of events that his doomed-from-the-start ’11 season set in motion beginning with the firing of general manager Jim Hendry that summer and the organizational sea change that has had the big-league baseball at Clark and Addison underwater ever since.

In fact he spent Friday’s anniversary of his managerial debut — a victory in Washington that launched a successful 37-game audition — fishing for snapper near a favorite spot in the Florida gulf waters near his home in Bradenton.

“Just trying to make the most of my downtime” says Quade who hopes to return to baseball by next season after two seasons moving past a parting he was “not thrilled” about.

For now he might represent one of the biggest what-if scenarios in the two-year sequence that brought the Cubs to the most massive organizational overhaul in franchise history under Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.

What if two starting pitchers had not gone down with long-term injuries the first time through the rotation that season? What if Quade had been better able to navigate the veteran clubhouse through the early adversity and had the kind of 2011 season that his 24-13 finish to 2010 suggested?

Or this: What if Ryne Sandberg had gotten the job instead of Quade?

In reality the handwriting was on the wall for regime change before Quade took over.

“Deep down you can be upset and wish things had gone differently” said Quade who was fired with a year left on his contract after a 71-91 season “but when you sign on in this game you know what you’re signing up for. . . . 

“You don’t make excuses. You don’t blame other people.”