Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘Basketball’ Category

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


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


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.

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.


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.





Written by andycrossley

April 12th, 2015 at 2:18 am

1973-1974 Gastonia Rangers

leave a comment

Gastonia RangersWestern Carolinas League (1973-1974)

Born: Affiliation change from Gastonia Pirates.
1975 – The Rangers relocate to Anderson, SC.

Stadium: Sims Legion Park

Team Colors:



The Gastonia (NC) Rangers were a Class A farm club of the Texas Rangers during the summers of 1973 and 1974. The team replaced the Gastonia Pirates entry (1963-1972) in the Western Carolinas League.

Gastonia won the 1974 Western Carolinas League championship by virtue of finishing in first place in both halves of the season, thus eliminating the need for postseason playoffs under the rules of the league.  Key future Major Leaguers to play in Gastonia during the Rangers early 70’s tenure included Mike Hargrove (1973) and Len Barker (1974).

Following the 1974 season, owner Fred Nichols moved the team to Anderson, South Carolina where it became the Anderson Rangers.  One factor in the move was the dim lighting at Gastonia’s Sims Legion Park, which failed to meet the minimum “foot candles” requirements (i.e. brightness) for Class A ballparks.

Following the Rangers’ departure in 1974, there was no pro baseball in Gastonia until the arrival of the Gastonia Cardinals in 1977.  In 1980, the Western Carolinas League changed its name to the South Atlantic League.  Gastonia hosted a series of South Atlantic League clubs throughout the 80’s and early 1990’s, including a later version of the Gastonia Rangers from 1987 until 1992.



Western Carolina League Programs


Written by andycrossley

December 14th, 2014 at 1:34 pm

February 14, 1963 – Camden Bullets vs. EPBL All-Stars

one comment

Camden BulletsCamden Bullets vs. Eastern Professional Basketball League All-Stars
February 14, 1963
Convention Hall
Attendance: 2,000

Eastern Professional Basketball League Programs
8 Pages


Stellar vintage scorecard from the 1963 Eastern Professional Basketball League All-Star Game, played before a small crowd of around 2,000 in Camden, New Jersey on Valentine’s Night.  The exhibition pitted the host Camden Bullets (1961-1966) against an All-League squad from the other six clubs in the New Jersey/Pennsylvania bus league.

The Bullets boasted the best player in the Eastern League in former 10-time NBA All-Star Paul Arizin.  Arizin was Philly through and through, a native son of the city who played college ball at Villanova and then spent his entire NBA career with the Philadelphia Warriors.  When the Warriors left town for San Francisco in 1962, Arizin decided to retire from the NBA rather than move West with the franchise.  At the time of his retirement, Arizin was the 3rd highest scorer in NBA history, despite missing two full seasons in his prime to serve in Korea.

After the Warriors departed, Paul Arizin played three more seasons for the minor league Bullets before retiring from pr0 ball in 1965.  On this night in 1963, he led all scorers with 35 points and added 16 rebounds in Camden’s 122-114 victory over the All-Stars.  He would go onto win Eastern League MVP honors in 1963.  His Camden teammate Bobby McNeill, however, was the MVP of this game, with 32 points, 12 assists and 7 boards.

Paul Arizin was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1978 and chosen as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history in 1996.  He passed away in 2006 at age 78.



Written by andycrossley

December 8th, 2014 at 4:38 am

November 26, 1980 – Dallas Diamonds vs. Chicago Hustle

leave a comment

Anne Donovan Old DominionDallas Diamonds vs. Chicago Hustle
Pre-season Exhibition Game
November 26th, 1980
Old Dominion Field House (Norfolk, VA)

Women’s Professional Basketball League Programs
64 Pages


Here we have a terrific program that Fun While It Lasted recently acquired from the collection of women’s basketball historian John Molina.  This comes from a rare college/pro doubleheader hosted by the Old Dominion University Lady Monarchs in November 1980.  The front end of the double dip was a pre-season exhibition game between the Chicago Hustle and the Dallas Diamonds of the short-lived Women’s Professional Basketball League (1978-1981).

