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Thread: CBA and USBL

  1. #176
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    Will bring forth a trio of teams from the Eastern Basketball Association, a forerunner to the CBA, thanks to Fun While It Lasted in this post.

    Very much forgotten mid-1970s team Hartford Downtowners that replaced the more successful Hartford Capitols (1966-1974) and lasted only one season playing home games at Bulkeley High School before quietly disbanding:
    http://www.funwhileitlasted.net/2016...d-downtowners/

    Founded by former Philadelphia 76ERS exec Rich Iannarella, the Cherry Hill Rookies played for two season starting in 1973 in the New Jersey suburb in the New York City metro area, and Iannarella later came to deeply regret it even with briefly having for three games the talented but scary John Brisker, banished from Bill Russell's Seattle Supersonics. Iannerella later fled to another failed sports business venture in the WFL's Philadelphia Bell:
    http://www.funwhileitlasted.net/2016...-hill-rookies/

    Very little info on the Scranton Apollos/Miners:
    http://www.funwhileitlasted.net/2016...anton-apollos/
    Jusqui'ici tout va bien...

  2. #177
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    No logo that I can recall from the past other than the cursive writing. But the CBA's Mississippi Jets continued the vagabond world-class ineptitude coming from it despised owner Ted Stepien, dating back from its roots up in Toronto in the mid-1980s. The two years in Biloxi, Mississippi were particularly screwy, never truly settling in less than a month into Jacksonville entering the new year of 1987 at the Gulf Coast. Biloxi got a team of talented drug casualties including Billy Goodwin, Bobby Parks, and Mitchell Wiggins (Andrew's dad). If that wasn't enough, Stepien accused coach Keith Fowler of tanking for playoff purposes rather than arena scheduling conflicts. In any case, the Mississippi Jets were a flop at the gate with Stepien finally giving up by selling, and the act continued on to Wichita Falls, Texas in 1989:
    http://www.funwhileitlasted.net/2016...sissippi-jets/

    Fun While It Lasted just got some newer CBA entries for the Rockford Lightning, Rapid City Thriller, Pensacola Tornados, Rochester Flyers, and the Charleston Gunners. No texts to mention about as of this writing. If there will be, I'll link them for you.
    Jusqui'ici tout va bien...

  3. #178
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    The Lethbridge, Alberta-based Alberta Dusters don't get a lot of credit for being at the time the only Canadian pro basketball team despite some serious efforts from Vancouver and Toronto into the NBA. Lethbridge was actually thought of back in 1980 for a proposed Canadian basketball league that never got off the ground. Equally important was the fact the Dusters, the Hawaii Volcanos, and the Anchorage Northern Knights altered the EBA/CBA forever in making it branch out of the eastern US parts and go (inter)national. Alas, the Alberta Dusters never caught on when hockey still dominated the Canadian sports landscape never making a mark in finishing last and moved to Las Vegas in 1982 after a short 2-year stint in southern Alberta. Couldn't even compete with the Lethbridge Pronghorns:
    http://www.funwhileitlasted.net/2016...berta-dusters/

    Another short-lived 1980s CBA team here. When the Wisconsin Flyers were nicely looked after by the late original owner Killian Spanbauer in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, they were a success in an owner with CBA ownership experience. But he tragically died as they went to Rochester during the first season there. His CBA expertise just couldn't be replaced. As did the CBA contacts. Rochester, under owners the Gillette family with ties to the local Pepsi bottling plant there (along with others in the Norm Sr.'s Catbirds' home of La Crosse, Mankato, Minnesota and Decorah, Iowa all in the Upper Midwest), posted a losing experience in two seasons following the younger Norm Gillette's stewardship. Norm Jr. cut his losses after losing $320,000 in those two seasons (1987-1989) at the Mayo Center and shipped them to Omaha to become the Omaha Racers. Final Rochester season was 16-38. Not much that it mattered as the Minneapolis-based Minnesota Timberwolves brought the state back into the NBA after 35 years later in 1989 for basretball fans. Rochester tasted minor pro basketball more recently with the Fire in the ABA in the last decade but it was nothing:
    http://www.funwhileitlasted.net/2016...hester-flyers/

    Charleston Gunners from West Virginia? Another bust of a CBA franchise from that 1980s era. Were worse than the Sarasota/Florida Stingers after the move to the mid-Atlantic in 1986. Known for lots of losing in their three seasons there. Never had a winning record and thus never made the playoffs. Held a CBA-record of 17 consecutive losses in 1987-1988 as the Albany Patroons became one of the greatest pro teams in terms of winning percentages that season on the other side of the spectrum. Also moved in 1989 and became the Columbus Horizon:
    http://www.funwhileitlasted.net/2016...eston-gunners/
    Jusqui'ici tout va bien...

