Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘Midseason Meltdowns’ tag

1991-92 Louisville Shooters

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Global Basketball Association (1991-1992)

Born: 1991 – GBA founding franchise
Folded: November 1992

Arena: Louisville Gardens

Team Colors:

Owners:

GBA Championships: None

 

The Louisville Shooters were an ill-fated pro basketball outfit in the forgotten Global Basketball Association. The GBA began play in November 1991 with eleven franchises. Most were clustered in small cities in the Southeastern United States, but the league’s borders stretched as far west as Wichita, Kansas and north to Saginaw, Michigan.

Team founder Jim Tilton was a realtor and University of Louisville grad without the personal resources to fund a pro basketball team. But Tilton secured some financial backing from former Cleveland Cavaliers owner Ted Stepien to get the Shooters off the ground in 1991.

The Shooters signed some decent talent, including  ex-Louisville stars Jerome Harmon and Milt Wagner, former Boston Celtic Kelvin Upshaw, minor league war horse Alfrederick Hughes, and guard Eldridge Recasner, a recent grad from the University of Washington. Former Ole Miss and American Basketball Association star Johnny Neumann signed on as head coach.

The team hit financial headwinds pretty much immediately. Less than two months into the Shooters first season, Jim Tilton announced the team was in search of new capital. The Shooters finished the 1991-92 GBA season with a 35-29 record, good for second place in the league’s Western Division. The team was due to play the league’s best team, the Mid-Michigan Great Lakers, in the first round of the 1992 playoffs. But the Shooters declined to participate in the postseason for financial reasons and forfeited the series.

New owner David Gleason took over the team in July 1992. Improbably, the Shooters returned and attempted to stage a second season in November 1992. But the club folded after playing just three games. The rest of the Global Basketball Association followed the Shooters into the dustbin of history a month later. The league went out of business on December 19, 1992.

Jerome Harmon and Eldridge Recasner both went on to play in the NBA. While Harmon’s career lasted just 10 games with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1994-95, Recasner played for the better part of eight seasons in the NBA from 1994 until 2002.

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Written by Drew Crossley

February 14th, 2018 at 4:25 am

1975 San Diego Sails

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San Diego SailsAmerican Basketball Association (1975)

Born: June 1975 – Re-branded from San Diego Conquistadors
Folded: November 11, 1975

Arena: San Diego Sports Arena

Team Colors:

Owner: Frank Goldberg & Bud Fischer

ABA Championships: None

 

San Diego furniture dealers Frank Goldberg and Bud Fischer took over the American Basketball Association’s long-troubled San Diego Conquistadors franchise in June 1975. ABA executives undoubtedly hoped the pair could work the same magic on the debt-ridden Q’s that they had with the league’s Denver Nuggets franchise. Those hopes were misplaced.

Goldberg and Fischer bought the ABA’s 5-year old Denver Rockets franchise in 1972. In their first full season of ownership, the Rockets finished tied for last place with the always woeful Conquistadors. The new owners then presided over a remarkable transformation. They re-branded the team as the Denver Nuggets in 1974. On the court, the Nuggets enjoyed a stunning reversal of fortune. Attendance jumped 50% while the Nuggets went 40-2 at home in 1974-75. Then, just as the Nuggets prepared to move into state-of-the-art McNichols Arena in 1975, Goldberg and Fischer sold the team to local investors and went home to take ownership of the horrid Conquistadors.

As they did in Denver, Goldberg and Fischer euthanized the brand identity of a last place club. The Conquistadors name, in dubious taste to begin with, was dumped during the summer of 1975. In its place came the “San Diego Sails” along with a jaunty new green, blue and white color palette. The team also had a stable lease at the 14,000-seat San Diego Sports Arena. This was in contrast to the Q’s who spent their first two seasons wandering around in small gyms thanks to a dispute with Sports Arena impresario Peter Graham.

But San Diego was not Denver. Goldberg and Fischer’s financial resources were depleted by big spending on the Nuggets’ 1974-75 roster upgrades and by an ill-conceived investment in a World Team Tennis franchise, the Denver Racquets. There would be no worst-to-first revival of the Q’s/Sails. The ABA itself was on its last legs heading into the 1975-76 campaign. The league’s Memphis franchise – another chronic headache – moved to Baltimore, only to embarrass the ABA by folding during training camp four days before the regular season opener.

