Lively Tales About Dead Teams

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1994-95 Pittsburgh Piranhas

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Continental Basketball Association (1994-1995)

Born: May 6, 1994 – The La Crosse Catbirds relocate to Pittsburgh
August 17, 1995

Arena: A. J. Palumbo Center (5,084)

Team Colors: Silver, Black & Teal

Owner: Robert W. Murphy, Jr.


In the 1979 cult movie The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh, a young team ball boy and an astrologer team up save the city’s pathetic pro basketball team, the Pittsburgh Pythons.  They persuade the desperate ball club to re-brand itself as the Pittsburgh Pisces and to fill the roster with players born under the Pisces sign in order to complement Moses Guthrie, the team’s moody star played by Julius Erving.  The title pretty much explains what happens next.

In real life, no such occult intervention could save the Pittsburgh Piranhas, a championship caliber minor league hoops team that went belly up after one season due to lack of interest.

The Piranhas began life as the La Crosse (WI) Catbirds, who were a model franchise in the Continental Basketball Association in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, winning two league titles and leading the CBA in attendance five times.  Pittsburgh golf club owner Bob Murphy purchased the Catbirds in May of 1994 and moved the team to the A.J. Palumbo Center on the campus of Duquesne University.

Under Head Coach Don Zierden, a holdover from the Catbirds era, the Piranhas won their division despite a losing record (27-29).  The Piranhas advanced to the best-of-seven CBA championship series, where they lost to the Yakima Sun Kings 4 games to 2.

At the box office, however, the Piranhas had the worst attendance in the 16-team CBA, announcing 1,635 fans per game.  Owner Bob Murphy closed the team down in August 1995 after just one season of play.



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