  4. #179
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    In an attempt to rekindle memories in the late 1960s-mid 1970s of the ABA Carolina Cougars that played regional home games across North Carolina like in the state capitol Raleigh, the low-level USBL granted a franchise to Raleigh that played in the very same arena the Cougars did while there (the Dorton Arena) that lasted three years. Even with having North Carolina St. 1983 hero the late Lorenzo Charles from that alley-oop buzzer-beating title-winning dunk and fellow former N.C. State star and Harlem Globetrotter Clyde ?The Glide? Austin as founder, things soured and wasn't right come the third season with the typical bush league minor league pro basketball situations and practices before the USBL Commissioner Daniel Meisenheimer killed the club on June 7th, 1999 shut it down two regular season weeks to go. But only much worse--with criminal scheming:
    http://www.funwhileitlasted.net/2017...leigh-cougars/
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  5. #180
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    https://www.si.com/nba/2018/02/20/da...cuban-response

    As a guy, this extensive and disturbing SI online piece really makes me angry at Teredema Ussery, a former CBA commissioner, over the rampant and disgusting frat boy mindset and misogyny as its chief as Dallas Mavericks President at its headquarters. Yes, this is about during his 13-year time there. But I shudder to think what happened when he was the CBA commissioner from 1991-1993 and his alleged behavior with women back then at that post, particularly when the Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas hearings in Washington were fresh in Americans' minds, with the hindsight in this current era of #MeToo. Under him as the first black person to run a professional sports league, CBA franchises' values grew and lived through some much-needed stability. Surely he got away with some things IMO back then abusing his power with little accountability. Didn't just start in Dallas. Bear in mind we're discussing a man who developed strong ties with Nike and was at one point highly-touted to be future NBA commissioner material after David Stern with his high education at several unis. Glad he eventually didn't get it. Doubt seriously now he would be as progressive like Silver.

    Back to the now-defunct CBA franchises thanks to Fun While It Lasted. Following a run in Rochester, Minnesota as the Rochester Flyers (originated as the Wisconsin Flyers , this franchise relocated to Omaha in 1989 and enjoyed a near decade-long run as the Omaha Racers that was in contention for the CBA title in the 1990s, winning in 1993 over the Grand Rapids Hoops and losing that CBA championship crown the next year to the Quad Cities Thunder. Its greatest claim to fame is Tim Legler, a 1988 La Salle grad who eventually managed to stick in the NBA as a great shooter and nearly won the Sixth Man of the Year Award after playing "intermittedly with the CBA, Europe, and NBA" for the first five years. Now he's ESPN's longtime NBA analyst. From 1989-1997, Steve & Sheri Idelman reported to have lost $4.5 million with the Racers before shutting its doors. Its home, the Ak-Sar-Ben Coliseum (Nebraska spelled backwards) was torn down in 2014. But I got a sneaky feeling Omaha will return one day to minor league pro basketball with the North American Premier Basketball next season or the following one at the Ralston Coliseum and can cultivate a Missouri River rivalry with the Kansas City Tornados, since both are closely alligned sports-wise. Though no official announcement or plans emerged as of this writing:
    http://funwhileitlasted.net/tag/omaha-racers/

    Bizarre existence for the Tampa Bay/Rapid City Thrillers, even for minor league basketball standards. Model on the court with some very good talent but a circus mess off it. Yanking them out of the Tampa-St. Petersburg area after the 1987 regular season, poised for a threepeat under Bill Musselman and placing them in Rapid City, South Dakota at the Upper Plains area for the postseason, one that they tore through to CBA victory. Because Musselman's new boss wasn't as enamored with St. Pete at the Bayfront Center. Stayed successful but never again won another title during the 8-year run before returning to Florida as the Florida Beach Dogs in 1995. The Beach Dogs though weren't as successful. The Thrillers, who would at one point sport Detroit Pistons-like jerseys, had Bill Musselman, his son Eric, and Flip Saunders as head coaches and Keith Smart, the late Lorenzo Charles, (two iconic NCAA championship-clinching shooters), Darren Quenan, Jarvis Basnight, and Carey Scurry:
    http://funwhileitlasted.net/tag/rapid-city-thrillers/
    Jusqui'ici tout va bien...

