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May 12, 1972 – New York Nets vs. Indiana Pacers

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Jim Eakins Virginia SquiresNew York Nets vs. Indiana Pacers
ABA Championship Series, Game 3
May 12, 1972
Nassau Coliseum
Attendance: 15,241

American Basketball Association Programs
52 Pages

 

The New York Islanders play their final regular season at the Nassau Coliseum tonight, the team’s home for the past 42 winters.  The Isles will play at least two playoff dates at the Coliseum this spring before moving to the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn next fall, but the eulogies for “Fort Never Lose” are already rolling in.  And they’ve been oddly sentimental, given how relentlessly the Coliseum has been kicked around in recent years, most famously by Gary Bettman, who told a Hofstra University audience in 2009:

“There is probably no worse Major League facility right now in North America than the Nassau Coliseum.”

The locals cheered in agreement.

But now that it’s losing the Islanders and the NHL forever, the Nassau Coliseum is enjoying something of a critical reappraisal. Grantland and ESPN ran lengthy “it’s a dump, but it’s our dump” eulogies.  George Vecsey at The Times, who covered the Isles’ 1980-1983 Stanley Cup dynasty, composed the most sincere and heartfelt farewell to the Coliseum, though “squat” was the most romantic sobriquet he chose to describe the arena’s aesthetic charms.

With all the column inches, you’d think the old barn was scheduled for demolition.  In fact, it’s just losing the NHL. The arena will be downsized, refurbished and revert to being a minor league building in the middle of nowhere. Which, in a sense, has been part of the building’s DNA since it opened in 1972.  Because although the Coliseum will always be inextricably linked with the Islanders and their early 80’s Cup winners, the building has proved an irresistible magnet for every “sport of the future” that desperately wanted to plant its flag in a place that would pass for New York.

"Squat"

Of all the teams that made a home at the Nassau Coliseum over the years, only the arena’s two original tenants way back in 1972 are still around.  The New York Nets of the American Basketball Association made the championship series in 1972 after moving over from the tiny Island Garden in West Hempstead late in the season.  Today’s program (top right) is from Game 3 of the 1972 ABA Championship Series against the Indiana Pacers, which was the first championship sporting event in the building.  The turnout of 15,241 fans was the largest postseason crowd in ABA history to that point.  But despite 44 points from the Nets’ top attraction Rick Barry, the Pacers took control of the series with a 114-108 win.  Indiana rookie George McGinniss had 30 points and 20 boards to upstage Barry.  The Pacers went on to win the series in six games.

The Islanders themselves arrived a few months later, but only after another unproven start-up spooked the NHL into a hasty pre-emptive expansion.  A proposed hockey club called the New York Raiders had their sights set on the Coliseum for the debut season of the rebel World Hockey Association in fall of 1972.  The Islanders got the lease instead, dooming the WHA’s efforts in New York to repeated disasters at the more expensive Madison Square Garden.

The Nets and the Islanders haven’t shared an arena since the basketball team decamped for New Jersey in 1977. This October they will reunite in Brooklyn at the Barclay’s Center.  As for the rest of the franchises that set up shop at Nassau Coliseum – and there are a bunch – they are long, long gone…

  • Billie Jean King headlined the New York Sets, a co-ed team tennis promotion that played 20-odd dates a summer at the Coliseum from 1974 until 1976.
  • Box lacrosse tried to gain a foothold at the Coliseum over and over again, starting with the Long Island Tomahawks (1975).  The New York Saints (1989-2003) hung in for 14 years, the longest tenancy of any team besides the Isles. But the New York Titans (2007) were yet another One-Year Wonder to vanish from the Coliseum after just a few months of play.
  • While the Islanders were winning four straight Stanley Cups from 1980 to 1983, there were actually two dynasties at the Coliseum. The New York Arrows won the first four championship of the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) from 1979 to 1982, led by a pair of flashy Yugoslav forwards, Branko Segota and Steve Zungul.  The Arrows went bankrupt in 1984.
  • After the Arrows died, the MISL tried to get back into New York with an expansion team called the New York Express in 1986.  After a public stock offering flopped, the Express ran out of money and folded halfway through its debut season. One of the former Express owners is currently in federal prison after adopting a false identity to run venture capital scams.
  • Professional roller hockey arrived in 1996 with the formation of the Long Island Jawz. Professional roller hockey also departed in 1996.
  • Islanders owner Charles Wang also owned the New York Dragons of the Arena Football League from 2001 to 2008. The Dragons offered a severe cautionary tale for novice sports investors. In July 2008, Wang sold the Dragons to Steve Silva for $12 million. Five months later, league investors suffered a crisis of confidence and shut down the league after 22 seasons.  Silva never got to see his team play a down.