At the time, Old Dominion was the powerhouse team in women’s college basketball.  In 1980, the Lady Monarchs were two-time defending AIAW national champions.  And the Norfolk, Virginia school produced the top two draft picks in the 1980 Women’s Professional Basketball League draft.  Nancy Lieberman, widely considered the greatest female basketball player in the United States, went #1 overall to the Dallas Diamonds.  After a three-month holdout, Lieberman signed a record-breaking $100,000 contract with the financially shaky Diamonds, double the benchmark $50K deal inked by UCLA’s Ann Meyers a year earlier.  6′ 5″ Danish center Inge Nissen went #2 overall to the Hustle.  No less dominant than Lieberman, Nissen cut a much lower public (and financial) profile.

The University imported the Diamonds and the Hustle for this pre-season tune-up and then retired Lieberman and Nissen’s numbers at halftime of the ODU-James Madison contest that followed.  According to The Associated Press, it was the first time a university retired the jerseys of its alumni in the (relatively short) history of women’s college basketball.

Inge Nissen Old DominionTo the delight of the ODU faithful, Lieberman (20 pts. for Dallas) and Nissen (18 pts. for Chicago) led all scorers in Dallas’ 80-66 victory.

Despite losing two future Hall of Famers in Lieberman and Nissen in 1980, the cupboard was hardly bare at Old Dominion heading into the 1980-81 college basketball season.  For one thing, the Lady Monarchs still had the unstoppable 6′ 8″ sophomore center Anne Donovan.  Lieberman (appearing “short” at 5′ 10″), Donovan and Nissen are pictured on the cover of the evening’s game program (above right).   ESPNW writer Mechelle Voepel notes that the iconic photo of the three future Hall-of-Famers hung in the ODU Field House for years.

Donovan would lead the Lady Monarchs to a third consecutive Final Four appearance in 1981.  But unlike Lieberman and Nissen, she would never get the chance to play pro basketball in the United States.  The Women’s Professional Basketball League folded in 1981 at the conclusion of Lieberman and Nissen’s rookie seasons.  Donovan played overseas and gold medals with the U.S. Olympic team in 1984 and 1988.

Donovan and Lieberman were enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in the mid-1990’s.  Both went on to coach in the WNBA and Donovan coached the U.S. women to Olympic Gold in 2008.   Inge Nissen, as always, has remained in the background in comparison to her legendary ODU teammates.  Nissen was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012, but still lacks that most basic credential of modern day notoriety – her own Wikipedia entry.



November 26, 1980 Chicago Hustle Pre-season Roster

November 26, 1980 Dallas Diamonds Pre-season Roster



Dallas Diamonds Home Page

Nissen gets her time in the spotlight“, Mechelle Voepel, ESPNW, June 8, 2012



Written by andycrossley

November 23rd, 2014 at 5:59 pm

1996-1998 Atlanta Glory

leave a comment

Theresa Edwards Atlanta GloryAmerican Basketball League (1996-1998)

Born: 1995 – ABL founding franchise.
Died: 1998 – The Glory ceases operations.


Team Colors: Blue, Red & Nugget Gold

Owner: American Basketball League


The Atlanta Glory was a short-lived women’s basketball team that competed in the American Basketball League for two seasons in the mid-1990’s.  The team split its home games between two downtown Atlanta college campuses, playing most dates at the brand new 5,700-seat arena at Morehouse College, built for the 1996 Olympic Games.

Teresa Edwards, a Cairo, Georgia native, former UGA Bulldog, and four-time U.S. Olympic basketball medalist, was the Glory’s featured attraction.  But despite Edwards’ presence, the Glory struggled to find a following in Atlanta.  During the ABL’s 1996-97 inaugural season, the Glory’s average attendance of 2,780 fans was 2nd lowest in the league.  The team also missed the playoffs with an 18-22 record.

Edwards took on double duty as the Glory’s player-coach for the second ABL season in the winter of 1997-98.  The team went backwards to 15-29, missing the playoffs again.  Announced attendance picked up 40% to 3,898 per game, but that wasn’t enough to save the Glory from the axe.  All teams in the single-entity ABL were centrally owned by the league itself.  With the league bleeding cash at an alarming pace, the ABL contracted the Atlanta franchise shortly after the 1997-98 season concluded.

The ABL launched a 3rd season in November 1998, but ran out of money one month later and folded on December 22, 1998.

Women’s pro hoops returned to Atlanta in 2008 with the formation of the Atlanta Dream of the WNBA.



American Basketball League Media Guides

American Basketball League Programs