The Sails’ first game at the Arena was a showcase: an inter-league exhibition against the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers and their superstar center Bill Walton on October 15, 1975. But the contest failed to whet the appetites of local fans. Only 3,060 showed up for the Sails’ regular season debut on October 24, 1975 against Goldberg & Fischer’s former team, the Denver Nuggets.

The league schedule saw the Sails play much of the first month of the season on the road. By November 11th, the Sails’ record stood at 3-8. The team had played just three games at home with a combined attendance of only 7,126 fans. By now, the main focus of ABA clubs was pursuing a merger with the NBA. The Sails owners lost confidence in being included in an eventual merger deal. They folded the team on November 11, 1975 after playing just 11 games.

After the Sails’ demise, the club’s roster was put out to auction among the ABA’s eight remaining clubs. Guard Bo Lamar, and big men Mark Olberding and Dave Robisch were the only Sails players to receive bids. The exception was the team’s best player, All-Star center Caldwell Jones. ABA Commissioner Dave DeBusschere held Jones out of the auction as a “special case”. His contract was sold to the Kentucky Colonels in a separate transaction shortly thereafter.

The ABA’s troubled 1975-76 season ground on. The Utah Stars folded three weeks after the Sails on December 2, 1975 – the third ABA franchise to fold since the opening of training camp in October. The league folded in the spring of 1976, after four of the surviving seven teams were admitted via merger into the NBA.

 

San Diego Sails Shop

Loose Balls: The Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association by Terry Pluto

 

San Diego Sails Memorabilia

 

In Memoriam

Head coach Bill Musselman passed away on May 5, 2000 at the age of 59. New York Times obituary.

Guard Bob Warren died on August 25, 2014 at age 68. The Tennessean obituary.

All-Star Center Caldwell Jones died of a heart attack on September 21, 2014. He was 64 years old. New York Times obituary.

 

Links

American Basketball Association Media Guides

American Basketball Association Programs

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1974-1978 Hampton Gulls

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Hampton GullsSouthern Hockey League (1974-1977)
American Hockey League (1977-1978)

Born: October 1974: The Fayetteville Arsenal relocates to Hampton, VA
Folded: January 31, 1977
Re-Born: 1977
Folded Again: February 10, 1978

Arena: Hampton Coliseum

WHA Affiliation: Cincinnati Stingers

Team Colors:

Owners:

SHL Championships: None
Calder Cup Championships (AHL): None

 

Virginia’s Hampton Gulls hockey team formed in 1974 as an expansion franchise in the tiny Southern Hockey League. The club was intended for Fayetteville, North Carolina but arena problems there led to the hasty relocation to Hampton just days before the start of the 1974-75 season. Hampton’s 10,000-seat Coliseum was available because the American Hockey League’s Virginia Red Wings vacated the building that fall to move to the nearby Norfolk Scope.

The Southern Hockey League worked as a farm system to the World Hockey Association, the 1970’s major league rival to the NHL. The WHA’s Cincinnati Stingers served as the parent club of the Gulls.

The Gulls offered their head coaching job to 41-year old John Brophy. Often cited as the inspiration for Paul Newman’s Reggie Dunlop character in Slap Shot, Brophy was a legendary minor league enforcer over 18 seasons in the Eastern Hockey League. The Gulls job was Brophy’s first full-time coaching gig and he would stay with the Gulls for the team’s entire run in Hampton. He later became a head coach in both the WHA (Birmingham Bulls) and the NHL (Toronto Maple Leafs).

The Gulls played for the Southern Hockey League championship in the spring of 1976, losing to the Charlotte Checkers in the finals.

The Southern Hockey League folded on January 31, 1977, midway through the circuit’s fourth season. The Gulls were in first place with a 32-16-2 when the league closed its doors.

The Gulls re-grouped to join the American Hockey League for the 1977-78 season, but their stay was a short and unhappy one. The franchise folded on February 10th, 1978 after playing just 46 games of an 81 game calendar. The Gulls had the worst record in the AHL at 15-28-3 when they closed their doors.

Pro hockey returned to the Hampton Coliseum 11 months later with the formation of the Hampton Aces of the Northeastern Hockey League.

John Brophy returned to the region to coach the Hampton Roads Admirals of the East Coast Hockey League in 1989. The Admirals, who played out of the Scope in Norfolk, won three ECHL championship under Brophy during the 1990’s.

 

Hampton Gulls Memorabilia

 

In Memoriam

Ex-Gulls coach John Brophy died in his sleep on May 23, 2016 at age 83. CBC Obituary.