Numerous reports have it that the Nassau Coliseum is looking for an American Hockey League club to replace the Islanders on Long Island.  The Bridgeport Sound Tigers have been rumored to be that team for several years now. So the Fun While It Lasted hijinks in Uniondale are likely far from over.

 

==Downloads==

May 12, 1972 New York Nets vs. Indiana Pacers Game Notes

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Written by AC

April 12th, 2015 at 2:18 am

1968-1970 Los Angeles Stars

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Los Angeles Stars vs. Dallas Chaparalls. January 7, 1970American Basketball Association (1968-1970)

Born: 1968 – The Anaheim Amigos relocate to Los Angeles, CA.
Moved: June 11, 1970 (Utah Stars)

Arena: Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena

Team Colors:

Owner: Jim Kirst

 

The Los Angeles Stars basketball team was a short-lived effort by the American Basketball Association to plant its flag in L.A. during the early years of its rivalry with the National Basketball Association.  The Stars labored in the shadows of the NBA’s Lakers and never established a substantial following.

1968-69 Los Angeles Stars Media GuideThe Stars, coached by Hall-of-Famer (and future Lakers coach) Bill Sharman, did enjoy a thrilling Cinderella playoff run at the end of its second and final season in L.A.  As late as March 1970, the Stars sat in last place in the ABA’s Western Division.  But Sharman’s club had talent, sparked by guard Mack Calvin and fellow rookie Willie Wise at small forward.  A late season surge saw the Stars grab the final Western Division playoff spot with a 43-31 fourth place finish.  The Stars then upended the Dallas Chaparrals and the  top-seeded Denver Rockets to earn a trip to the ABA Championship Series against the Indiana Pacers.  The Pacers, a league-best 59-25 in the  regular season, ended the Stars’ unlikely run with a 4-2 series victory.

The 6th and deciding game of the 1970 ABA Championship Series was held at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena on May 25, 1970.  The Pacers won 111-107 before 8,233 fans – the largest crowd in Stars franchise history.  It was also the last crowd in the team’s brief existence in Southern California.  By this time, the Stars departure was already in the works.  Owner Jim Kirst sold the troubled club to Denver-based cable television entrepreneur Bill Daniels in March of 1970.  Two weeks following the Game 6 loss in the finals, Daniels announced the club would move to Salt Lake City for the 1970-71 ABA season.

Daniels’ Utah Stars became a league powerhouse during the early 1970’s, appearing in three more ABA finals series, and winning the championship in 1971.  The franchise folded in December 1975 and the ABA closed down the following spring.

 

==Los Angeles Stars Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Date Opponent Score Program Other

1969-70

1969-70 1/7/1970 vs. Dallas Chaparrals L 114-112 Program
1969-70 3/4/1970 vs. Denver Rockets W 135-122 Program
1969-70 4/14/1970 @ Dallas Chaparrals  L 129-113 Program

 

==In Memoriam==

Forward Wayne Hightower (Stars ’69-’70) died of a heart attack on April 18, 2002. He was 62.  New York Times obituary.

Former Stars Head Coach Bill Sharman passed away at age 87 on October 25, 2013.

 

==Links==

Los Angeles Stars on RememberTheABA.com

American Basketball Association Media Guides

American Basketball Association Programs

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Written by AC

October 20th, 2014 at 2:42 am

1970-1972 Pittsburgh Condors

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John Brisker Pittsburgh CondorsAmerican Basketball Association (1970-1972)

Born: Summer 1970 – The Pittsburgh Pipers/Pioneers are re-branded as the Pittsburgh Condors
Folded: June 13, 1972

Arena: Pittsburgh Civic Arena

Team Colors:

Owners: Haven Industries (represented by Don Bezahler)

 

Western Pennsylvania sports fans didn’t care much for the Pittsburgh Condors of the American Basketball Association.  But this odd little team has become a cult favorite of ABA collectors and nostalgists thanks to its short life span, deeply weird storylines and some great-looking-but-very-rare memorabilia.

Case in point: a very scarce 1970-71 Condors media guide (like the one above right) is currently selling for $500.00 on e-Bay.  That’s John Brisker on the cover pictured in sombrero and six shooters.  Brisker was a sensational scorer and also a volatile, heat-packing brawler who terrified opponents and teammates alike.  No one has seen Brisker since 1978.  The most popular theory is that he died in Uganda fighting as a mercenary for Idi Amin.