  6. #181
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    Almost 30 years ago, the unloved and consistently woeful Charleston Gunners moved out of West Virginia to start fresh smack dab in the middle of Ohio at its state capital city of Columbus and become the Columbus Horizon (sounds like a soccer team either indoor and outdoor). And its owner was an insurance man named Eli Jacobson. He endured a not very good experience regarding the Pensecola Tornados (and the CBA in general) after they arrived from Toronto and took ownership from Ted Stepien. Turns out both, though together it was a long-term association of 5 seasons during the 1980s-mid 1990s, were consistently hard luck entities being "gluttons for punishment". Together it was a train wreck. Consistently terrible--only two postseason appearances in his 10 years of CBA ownership with 5 last-place finishes. Things were looking up in the first season with Ohio St. star and all-time Ohio high school scorer Jay Burson (a Columbus native), a 1989 Houston Rockets preseason cut that could have something to do with his still-recovering senior year injury. Did well.

    But the Columbus Horizon, even though they finished last at 18-38 in the first season at the 5700-seat Fairgrounds Coliseum with a 2611 average attendance in the first of 4 last-place finishes, started to lose attendance and continued to miss the CBA playoffs. A move to the downtown Battelle Hall, a known graveyard for several local 1990s pro sports teams that would soon befell the Horizon, definitely didn't work. Soon Cazzie Russell found himself in the same capacity being installed as head coach for a dying franchise from 1992-1994 like when he was with the Wyoming Wildcatters in 1988. By March 1994, the late Jacobson lost $2.5 million in his 5-year stretch in Columbus and the team turned to smaller medium-sized cities (like Asheville, North Carolina; Bismarck, North Dakota; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Kenner, Louisiana; Springfield, Illinois and Worcester, Massachusetts). Many of them had or will eventually taste minor league pro basketball at some point before and since the Horizon courted them. Jacobson selected Kenner, Louisiana, a New Orleans suburb, with its 5,000-seat Ponchatrian Center for its new home after the Columbus experiment blew up. But former Houston mayor Fred Hofheinz (son of Roy?) later on May 23, 1994 threw a monkey wrench in that plan by announcing his attempt with a group of prospective owners in bringing the Minnesota Timberwolves to New Orleans, a plan the NBA owners universally voted down. Anyway, Jacobson was forced to scramble to find a new home for the Horizon and chose Shreveport, and the Columbus Horizon became the Shreveport Crawdads in 1994-95 and then the Storm in 1995-96 before eventually folding--both editions were eventually awful as any Eli Jacobson-owned CBA franchise were:
    http://funwhileitlasted.net/2018/09/...umbus-horizon/
    Jusqui'ici tout va bien...

  7. #182
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    A documentary called The Minor League Mecca about the Albany Patroons' CBA glory days back in the 1980s, when they owned minor league basketball back then, had its world premiere at The Palace with a companion book a few weeks ago. Not surprisingly, many of the notable names from that time were back in town on hand to celebrate and reminisce those old times packing the Armory with old friends like George Karl, The Basketball League executive Dave Magley, Albany's current head coach/GM Derrick Rowland, Penny Elliot, Tony Campbell, Ralph McPherson, Lowes Moore, Patroons announcer on WMHT Channel 17 John Graney, and Frankie J. Sanders. Phil Jax, who cut his coaching eye teeth in Albany back then, wasn't in attendance. Neither was Mario Elie. Karl was the special guest of honor at the premiere at the Capital Region. Mike Tyson used to catch Patroons home games at the Armory when both were doing their thing in the 1980s:
    https://downtownalbany.org/events/mi...mecca-premiere
    https://dailygazette.com/article/201...lbany-patroons
    https://dailygazette.com/article/201...ons-golden-era
    https://wnyt.com/news/the-minor-leag...miere/5072394/
    https://www.timesunion.com/sports/ar...m-13246222.php
    http://www.albanystudentpress.net/al...-league-mecca/
    https://twitter.com/patroonsmovie?lang=en
    https://theminorleaguemecca.com/
    http://www.digitaljournal.com/pr/3947389
    http://www.wamc.org/post/nba-coach-g...s-doc-premiere
    http://1045theteam.com/george-karl-i...ack-to-albany/
    Jusqui'ici tout va bien...

