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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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