Former Gulls owner Charles Wornom died on February 26, 2017 at the age of 88. The Daily Press obituary.

 

Links

Southern Hockey League Programs

American Hockey League Media Guides

American Hockey League Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

December 7th, 2017 at 4:44 am

1974-1975 Philadelphia Bell

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1974 Philadelphia BellWorld Football League (1974-1975)

Born: 1973 – WFL founding franchise
Folded: October 22, 1975

Stadiums: 

Team Colors:

Owners: 

WFL Championships: None

 

The Philadelphia Bell were one of twelve original franchises in the World Football League in 1974. The Bell made several efforts to poach high profile stars and draft picks from the National Football League during their brief lifespan. But the team was best known for “Papergate”, an attendance reporting and accounting scandal that demolished the fledgling WFL’s credibility barely than a month into its debut season.

The Bell organization took shape along with the rest of the WFL over the winter of 1973-74. John B. Kelly, Jr., a local sports hero and the elder brother of actress Grace Kelly, served as the front man for the Bell ownership group. The team offered a reported 3-year, $500,000 contract offer to the 1973 Heisman Trophy winner, running back John Cappelletti of Penn State.  Cappelletti, picked #11 overall in the NFL draft that winter, wisely chose to sign with the Los Angeles Rams for less money. The Bell biggest “name” signing in 1974 was linebacker/madman Tim Rossovich, the Eagles’ #1 draft pick back in 1968. Ron Waller, who finished out the 1973 NFL season.

Ron Waller hired on to coach the Bell. Though Waller finished the 1973 NFL season as interim head coach of the San Diego Chargers, he spent much of his coaching career in the bush leagues. Waller stocked the Bell roster with skill position players from the defunct Pottstown (PA) Firebirds, a championship minor league club that he coached in the late 1960’s. Quarterback Jim “King” Corcoran and the running back tandem of John Land and Claude Watts were all Firebirds alums.

1974 Philadelphia Bell ProgramThe Bell debuted at 100,000-seat John F. Kennedy Stadium on July 10th, 1974. Waller’s squad drubbed the visiting Portland Storm 33-8. But the big headline was the crowd. Bell officials announced a stunning attendance figure of 55,534. When the team returned two weeks later for its second home game against the New York Stars on July 25th, an even larger mob of 64,719 fans gathered at JFK Stadium. The TVS network broadcast the game nationwide. The Bell blew two go-ahead field goal attempts in the game’s final three minutes and lost 17-15.

120,000 fans for the Bell’s first two home games! Local journos assumed that team officials must have papered the city with free tickets. Not so, claimed the team’s Executive Vice President Barry Leib when questioned after the New York game. Leib obfuscated, indicating a minority of tickets were discounted for group sale or distributed to corporate sponsors. Left unsaid was an implication that Philly fans bought the majority of the tickets at face values of $2, $5 and $8. The Bell were forced to disclose actual paid attendance figures when it came time to pay city taxes on the sale of the tickets. The Bell actually sold fewer than 20,000 for the first two home games. Just 6,200 fans – less than 1/10th the announced crowd – paid for the New York game on July 25th.

On August 8th, 1974, one day before Richard Nixon’s resignation as President, the Bell held a press conference to apologize for the deception. The press dubbed the scandal “Papergate” and various outlets, including Sports Illustrated, pejoratively began referring to the WFL as the “World Freebie League”. Bell President John B. Kelly, Jr. resigned from the club in mortification. Attendance crashed, bottoming out at the Bell’s ninth home game against the Shreveport Steamer on October 16th, 1974. Just 750 fans showed up for the game on rainy Wednesday night. It was the smallest crowd in World Football League history.

On the field, the Bell underachieved. The offense, led by the Pottstown contingent, was high powered. Corcoran threw for 3,631 yards and 31 touchdowns (albeit with 30 picks to match). John Land and Claude Watts combined for over 2,000 yards rushing. The defense was suspect though and the Bell entered the final week of the WFL season with an 8-11 record. The Bell were scheduled to play the Chicago Fire at JFK Stadium on November 13, 1974. But Fire owner Tom Origer had had enough of the WFL. Rather than travel to Philadelphia, he forfeited the game and folded his franchise. With a 9-11 record, the Bell were on the outside looking in for the postseason. Until the Charlotte Hornets decided they couldn’t afford to compete in the playoffs and withdrew. The Bell replaced Charlotte on the league’s playoff schedule. The team traveled to Orlando and lost to the Florida Blazers 18-3 in the divisional round on November 21, 1974.