  8. #183
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    Hoping we would get into the Montana Golden Nuggets in the CBA clad in gold, brown, black, and white. And its most notable living legacy lies in George Karl, Montana's only head coach in all of its three seasons of existence in Great Falls and got his coaching start there from 1980-1983 fresh from being an ex-San Antonio Spurs guard. The next year after the Golden Nuggets folded in 1983, Karl was succeeded Tom Nissalke as Cleveland Cavaliers head coach in 1984 as among the youngest head coaches entering and got the Cavs into that season's playoffs, starting a very successful NBA head coaching career. Unlike a lot of CBA teams mentioned here in this thread, the Golden Nuggets were a very successful franchise on court with Karl leading them to the 1981 and 1983 CBA championship series and was named the league’s Coach of the Year in both of those seasons. Montana got swept in four games by the Rochester Zeniths in 1981 and later lost 4-3 in a best-of-seven series to the Detroit Spirits in 1983. Had some stellar CBA players with three of them earning CBA Player of the Year award in all three seasons with guard Willie Smith (1981), forward Ronnie Valentine (1982), and guard Ronnie Smith. Jawaan Oldham later enjoyed an NBA stint for several seasons afterward, notably with Chicago and Sacramento. Montana was a returning stop back to his home state for John Stroeder in his journeyman pro career after playing there in college. Terry Stotts, now the Portland Trail Blazers head coach, Ulysses "US" Reed (he of the 1981 halfcourt buzzer beater for Arkansas that stopped Louisville's title defense at the NCAA Tournament), Walter Jordan, future Kansas City Kings reserve player Ken Dennard, John Douglas, Phil Taylor, Willie Smith, Calvin Garrett, Korky Nelson, James Woods, Don Newman, and Geoff Crompton all played a part in that success In Karl's 1997 memoir, he practically did everything as far as player personnel like driving the team to games along a van and frequently had his Golden Nuggets players at his home largely just to watch cable TV.

    Montana entered the CBA at a time in the early 1980s as the league expanded its national footprint, particularly westward, with the Anchorage Northern Knights, Billings/Hawaii Volcanos, Atlantic City Hi-Rollers, Maine Lumberjacks, Ohio Mixers, and the Alberta Dusters all coming into existence during this era. Speaking of Billings, Montana enjoyed a in-state rivalry with the Volcanos in some very competitive games from their 1980 inceptions before both sadly folded in 1983. Montana as a state later enjoyed minor league pro basketball afterwards with the IBA's Billings RimRockers for three years from 1998-2001. The CBA in its weakening/needing money final days returned to the state with the short-lived Great Falls Explorers, the city's first pro basketball team in the city since the Golden Nuggets, and the Butte Daredevils in the mid-2000s:
    https://funwhileitlasted.net/2018/11...olden-nuggets/

    Wikipedia's Wisconsin Flyers entry presents a very detailed history about it as opposed to what Fun While It Lasted did, at least with its brief future home Rochester. Sporting goods store magnate Spanbauer envisioned the Flyers (wasn't known yet) back in 1981 to be a part of minor league pro basketball "podding" as we would now call it of 6-8 Wisconsin teams and beyond onto the Midwestern Great Lakes in the CBA--and boost its Midwest ranks. Being based in Oshkosh, the navy and blue Wisconsin Flyers tapped into that region's rich basketball history. Things never really got on track overall for them starting when Dave Wohl accepted a New Jersey Nets assistant position before the first season began in 1982 and endured constant coaching changes using CBA coaching retreads such as former Anchorage coach Bill Klucas and Ohio Mixers' John Nillen like the falling out saga between Flyers coach Gene "Torchy" Clark and Spanbauer rumoured over certain player signings and the desire for an assistant (latter proved in the local Fox Valley media). Later came personnel, both executive and player, and an increasing lack of money at the end of its time in Oshkosh. Certainly affected its overall on-court performance after the first season:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wisconsin_Flyers
    Jusqui'ici tout va bien...