1971-72 Pittsburgh CondorsThe Condors were a continuation of the ABA’s Pittsburgh Pipers franchise, which was an equally strange operation.  The Condors were one of the ABA’s original eleven franchises in 1967.  They were the best team in the league that first season (54-24) and won the inaugural championship, thanks in large part to future Hall-of-Famer Connie Hawkins.  But after that first ABA season, Condors owner Gabe Rubin moved the franchise to Minneapolis, where another ABA club had just failed.  When the Pipers failed to generate any interest in the Twin Cities, Rubin dragged the club back to Pittsburgh, of all places, for the ABA’s third season in 1969-70. Pittsburgh fans were not in a forgiving mood.  The 1969-70 Pipers played to a near-empty Civic Arena on most nights.  Compounding matters, Hawkins had left for the NBA and the team was a terrible (29-55), a shell of its championship form two winters earlier.

In April 1970 Gabe Rubin unloaded the Pipers on a New York conglomerate named Haven Industries that ran businesses ranging from sugar refining to livery services.  Remarkably, the new owners decided to keep the team in Pittsburgh, despite the monolithic apathy of the locals.  They decided the problem was the Pipers identity and set about holding a Name The Team contest to re-brand the team.  The prize for the winning entry was $500.00 cash.

Law student Don Seymour proposed the name “Pittsburgh Pioneers”, taking 57 words to explain why.  Club officials dug Seymour’s concept and named him the winner.  Trouble was, a woman named Angela Weaver also submitted the name “Pioneers” and, unlike Seymour, she kept her submission within the 25-word limit stated in the contest rules.  And Angela Weaver’s husband was an attorney.  And besides that a small downtown Pittsburgh college already used the name Pioneers and threatened to litigate.  And so the Pipers abandoned their bungled Name The Team contest and became the “Pittsburgh Condors” for no special reason.

On the court, the new management hired former Cincinnati Royals and San Diego Rockets (NBA) head man Jack McMahon to turn around the Condors’ fortunes.  Although Brisker and Mike Lewis were named to the 1971 ABA All-Star Game, the Condors struggled to a 36-48 finish and missed the playoffs.  Attendance was terrible a 2,806 per game, a figure inflated by massive ticket giveaways, if not outright deception, according to the ABA’s premier historian Arthur Hundhausen of RememberTheABA.com.

The Condors’ second and final campaign in the winter of 1971-72 was worst still.  GM Mark Binstein canned Jack McMahon after a 4-6 start and named himself Head Coach, despite no previous experience.  Attendance plummeted further, fueling rumors that the Condors would disband or relocate while the season was still in progress.  After the New Year, the Condors started moving games all over the country rather than play to empty seats in Pittsburgh.  There were rumors the Condors could end up in Cincinnati, El Paso, New Haven or San Diego for the 1972-73 season.  Pittsburgh’s final “home” game of the 1971-72 season was played in Tucson, Arizona, of all places, on March 28, 1972.  In typical fashion, the Condors lost to the Kentucky Colonels in a high scoring shootout 134-132.  The club would never play in Pittsburgh again.

The Condors had the worst record in the ABA in 1971-72 at 25-59.  The various rumored relocations fell through and the ABA terminated the Condors franchise on June 13, 1972.

 

==Pittsburgh Condors Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other

1970-71

1970-71 10/23/1970 @ Denver Rockets W 127-23 Program 

 

==In Memoriam==

Forward John Brisker disappeared in Uganda in April 1978 and was never heard from again.  Brisker was declared legally dead in 1985.

Condors Head Coach Jack McMahon passed away at age 60 on June 11, 1989.

 

==Links==

Pittsburgh Condors on RememberTheABA.com

American Basketball Association Media Guides

American Basketball Association Programs

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September 27, 1972 – Utah Stars vs. Phoenix Suns

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Utah Stars vs. Phoenix Suns
NBA-ABA Preseason Exhibition
September 27, 1972
The Salt Palace
Attendance: 7,759

American Basketball Associations Programs
42 pages

 

Sharp game program from an interleague preseason exhibition between the Utah Stars of the American Basketball Association and the NBA’s Phoenix Suns.  These exhibition summits weren’t as unusual as you might think.  Between 1971 and 1975 the rival leagues met 155 times, according to Arthur Hundhausen at RememberTheABA.com.  In fact, there were four interleague exhibitions on this September evening in 1972 alone.

