Lively Tales About Dead Teams

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1991-92 Music City Jammers

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Music City JammersGlobal Basketball Association (1991-1992)

Born: 1991 – GBA founding franchise
Moved: 1992 (Jackson Jammers)

Arena: Nashville Municipal Auditorium

Team Colors:

Owner: Larry Schmittou, et al.

GBA Champions: 1992

 

The Music City Jammers were a Nashville-based minor league basketball outfit that lasted for just one season in the early 1990’s. The club was part of the Global Basketball Association, an all-but-forgotten loop with teams in the Southeast and Midwest. The managing partner of the Jammers was Larry Schmittou, long-time owner of Nashville’s popular Nashville Sounds minor league baseball club.

Schmittou wasn’t able to translate his magic touch from the baseball diamond to Nashville’s leaky Municipal Auditorium. A January 1992 profile of the Jammers in The Tennessean reported that the Jammers averaged fewer than 400 paid tickets per game through the team’s first 11 home dates.

On the court, the Jammers were mediocre. The team finished the regular season in 4th place in their division and barely earned the GBA’s eighth and final playoff spot. In fact, Music City’s record of 24-40 was second worst in the league. But the Jammers got hot at the right time. They eliminated the Huntsville Lasers in the first round and dispatched the Mid-Michigan Great Lakers in the semis. To cap it off, the Jammers knocked off the Greensboro City Gaters in the finals to claim the Global Basketball Association’s first (and only) championship.

Low attendance in Nashville forced Larry Schmittou to move the Jammers to Jackson, Tennessee.  The re-named Jackson Jammers returned to defend their title in November of 1992. But the Global Basketball Association came apart one month into its second season and folded on December 19, 1992.

Links

Global Basketball Association Pocket Schedules

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Written by Drew Crossley

May 29th, 2017 at 11:02 pm

1998 Nashville Noise

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American Basketball League (1998)

Born: April 9, 1998 – ABL expansion franchise.
Died: December 22, 1998 – The ABL ceases operations in midseason.

Arena: Nashville Municipal Auditorium (8,548)

Team Colors: Orange, Purple & Yellow

Owner: American Basketball League

 

Thanks to reader @TimHanlon for sending in this rare media guide from the doomed Nashville Noise of the women’s American Basketball League (1996-1998).

The Noise were an expansion club for the ABL’s third and final season in the fall/winter of 1998-99.  Two clubs were added to the league, with the Chicago Condors being the other new entry.  The timing of the expansion was rather curious, as the single-entity ABL was in serious financial distress and was simultaneously contracting clubs in Atlanta and Long Beach and imposing salary cuts across the league.  Former Chicago Condors GM Denise Hodges later told Lena Williams of The New York Times that league CEO Gary Cavalli called her on the day of the press conference to introduce the Condors to Chicago to tell her the league was out of business, only to call back moments later and say everything was fine and to proceed with the event.

The Noise signed a couple of players of local repute, including former University of Tennessee All-American point guard Michelle Marciniak and 1996 U.S. Olympic gold medalist Venus Lacy, a 6′ 4″ center originally from Chattanooga.

The Noise debuted on November 6th, 1998 with a 84-67 loss on the road at Chicago.  The team flew back to Tennessee for their home debut the following evening against the league’s two-time defending champions, the Columbus Quest.  An announced crowd of 5,052 showed up at Nashville Municipal Auditorium to check out the Noise.  The team dropped its second straight, 84-76.

The Noise started the season notably weak, losing their first seven games.  Attendance was grim.  Five of the next six home games drew less than 2,100 fans to the Municipal Auditorium.  The team began to rally on the court in late November, but by this point the ABL itself was in its death throes.  Starved for national sponsorship dollars and without a significant television deal, the league abruptly terminated its season on December 22, 1998 and declared bankruptcy shortly thereafter.

The Noise played their final game, an 80-73 home victory against the Seattle Reign on December 20, 1998.  The club’s final record was 4-11 at the time of the shutdown.

 

==Downloads==

1998 Nashville Noise Schedule & Results

 

==Links==

American Basketball League Media Guides

American Basketball League Programs

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1991 Nashville Stars

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World Basketball League (1991)

Born: 1991 – The Las Vegas Silver Streaks relocate to Nashville
Folded: Postseason 1991

Arena: Nashville Municipal Auditorium (8,600)

Team Colors: Blue & Gold

Owners: Ronnie Steine et al.