  9. #184
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    Anchorage Northern Knights arrived in 1978, the Continental Basketball Association was still the EBA and obviously the westermost and northernmost of the franchises, far away from Pennsylvania for two seasons. That prompted a name change to better reflect the league's upcoming ambitious but slow-mo geographic expansion in 1978. Anchorage's addition was a shock. But it at least needed a team in the same time zones. Enter the Hawaii Volcanos from Honolulu in 1979 that oddly wound up in the same Northern Division with Anchorage, Maine Lumberjacks (Bangor, Maine), and the Rochester Zeniths for 1979-1980. Played the 1979-80 season at several venues, including the Neal Blaisdell Center in Honolulu, the Conroy Bowl at Schofield Barracks, the gymnasium at Kaimuki High School, and two games at the Hilo Civic Auditorium. But Hawaii was a mess from the start with original head coach and general manager--and former University of Hawaii head coach--Bruce O’Neil, a friend to Wilt Chamberlain. Then there was this whole debacle of whether the then-42 year old NBA legend would come out of retirement to play ocassional games like its November 19 home opener with a minority ownership share, as it was announced. Took a fatal cred hit when Wilt never came to Hawaii days after the Cleveland Cavs offered him a 2-year contract days earlier, an offer he never accepted.

    But it wasn't just Wilt not arriving and the Hawaii Volcanos forced to announce that. Further woes after Chamberlain arrive on its doorstep like a United Public Workers strike sidelining the union crew at the Neal Blaisdell Center nearly ruining the Volcanos’ home opener, fans in Honolulu and Hilo typically and disappointingly numbering less than a thousand per game, Bruce O’Neil departing a month into the 1979-1980 season, traveling to see teams at least 5000 miles away, and two of the Volcanos original three owners pulling out early, leaving the team’s out-of-state backer, Jim West of Nome, Alaska, alone and bankrolling everything to stay afloat. Yet through it all, despite the Hawaii Volcanos finishing in last place in the CBA’s Northern Division with a 20-25 record with former Wichita St. star Bobby Wilson leading with averaging 28.5 points that season, that was a stronger mark than all but one of the league’s Southern Division teams and not only earned a trip to the playoffs. Hawaii got a bye to the semi-finals, where the Volcanos played the entire five games series in Anchorage, the closest CBA city from Honolulu at 2700 miles, with the Northern Knights to save on the immense travel expenses between the two states and lost in the fifth and deciding game after winning two of the first three games, a situation that's actually quite commonplace with minor league pro basketball than people think. Jim West then had enough of the Aloha State with the mounting costs after that and moved them to Billings, Montana in July 1980, developed a great rivalry with the George Karl-led Montana Golden Nuggets for three more season until folding up shop in the summer of 1983. Wonder had there was a team travel pod system in the CBA to reduce costs with a cluster of teams to play with in its region:
    https://funwhileitlasted.net/2018/12...os-basketball/

    The Long Island Ducks lasted just one season in the EBA in 1977-78 before the name change to the CBA. Team owner Al Baron previously owned the Long Island Ducks of the Eastern Hockey League (1959-1973) and re-purposed the name and its red, black, and white colo(u)rs for basketball at the old Long Island Arena. When it was the EBA, the Ducks just played weekends-only with players and even head coach Frank Mulzoff, a Long Island basketball fixture and ex-St. John's coach (1970-73), earning only $50 a game. Finished their only season 15-15, which was good for 2nd place in the EBA’s Eastern Division but eventually eliminated by the Lancaster Red Roses in the first round of the playoffs in April 1978. Quietly faded away after that:
    https://funwhileitlasted.net/2018/12...ks-basketball/
    Last edited by Durbansandshark; 16-12-2018 at 04:14 AM.
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  10. #185
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    The Muskegon-based Michigan Mayhem. Another "ramshackled" CBA minor league pro basketball franchise that spent two seasons(200-2006) before quietly folding with the CBA withering away when the NBA turned to creating what's now the in-house G-League. Two Mayhem players of note: 7-year vet Sam Mack who left during the first season after signing and former Dallas Mavericks Sixth Man of the Year star the late Roy Tarpley, who also played in Greece, Russia, Cyprus and China after being a Big 10 Player of the Year in 1985 at the University of Michigan. Broke his hand after playing 10 games and never played a game of pro basketball ever again. Tarpley, a player of tremendous potential but suffered from serious drug problems over his career like cocaine and alcohol that earned him two lifetime NBA bans, sadly died from liver failure in January 9, 2015:
    https://funwhileitlasted.net/2019/02...chigan-mayhem/
    Jusqui'ici tout va bien...