This game at the Salt Palace in Utah was the first half of a home-and-home series that saw the Stars travel to Phoenix for a rematch two nights later.  Phoenix got the better of Utah in both games, starting with a 128-102 victory in this game.  Suns guards Charlie Scott and Dick Van Arsdale led all scorers with 20 points apiece. Ron Boone, Larry Jones and Willie Wise each scored 17 for the Stars in the losing effort.

The main attraction was Phoenix big man Connie Hawkins, pictured on the cover of the evening’s game program.  Thanks to very flimsy implications of point shaving early in Hawkins’ college career at the University of Iowa, the power forward was effectively blackballed from the NCAA and, later, the NBA for most of the 1960’s.  He spent the decade playing for the Harlem Globetrotters and for whatever pro leagues popped up to challenge the NBA.  In 1968 Hawkins signed with the fledgling ABA, helped the Pittsburgh Pipers win the league’s first championship and was named Most Valuable Player.  After settling his legal battle with the NBA in 1969, he was awarded a $1.3 million settlement and left the ABA to join the expansion Phoenix Suns, where he became a perennial All-Star.  Hawkins played 28 minutes in this exhibition, scoring 11 points and dishing out 5 assists.

Two nights later, the Stars travelled to Phoenix and lost the rematch 129-122.   One interesting footnote about the Phoenix game: the first half of the game was played by ABA rules (including the 3-point shot, which the NBA didn’t use at the time) and the red, white & blue ABA ball.  The second half was played by NBA rules and with the senior league’s orange ball.   I’m not sure if this same rules split was used in the Salt Lake City game.

 

==Links==

History of ABA-NBA Exhibitions on RememberTheABA.com

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Written by AC

March 23rd, 2014 at 2:40 pm

April 3, 1975 – Virginia Squires vs. New York Nets

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Virginia Squires vs. New York Nets
April 3, 1975
The Norfolk Scope
Attendance:

American Basketball Association Programs
44 pages

 

Beautifully illustrated game program from the final Virginia Squires game of the 1974-75 American Basketball Association season.  Boy, this game must have been a kick in the gut for Squires fans, what few of them remained.  The Squires were about to finish the year 15-69 – the worst record in the history of the ABA.  Adding insult to injury, their opponent was the New York Nets and Julius Erving.  The Squires drafted Erving out of the University of Massachusetts in 1971 and watched him bloom into an ABA superstar, only to have cash-strapped former Squires owner Earl Foreman deal him to the Nets for a guy who lasted one year (George Carter) and a few gold coins.

In fact, selling off superstars was probably the defining characteristics of the debt-plagued Squires.  The Squires set up shop in 1970 after Foreman moved his Washington Caps franchise to Virginia.  They brought a legit superstar with them in Rick Barry – sort of.  Barry signed with the team when it was Oakland Oaks, never expecting his contract would drag him across the country first to Washington and then to Virginia thanks to the chronic upheavals of the ABA.   Barry took to the press and start bashing Southerners, famously saying he didn’t want his young son to come home nursery school and say ‘Hi, y’all Daad.”  Foreman sold him to the New York Nets for $200,000 in September 1970 before he ever played a game for the Squires.

At the beginning of the 1973-74 season, Foreman sold off emerging star center Swen Nater to the San Antonio Spurs.  A couple of months later, he returned to the Bank of San Antonio and pawned George Gervin to the Spurs for $225,000, marking the third time in four years the Squires dealt away a future Hall of Famer for cash.  The Gervin sale was the final straw for ABA Commissioner Mike Storen.  Storen tried to void the one-sided deal as “detrimental to the welfare of the league and professional basketball”.  The dispute landed in federal court but ultimately Gervin ended up in San Antonio and the Squires lost their last superstar.

Shortly thereafter Foreman relinquished control of the franchise to the ABA.  A grassroots efforts to keep the team in Virginia saved the Squires in June 1974.  The new ownership group consisted of 56 partners, some of whom invested as little as $5,000.  The team was slightly re-branded as “The New Virginia Squires” (you can see this right on the program cover) to imply a departure from Foreman’s fire sale days, but the team only got worse finishing both the 1974-75 and 1975-76 seasons with 15-69 records. The club folded on May 11, 1976 just a few weeks before the ABA-NBA merger (not that the woeful Squires would have been included).

One interesting note about the Squires is that they were a regional franchise.  The club played in various cities around Virginia between 1970 and 1976 including Hampton, Norfolk, Richmond and Roanoke.  This game was played at the Norfolk Scope where the Squires traditionally drew some of their better crowds.

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Written by AC

November 14th, 2012 at 6:57 pm

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