WBL Championships: None

 

“Some purists wanted to raise the baskets.  These guys have shrunk the players.” – The late Jim Murray of The Los Angeles Times, writing on the World Basketball League in 1989.

The Nashville Stars were a blink-and-you-missed ’em entry in the quirky World Basketball League, a far flung minor league loop designed for players under 6′ 5″ tall.  In the WBL, everyone was “short”, fast-paced guard play dominated, nobody posted up and zone defense was legal – when anyone bothered to play defense.  Eventually, the WBL collapsed in financial scandal in the middle of its fifth season, but by then the Nashville Stars had come and gone.

The Stars franchise began life as the Las Vegas Silver Streaks, playing in Sin City for the league’s first three summers from 1988 to 1990.  WBL franchises were typically owned 40% by local investors – when they could be found – and 60% by the league itself, which meant they were backed by the full faith and credit and one Michael I. “Mickey” Monus, the league’s founder, sugar daddy, and President of the Phar-Mor drugstore chain.  In Nashville, the WBL recruited an 11-man minority ownership group led by travel agency owner Ronnie Steine.

The Stars’ 10-man roster, featuring six former Silver Streaks, came together hastily in the spring of 1991.  At 6′ 4″ and 215 pounds, forward Jamie Waller was one of the elite “big men” in the WBL.  Waller led the circuit in scoring in each of the league’s first three seasons.  Daren Queenan was, at the time, one of only seven players in NCAA history with over 2,700 points and 1,000 rebounds, alongside Elvin Hayes, Oscar Robertson, Larry Bird, Danny Manning, Hank Gathers and Lionel Simmons.  But he went undrafted by the NBA due to his diminutive size (6′ 3″) and small school (Lehigh).  The WBL was made to showcase players like Queenan, who averaged 22.9 points per games with the Silver Streaks in 1990.

The team practiced together for only two weeks before debuting at Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium against the Memphis Rockers on May 3rd, 1991.  Although a consistent winner in Las Vegas, the Stars finished the 1991 campaign at 23-28 and out of the playoffs.  Waller led the league in scoring for the fourth straight year, but did so as a member of the Erie (PA) Wave after the Stars shipped out their best player in a mid-season trade.  Queenan earned a spot of the WBL All-League team, despite the club’s poor record.

Long-time Tennessee sports promoter Rudi Schiffer served as the Stars part-time General Manager.  Schiffer worked on the launch of the North American Soccer League’s Memphis Rogues in the late 1970’s and the popular Memphis Showboats of the United States Football League, who drew crowds of 35,000 to the Liberty Bowl in the mid-1980’s.  In a wide-ranging look back at his career with Fun While It Lasted in 2011, Schiffer acknowledged that the Stars were a half-hearted effort off the court:

“That was the league of 6′ 5” guys.  I had a PR firm in Memphis back then.  <Former Memphis Showboats President> Steve Ehrhart was the Commissioner of the WBL.   Steve knew me from the Showboats and hired me when they moved the team from Las Vegas.  Me and my son Michael went up to Nashville to run the Stars.  Not full time.  I’d go up three times a week and then come back and run my own business.  It was just an account I had.  Everything was done on a shoestring.

“It was hand-to-mouth.  We didn’t draw 200 people a game.  Nobody cared about 6′ 5″ players in Nashville.”

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The Stars folded quietly in late 1991 after one season of play.  The entire WBL followed less than a year later, folding in midseason in August 1992.  The league’s undoing came when investigators revealed that Mickey Monus embezzled $10 million from Phar-Mor to underwrite the league’s financial losses (i.e. the 60% of each franchise owned by the money-losing league itself).  Phar-Mor was ultimately forced into bankruptcy, costing 17,000 employees their jobs.  It was the Enron scandal of its era and caused the league to unravel within a matter of weeks.

Jamie Waller and Daren Queenan never made it to the NBA, but their Silver Streaks and Stars teammate Cedric Hunter did earn the briefest of call-ups with the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets.  Hunter played a single minute for the Hornets on February 16th, 1992.  It turned out to be the only game – and only minute – he played in the NBA.

Former Stars President and co-owner Ronnie Steine is now a City Councilman in Nashville.

 

Downloads

2012 interview with former WBL Director of Public Relations Jimmy Oldham

 

Links

World Basketball League Media Guides

World Basketball League Programs

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Written by AC

February 14th, 2012 at 2:57 pm

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