  11. #186
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    When the CBA's Wichita Falls Texans got bought and sold in 1994 to radio station and marathon magnate Chris Devine and moved to Chicago as the Chicago Rockers, it was hoped the Rockers, the first Chicago minor pro basketball team since the WBL's Express, would provide an affordable family pro basketball entertainment alternative in the Chicagoland region to the Michael Jordan-era Chicago Bulls at the prime of their dominance. Bulls tickets at the Chicago United Center were like gold at the time. With such a strong local basketball culture in Chicago and large population, it made some sense with the context at the time for Chicago to support the Rockers. Also, Devine owned a hard rock radio station there in WWBZ (the Blaze) that he since sold for $32 million shortly before owning the Texans but later suffered the wrath of multiple lawsuits involving his marathons. Lasted for two seasons losing $700-800,000 in its first season playing at the UIC Pavilion and went from John Treloar, there from Wichita Falls, in the first season to former Chicago Bulls center Dave Corzine in the second season as coaches. In its two season in the Windy City, Treloar was more successful at 28-28 and took them to the 1995 playoffs semifinals before getting swept 3-0 by the Pittsburgh Piranhas. Corzine wasn't as fortunate with a 26-30 record in the 1995-96 and missed the playoffs.

    An unfortunate thing happened to the Rockers beyond its control that didn't helped matters from carving its minor league niche: the IHL's Chicago Wolves (now in the AHL) also arrived in the same year as the Rockers and played in the suburban Rosemont Horizon and took advantage with the NHL lockout averaging 11,000 fans a game there. By contrast, the Rockers reportedly averaging 3766 in its first season. This would be with despite having Chicago native Mr. T and Hulk Hogan in a celebrity halftime free throw contest for its inaugural home game on November 26, 1994. Then again, perhaps Chicago basketball fans got so spoiled with the Bulls' dynasty and greeted the Rockers with making them inferior product. In their playoff game with Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Piranhas head coach Don Zierden said there were no more than 50 people in the stands "and 15 of them were my friends". The Chicago Rockers would announce before the conclusion of the 1995-96 season they would move to LaCrosse, Wisconsin for next season and become the LaCrosse Bobcats. LaCrosse earlier held the popular LaCrosse Catbirds for 8 seasons following its move from its original home Louisville. There, the Bobcats would stay there for 5 additional seasons before going kaput in 2001:
    https://funwhileitlasted.net/2019/03...rs-basketball/
    Jusqui'ici tout va bien...

  12. #187
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    Just got done writing on the NBA Expansion thread about a proposed Baltimore Bullets return. Time now to look back at how the financially messed up Baltimore Metros in the CBA, despite being first place at 12-10 in its 1978-79 season, and got bought by New York cable TV entrepreneur Tom Ficara purchased the team, moved it in midseason to Utica and renamed it the Mohawk Valley Thunderbirds. Many Metros declined the uprooting and thus declined to move to Utica or were dealt away. So Ficara installed ABA Indiana Pacers legends Freddie Lewis and Bob Netolicky, fresh from their ill-fated Indiana Wizards stint, as head coach in the first person.

