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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.



American Basketball Association Media Guides

American Basketball Association Programs


1999-2000 San Diego Stingrays

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1999 San Diego Stingrays ProgramInternational Basketball League (1999-2000)

Born: 1999 – IBL founding franchise
Folded: 2000

Arena: San Diego Sports Arena

Team Colors:


IBL Championships: None


The San Diego Stingrays were a One-Year Wonder in the short-lived International Basketball League. The Stingrays were the sixth pro basketball team to fail at the San Diego Sports Arena since the building opened in 1966. The ‘Rays followed the Rockets, Conquistadors, Sails, Clippers and Wildcards into the city’s roundball graveyard.

Smokey Gaines, an ex-Harlem Globetrotter and former head coach at San Diego State, signed on to coach the team. Things got off to an embarrassing start when the Stingrays couldn’t reach contract terms with their top player in training camp, Phoenix Thomas. The 6′ 8″ power forward averaged 25 points and 13 boards in exhibition play and then walked away from the team before the opener.

The team gained some attention by signing hip hop star Master P (Percy Miller) in November 1999. Miller, the rapper and impresario behind Snoop Dogg’s label at the time, No Limit Records, made cameo appearances in several NBA training camps and minor league clubs during the late ’90’s. Miller’s time with the ‘Rays was brief and he was gone by midseason.

The Stingrays drew an announced crowd of 9,762 to their home debut at the Arena on November 27, 1999. The ‘Rays defeated the Las Vegas Silver Bandits 102-100 in double overtime. The team never drew another crowd of that size and they didn’t win many more game either. Gaines was fired at midseason and replaced behind the bench with former NBA All-Star Jeff Malone. The Stingrays finished last in the IBL’s West Division with a 19-45 record for the 1999-00 season.

The IBL contracted from eight to six franchises for the league’s second season in 2000-01. The Stingrays were one of the two eliminated clubs.  The International Basketball League itself shut down in July 2001 after the conclusion of its second season.



International Basketball League Media Guides

International Basketball League Programs




Written by Drew Crossley

November 19th, 2017 at 11:28 pm

1978-79 San Diego Hawks

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San Diego HawksPacific Hockey League (1978-1979)

Born: 1978 – Re-branded from San Diego Mariners.
Folded: Spring 1979

Arena: San Diego Sports Arena (13,039)

Team Colors:

Owner: Elmer Jonnet

PHL Championships: None


The San Diego Hawks were a minor league ice hockey team that lasted just one winter in the Pacific Hockey League.

The PHL debuted the year before as a sort of minor league offshoot of the World Hockey Association, a 1970’s rival to the National Hockey League.   The WHA had flamed out in several Western cities, including San Diego and Phoenix.  The PHL’s first season in 1977-78 featured only four teams, including the San Diego Mariners and the Phoenix Roadrunners, both of whom revived their WHA-era team names and logos.  The Mariners were owned by San Diego Sports Arena owner Peter Graham.

In the summer of 1978 Graham sold the Mariners to Pittsburgh real estate developer Elmer Jonnet.  Jonnet changed the team’s name to the San Diego Hawks and opened up his wallet to sign a roster full of World Hockey Association veterans.  The Hawks also featured 42-year old San Diego hockey icon Willie O’Ree, who was a mainstay for the San Diego Gulls of the Western League from 1967 to 1974.  Way back in 1958, O’Ree was the first black player to play in the NHL. He appeared in two games for the Boston Bruins, but spent most of the next two decades in the minors.  This was his final season and he played well, scoring 21 goals and adding 25 assists for the Hawks.

The Pacific Hockey League entered the 1978-79 season with six franchises but quickly lost two when the Los Angeles Blades and San Francisco Shamrocks dropped out of the league in January.  The surviving teams weren’t in much better shape. The league cancelled the playoffs due to financial problems and declared first place Phoenix to be the league champion.  The Hawks finished second with a 34-22-2 record.

26-year old center Joe Noris, a former NHL journeyman who also played for the WHA’s San Diego Mariners, led the Pacific League in scoring with 27 and 77 assists. He was named the Pacific League’s Most Valuable Player for 1979.  He never played another professional season. Noris waged a protracted legal battle against  Elmer Jonnet for much of the 1980’s in attempt to collect on the balance of the three-year playing contract he signed with the developer in 1978.  The litigation became as much of a circus as the Pacific League was itself. Noris scored a judgement against Jonnet’s Pittsburgh home. The beleaguered owner attempted to forestall payment by pleading that his attorney was a hopeless drunk and that the court discriminated against him on account of his Native American heritage.

The Pacific Hockey League folded in the spring of 1979, taking the Hawks down with it.



Pacific Hockey League Programs



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