Continental Basketball Association (1987-1989)
Born: January 1987 – The Jacksonville Jets relocate to Biloxi, MS
Moved: 1989 (Wichita Falls Texans)
Arena: Mississippi Coast Coliseum (11,500)
Team Colors: Blue, White & Gold
Dance Team: The Jetsetters
Owner: Ted Stepien
CBA Championships: None
The Mississippi Jets were a particularly screwy, dysfunctional entry in the Continental Basketball Association, the NBA’s de facto minor league during the late 1980’s. The Jets were owned by Ted Stepien, the reviled former Cleveland Cavaliers owner notorious for both dunderheaded racial pronouncements and world-beating managerial ineptitude. By 1983, NBA owners were so desperate to rid themselves of Stepien that Commissioner David Stern bribed Richfield Coliseum owner George Gund with four bonus draft picks (to replace the ones Stepien had frittered away) to buy the team.
After being drummed out of the NBA in 1983, Stepien invested in the CBA, starting an expansion franchise known as the Toronto Tornados. Two years later, Stepien uprooted the Tornados in the middle of the 1985-86 season and moved the team 1,200 miles to Pensacola, Florida. A few months later he moved across Florida to the Jacksonville Coliseum. For the 1986-87 season, the team would be known as the Jacksonville Jets. Or not. After less than a month in Jacksonville, Stepien pulled up stakes again and moved the Jets to the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi during the first week of January 1987.
What Biloxi got was a pretty good team full of drug casualties. Two days after Christmas 1986, the then-Jacksonville Jets traveled to Pensacola, Florida for a road series. Jets’ leading scorers Billy Goodwin and Bobby Parks were busted for cocaine and marijuana possession by Pensacola police. Goodwin and Parks arrived with the rest of the team in Biloxi on January 5th, 1987 with felony drug charges hanging over their heads back in Florida. That night, an announced crowd of 7,427 turned out at the Mississipi Coast Coliseum for the team’s first game in Biloxi. A week later, the Jets cut their top two scorers after Goodwin and Parks refused to submit to follow-up drug testing.
The Jets replaced the lost scoring punch by signing former Houston Rockets shooting guard Mitchell Wiggins. The same week that the Jets parted ways with Goodwin and Parks, the NBA had slapped Wiggins with a two-year ban for cocaine abuse.
In October 1987 the CBA accused Stepien of pressuring former Jets head coach Keith Fowler to throw the final three games of the 1986-87 season in order to manipulate playoff seedings. Stepien allegedly wanted to finish in third place rather than second place to avoid scheduling conflicts at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum. The Jets finished third and lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Albany Patroons. The CBA later fined Stepien $50,000.
At the box office, the Jets were a complete flop, like all of Stepien’s prior sports promotions. After that big opening night crowd back in January 1987, Jets attendance flatlined. For the team’s first full season in Biloxi in the winter of 1987-88, the Jets sold a league worst 183 season tickets.
At the end of the 1988-89 season, Stepien finally sold the team and it was relocate to Wichita Falls, Texas.
We are looking for any memorabilia or documents from the Mississippi Jets (photos, programs, etc.). Contact us if you can help.
Forward Anthony Frederick (Jets ’87-’88) died of a heart attack at age 38 on May 29, 2003.
Former head coach Don Delaney (Jets ’87-’88) passed away on February 16, 2011 at the age of 75.
Guard Bobby Parks (Jets ’87) died of lung cancer on March 13, 2013. Parks was 51.