    But neither could generate the magic there either. And the T-Hawks proved even more short-lived than the Wizards, completing and lasting the remaining 9 games when they moved from Baltimore in January 1979. Ficara quickly got adversarial with CBA Commissioner Jim Drucker and was slapped with a $500 fine over arguing with game officials in a game in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Later in March, Drucker had enough of the Thunderhawks and terminated them midseason due to mounting unpaid bills and debts. There have been numerous examples of extremely short-lived pro teams, even ones that change identities mid-season like the Denver Spurs becoming the Ottawa Civics in the WHA back in 1976. But the Baltimore Metros becoming the Mohawk Valley Thunderbirds definitely is right up there!
    https://funwhileitlasted.net/2019/08...-thunderbirds/
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  13. #188
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    Baltimore, Maryland has a strong local basketball culture mostly starting with the Baltimore Bullets, both NBA incarnations in the league's history with the longer and more famous one actually starting out in Chicago for two season before moving there and then later over to DC and Maryland's western part in 1973. And the city produces some incredible basketball talent like the Dunbar High Five, Melo, and Aquille Carr. Since then, Baltimore has endured some pro basketball franchises in various leagues, mostly lower-tiered and minor, like the ABA (Baltimore Claws/Hustlers that never got a chance to play a regular season game after moving from Memphis), the IBL (Baltimore BayRunners), and that OTHER ABA (Baltimore Bay Lions now the Baltimore Pearls) but never back up to the NBA levels since the Bullets move. And likely can't happen because of territorial issues from the Washington Wizards, who like to view themselves as THE NBA team for the DMV Region with no other NBA team from Baltimore interfering with that.

    But no Baltimore-based pro basketball franchise was never as unloved ever in its history upon its arrival like the Baltimore Lightning. The city already tasted CBA action with the Baltimore Metros in 1979, but the Metros in the CBA didn't even last a full season there before pulling up stakes upwards to Utica, New York in the Mohawk Valley to finish the last 9 games as mentioned on the last post here. With this one and more successful franchise coming in and already having experienced CBA action, maybe sports fans would embrace things better the second time around, right? No. Lasted one season in that city. This team entered the city with a long history in Pennsylvania dating back to 1975 when it formed as the Lancaster Red Roses of the Eastern Basketball Association. The Red Roses lasted until 1980, became the Philadelphia Kings (1980-81) for a single season, then moved back to Lancaster as the Lancaster Lightning (1981-1985) with some longevity and success after that. Team owner Dr. Seymour Kilstein, a urologist from Lancaster, purchased the Red Roses with three partners for $8,000 in 1977 and hung with the team through various changes over the years and by 1985 was the longest tenured owner in the CBA. But his winter as an absentee owner in Baltimore would mark his last year of involvement with the league. When it started playing there, the Lightning operated on a modest $250,000 annual budget in 1985-86, which included a $63,000 salary cap. Typical CBA players at the time earned salary of $400 to $500 per week. Former UCLA standout and 3x NCAA champion Henry Bibby, backed with an additional 10-year NBA playing career with a 1973 New York Knicks NBA championship ring, served as head coach with a few former 1980s-era NBA first rounders in Brooke Steppe (last seen at the time with the Detroit Pistons), consistent scorer Adrian Branch, and Don Collins as solid talent. With all that, the Baltimore Lightning was just that, solid at 26-22 in 1986 and perhaps earn some new fans. But the situation off-court in Baltimore was very tough: attendance at the Towson Center at Towson St. University was below 1000 fans for home games. Rumors persisted about the Lightning folding or moving because it couldn't make inroads into the local community, culminating with the Baltimore Sun reporting its low attendance and on the being verge of ceasing operations. The Lightning's final Towson Center home game on March 16, 1986 against the Tampa Bay Thrillers drew an announced crowd of just 117 fans. Was so bad Kilstein moved the 1986 playoff home games to a Boys and Girls Club in remote Pittsfield, Massachusetts--not exactly in the Mid-Atlantic region--and simultaneously announced that the Lightning would not return to Baltimore for a second season with hopes of building a fan base. The Bay State Bombadiers mercifully ended that one-year Baltimore Lightning tenure by winning the CBA quarterfinals series in March 1986. Team moved on over to Rockford, Illinois and became the Rockford Lightning under ownership and remained there from 1986-2006, a really nice run for a minor league pro basketball franchise by any stretch there. Baltimore wasn't even a generation removed back in the mid-1980s from the Bullets' move and the Claws' phantom demise to start embracing pro basketball effectively again:
    https://funwhileitlasted.net/2019/09...ore-lightning/
    Jusqui'ici tout va bien...

