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1978-79 Tucson Gunners

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Tucson GunnersWestern Basketball Association (1978-79)

Born: 1978 – WBA expansion franchise
Folded: 1979

Arena: Tucson Community Center

Team Colors:

Owners: Davis Burk, et al.

WBA Champions: 1979


The Tucson Gunners were a One-Year Wonder in the minor-league Western Basketball Association. The Gunners, like the rest of the league, operated for just one season during the winter of 1978-79. The WBA stretched from Tucson in the south up through California, Utah and Nevada to Montana and Washington in the north. The league attracted a number of out-of-work pros who lost jobs with the closure of the American Basketball Association in 1976, along with training camp cuts from the NBA.

The Gunners shared winter dates at the Tucson Community Center with the Tucson Rustlers hockey team. Like the Gunners, the Rustlers would also fold after just one season.

The Gunners were managed by former Detroit Pistons head coach Herb Brown. Brown assembled the best squad in the league. The Gunners topped the standings with a 32-16 regular season record. Top players included former ABA regular Al Smith and rookie guard Gerald Henderson. Henderson was a 3rd round draft pick of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs in 1978 who failed to stick in training camp.

The Gunners met the Reno Bighorns in the WBA championship series in late March 1979. The series came down to a deciding game 7 in Tucson on April 2, 1979. Smith and Henderson combined for 45 points as Tucson vanquished Reno 104-90.

It proved to be the team’s final contest. The Gunners folded a few months later, along with the other six WBA clubs. Gerald Henderson used his showcase in Tucson to make the Boston Celtics in 1979. He would go on to win 3 NBA titles over the course of a 13-year NBA career before retiring in 1992.



Taking a Gamble on the Future“, Curry Kirkpatrick, Sports Illustrated, February 12, 1979

Western Basketball Association Programs


Written by Drew Crossley

March 22nd, 2017 at 2:01 am

1978-79 Tucson Rustlers

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1978-79 Tucson RustlersPacific Hockey League (1978-1979)

Born: 1978 – PHL expansion franchise.
Died: 1979 – PHL ceases operations.

ArenaTucson Community Center (6,628)

Team Colors:

Owner: Alf Cadman


The Rustlers were part of Tucson, Arizona’s procession of short-lived pro hockey teams in the 1970’s, following the Central Hockey League’s Tucson Mavericks (1974-1975) and the Tucson Icemen (1976-1977) of the Southwest Hockey League.  Like their predecessors the Rustlers lasted only one season before evaporating, and they were lucky to make it that far.

Tom Simpson Toronto TorosThe club was an expansion franchise in the second-year Pacific Hockey League.   The PHL was a small independent circuit organized by former World Hockey Association execs in January 1977.  Teams had no major league affiliations with WHA or NHL clubs, but had plenty of available talent to choose from, since the WHA was in a contraction phase, leaving many players without work.  The Rustlers lured a pair of top former WHA scorers in Frank Hughes and Tom Simpson.  Hughes had back-to-back 40-goal seasons with the WHA’s Houston Aeros in the mid-1970’s.  Simpson was a 50-goal scorer for the Toronto Toros in 1975.

Another noteworthy Rustler was Wild Willie Trognitz, a goon so notorious he was banned for life by the International Hockey League in 1977.  (Trognitz earned his own Sports Illustrated feature story that same year – quite an honor for a career minor league enforcer.)

Team owner Alf Cadman, a former hockey player and promoter from Red Deer, Alberta abandoned the club and returned in to Canada in December 1978.  The Rustlers somehow managed to limp through the rest of the 1978-79 season as a ward of the league.  Meanwhile, the rest of the six-team PHL started to fall apart.  The Los Angeles Blades and San Francisco Shamrocks clubs both shut down in January 1979.  Only four clubs finished the regular season and the PHL cancelled the playoffs due to financial woes.  The league went out of business in the spring of 1979, ending the brief run of the Tucson Rustlers.


==Tucson Rustlers Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Date Opponent Score Program Other


1/4/1979 @ Los Angeles Blades ?? Program
3/24/1979 @ Phoenix Roadrunners ?? Program



Pacific Hockey League Programs

1978-79 Tucson Rustlers Roster & Stats on


Written by AC

January 30th, 2013 at 2:11 am


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