The WFL re-grouped to stage a second season in the fall of 1975. Bell owner John Bosacco was one of only two original WFL owners with the stomach to carry on for a second campaign. The rest of the 1975 WFL investors were new guys who apparently never read the newspaper. The Bell moved from 100,000-seat JFK Stadium to 60,000-seat Franklin Field for the new season. The team fired head coach Ron Waller during training camp in July 1975, just one week before the regular season opener. Team owner John Bosacco promoted Willie Wood, the team’s defensive coordinator, to the head job three days before . Wood, a former All-Pro safety for the Green Bay Packers, became the first African-American head coach in pro football since Fritz Pollard in 1925. Only 3,266 fans turned up at Franklin Field for the Bell’s 1975 home opener on July 19th.

The Bell had one of the most prolific offenses in the WFL in 1974.  All three skill players returned in 1975. The Bell added former NFL All-Pro tight end Ted Kwalick and running back J.J. Jennings, one of the WFL “Tri-MVP’s” in 1974 with Memphis. But the offense went backwards under Wood’s direction. Land and Watts remained a fearsome ground force. Along with Jennings, they racked up nearly 1,500 yards in eleven games. The passing game, however, collapsed. Wood benched Corcoran in favor NFL journeyman Bob Davis, who quarterbacked the Florida Blazers to the WFL’s World Bowl title in 1974. Both signal callers saw action in 1975, but neither found consistent form.

By October 1975 the writing was on the wall for the Bell and the WFL. After five home games at Franklin Field, the Bell averaged a league-worst 3,705 fans per game. National media outlets began to speculate that the WFL would terminate the club’s membership before the end of the season. Instead, the entire league voted to cease operations entirely on October 22, 1975 without completing its second season of play.  The Philadelphia Bell’s final game was played at Franklin Field four days earlier on October 18, 1975. Just 1,293 fans showed up.

 

Philadelphia Bell Shop


Bell Retro T-Shirt by Throwback Max

WIFFLE: The Wild, Zany and Sometimes Hilariously True Story of the World Football League by Mark Speck

Philadelphia Bell Memorabilia

 

In Memoriam

Bell team President Jack Kelly Jr. (Bell ’74) died of a heart attack while jogging on March 2, 1985. He was 57.

Quarterback Jim “King” Corcoran (Bell ’74-’75) passed away in 2009 at the age of 65. Washington Post obituary.

Linzy Cole (Bell ’74) died in September 2016. The wide receiver, who was the first African-American to play football at Texas Christian University in 1968, was 68 years old.

 

Downloads

1975 World Football League Standard Player Contract

 

Links

World Football League Media Guides

World Football League Programs

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Written by Drew Crossley

November 13th, 2017 at 4:52 pm

1997-1999 Raleigh Cougars

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1997 Raleigh Cougars Pocket ScheduleUnited States Basketball League (1997-1999)

Born: 1997
Folded: June 7, 1999

Arena: Dorton Arena

Team Colors:

Owner: Clyde Austin

USBL Championships: None

 

The Raleigh Cougars low-level minor league basketball outfit founded by former N.C. State star and Harlem Globetrotter Clyde “The Glide” Austin. The team’s name recalled the old Carolina Cougars club that played in the American Basketball Association in the early 1970’s. The original ABA Cougars played in various arenas around North Carolina, including Raleigh’s Dorton Arena, where Austin’s team set up shop a quarter century later.

The Cougars’ biggest name was Lorenzo Charles, who famously slammed home a buzzer-beating dunk to life N.C. State to the 1983 NCAA championship over the University of Houston.

As the Cougars prepared for their third season in the United States Basketball League in 1999, it was clear that something wasn’t right. The team held no training camp. Clyde Austin no-showed a league owner’s meeting and bounced his payroll. The Raleigh Cougars managed to play 13 games, posting a 5-8 record, before USBL Commissioner Daniel Meisenheimer euthanized the club on June 7th, 1999 with two weeks remaining in the regular season.

It later emerged the Clyde Austin was running a multi-state pyramid scheme during the time he was involved in the USBL. Serving as a pastor in churches from North Carolina to Nevada, Austin swindled parishioners out of an estimated $16 million between 1996 and 2000. He was sentenced to 17 years in prison in 2004.

Links

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Written by Drew Crossley

May 29th, 2017 at 7:36 pm

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