  14. #189
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    America's Upper Midwest Great Plains exists as generally an underrated region for minor league pro basketball in the minds of many followers of that level of pro basketball. Easily overlooked because of the lack of highly-populated cities outside of the Twin Cities and, to a lesser extent, Duluth and Rochester, they might as well act as "flyover country" in this sports context. However over the past four decades now that region--largely both Dakotas, Nebraska, Iowa, Minnesota, and a little bit of Montana, Wisconsin and Wyoming and even the Canadian provinces of Manitoba, Alberta, and Saskatchewan--has seen a series of pro teams appear on the map eventually culminating into a cluster in the mid-1990s with the existence of the low-budget International Basketball Association. Out of this area there has been a handful of success stories lasting for several years like the Sioux Falls Skyforce--still going strong more than 30 years in existence in the CBA, IBL, and currently the G-League--Idaho Stampede, and the Dakota Wizards before Golden St. took up their affiliation and eventually moved them closer to its homebase. Some stayed for several years but dealt with some woes (the CBA's Rapid City Thrillers) they didn't quite overcome and couldn't contain their momentum even with on-court success. Some teams had both the fan support and the players but lacked an overall solvent league (Saskatchewan Hawks, Winnipeg Thunder). But the vast majority of them based in the Upper Midwest only existed for 1-3 years struggling in various ways to develop a local fanbase in an equally-struggling low-budget league before going under. Their names are legion: Des Moines Dragons, Black Hills Posse, Fargo-Moorhead Beez, Bilings RimRockers, St. Paul Slam!, Magic City Snowbears, Winnipeg Cyclone, Rochester Skeeters, Black Hills Gold, Siouxland Bombers, Wisconsin Blast, Fargo-Morehead Fever, Alberta Dusters, St. Cloud Rock 'N Rollers, Rochester Fire, Butte DareDevils, Sioux City Hornets, Great Falls Explorers just to name numerous examples.

    The Minot SkyRockets certainly fit this description from the Continental Basketball Association being based in Minot, North Dakota playing in a low-budget CBA for the final three years of its existence at the AAA level from 2006-2009. By the time the SkyRockets arrived on the CBA scene in 2006, that league was in its final days with its semi-popularity being associated with the NBA as the official minor league now long behind it after the NBA developed the in-house NBDL earlier in the decade. The slightly more reputable CBA was much not better than the league the SkyRockets originated and moved up from: the even more dysfunctional, notoriously disorganized, and less relevant ABA when it started in San Jose for the 2005-2006 season. This league was using airplane travel in a still-bus league revenue. Minot was owned as part of a cluster of late-era CBA teams in the Upper Midwest owned by a group called Apex Sportstainment, a company fronted by Joe Clark that also owned CBA teams in Butte and Great Falls, Montana and (briefly) in Salt Lake City (Utah Eagles) between 2006 and 2009. The SkyRockets helped for a time fill in the local pro basketball void previously left by the IBA's Magic City Snowbears in 2001 after a four-year stint. Never mind it won no CBA championships or players of note. The CBA's last two seasons in 2007-08 and 2008-09 presented a roster of such geographic anarchy nationwide around the SkyRockets with no logic to this with ten franchises scattered haphazardly from New York to Georgia to Texas to Washington. Through it all, the Skyrockets advanced to the CBA Championship Series in April 2008, losing to the Oklahoma Cavalry, coached by Michael Ray Richardson, 3 games to 2. Next season the CBA lost six of its 10 teams by the start of the 2008-09 season as four teams that remained continuing this geographic mess--North Dakota, Kentucky, New York, and Oklahoma. Consequently, its 2008-09 schedule underwent tremendous disarray. At one point in January 2009, the SkyRockets managed to play just a single league game while Oklahoma Calvary had played seven. The CBA mercifully folded in mid-season on February 3, 2009, killing all those four with it. And scarring the likes of Minot for life--never saw pro basketball in the small city ever since:
    https://funwhileitlasted.net/2019/11...ot-skyrockets/
    Jusqui'ici tout va bien...

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