Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘ABL 1996-1998’ tag

1996-97 Richmond Rage

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American Basketball League (1996-1997)

Born: February 1996 – ABL founding franchise.
Died: July 21, 1997 – The Rage move to Philadelphia, PA.

Arenas:

 

Team Colors: Black, Red & Gold

Owner: American Basketball League

 

The Richmond Rage were a women’s professional basketball team that lasted for just one season in the American Basketball League.  The ABL was formed in 1995 with plans for a fall 1996 launch, hoping to draft off of the platform of the 1996 Atlanta summer Olympics and to get the jump on the WNBA, a rival startup backed by the National Basketball Association.

The Rage had a terrifically talented roster, including former University of Virginia star and Olympic gold medalist Dawn Staley (guard), and forward  Adrienne Goodson of Old Dominion.  Staley and Goodson would both earn 1st Team All-ABL honors, while 6′ 4″ center Taj McWilliams was named 2nd team All-League.

One curiosity on the Rage roster was the presence of U.S. Olympic track & field legend Jackie Joyner-Kersee.  The 34-year old medaled in her fourth and final summer Olympics in Atlanta in 1996 just months before the American Basketball League made its debut.  Kersee was an All-Pac 10 performer at UCLA in the early 1980’s, but hadn’t played competitive basketball in over a decade when she signed with the Rage in 1996.  Kersee made 17 appearances off the bench during the 1996-97 season, but her skills had eroded and she averaged just 0.9 points per game at forward.

Despite the individual talent, the Rage didn’t really put it all together in the regular season, finishing with a modest 21-19 record.  But the Rage caught fire for the playoffs, and upset the Western Conference champion Colorado Xplosion to earn a championship series date with the ABL’s best team, the Columbus Quest.   Richmond took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series, but was unable to close out the Quest.  Columbus took Games 4 & 5 on back-to-back nights on March 9th and 10th, 1997 to win the ABL’s first championship title.

Off the court, the Rage averaged 3,139 fans per game for 20 home dates split between the Richmond Coliseum and the Robins Center at the University of Richmond.  That ranked 6th out of the ABL’s 8 teams, but wasn’t far off the league average of 3,536 per game.  The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the ABL lost an estimated $500,000 – $600,000 operating the Rage in Richmond during its first season.

The ABL was a single-entity organization, which meant that all teams and player contracts were owned centrally by the league.  In July 1997, with ticket sales for the second season lagging in Richmond and the league in dire need of more alluring media markets for sponsors and television partners, the ABL moved the Rage franchise to Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Rage never regained the form of their first season in Virginia, falling to last place in 1997-98 with a 13-31 record.  The league’s third season in 1998-99 was cut off abruptly when the ABL shut down three days before Christmas in 1998 and later declared bankruptcy.

 

==Key Players==

  • Adrienne Goodson
  • Jackie Joyner-Kersee
  • Taj McWilliams
  • Dawn Staley

 

 ==Links==

American Basketball League Media Guides

American Basketball League Programs

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Written by AC

September 16th, 2013 at 2:37 am

1997-1998 Philadelphia Rage

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American Basketball League (1997-1998)

Born: July 21, 1997 – The Richmond Rage relocate to Philadelphia, PA.
Died: December 22, 1998 – The ABL ceases operations in midseason.

Arenas:

Team Colors: Black, Red & Gold

Owner: American Basketball League

 

The Philadelphia Rage were a women’s professional basketball team that operated for a season-and-a-half in the American Basketball League.  The franchise started out in Virginia as the Richmond Rage during the ABL’s 1996-97 inaugural season and advanced to the 1997 ABL Championship Series, losing to the Columbus Quest.

In July 1997 the Rage relocated to Philadelphia due to poor ticket sales and the small size of the media market in Richmond.  In their first season in Philly, the Rage split their games between the Palestra at the University of Pennsylvania and the brand new 10,000-seat Apollo at Temple University.   Attendance in Philadelphia was notably lousy.  During the 1997-98 season, Philadelphia ranked 8th out of the ABL’s 9 teams with average crowds of 3,238 for 22 home dates.  For the aborted 1998-99 season, when the Rage played solely at the Apollo, attendance was far and away the weakest in the league, with only 1,495 per game showing up for six dates.

The 1997-98 Rage club was terrible on the court, despite the presence of three women’s game legends on the roster in Adrienne Goodson, Taj McWilliams and Philly native Dawn Staley.  The Rage finished in last place in their division with a 13-31 record.

As the 1998-99 season began, the Rage seemed poised to turn things around, despite the loss of Dawn Staley, who jumped to the ABL’s much stronger rival, the Women’s National Basketball Association, during the offseason.   Hall-of-Famer Anne Donovan was the new coach and had the Rage off to a 9-5 start before the league ran out of money just before Christmas.   The league had kept the true severity of its financial pressures quiet and many players, fans and employees were caught off guard when the ABL abruptly closed its doors on December 22, 1998.

 

==Key Figures==

  • Anne Donovan (Head Coach)
  • Teresa Edwards
  • Adrienne Goodson
  • Taj McWilliams
  • Dawn Staley

 

==In Memoriam==

Rage guard Katrina Price died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on January 18, 1998, less than a month after the ABL folded.  She was 23.

 

==Links==

American Basketball League Media Guides

American Basketball League Programs

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1996-1998 San Jose Lasers

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American Basketball League (1996-1998)

Born: February 1996 – ABL founding franchise.
Died: December 22, 1998 – The ABL ceases operations in mid-season.

Arenas:

Team Colors: Green, Black, Silver & White

Investor/Operator: Joe Lacob

 

The San Jose Lasers were a franchise in the women’s American Basketball League, which debuted in October 1996 and briefly competed against the NBA-backed Women’s National Basketball Association.

The Lasers split their home games between the San Jose Event Center, where they held the majority of their games, and occasional dates at the larger San Jose Arena.  The Lasers averaged 3,181 fans per game in 1996-97, but picked up considerably the next season to 4,773.  The Lasers drew 4,447 through seven home dates in 1998-99 before the ABL abruptly shut down and declared bankruptcy on December 22, 1998 midway through the league’s third season.

On the court, the Lasers posted losing records during both full ABL seasons, but still managed to sneak into the playoffs both years.  Their best performance was in the 1997-98 campaign, when they advanced to the playoff semi-finals before losing to the eventual champions, the Columbus Quest.

The ABL was a single-entity organization with league ownership of franchises and player contracts.  Similar to Major League Soccer, the ABL did allow investors to purchase operating rights to individual franchises, although few teams found such investors.  The Lasers were an exception.  Venture capitalists Joe Lacob of Kleiner, Perkins, Caulfield & Byers made an equity investment in the ABL in the spring of 1997 and later purchased operating rights to the Lasers shortly before the team’s second season got under way.

Following the demise of the ABL, Lacob became a minority partner in the Boston Celtics in 2006.  In 2010, a Lacob-led group acquired ownership of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors for $450 million.

 

==San Jose Lasers Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other

1997-98

1997-98  10/17/1997 Long Beach Stingrays L 98-91 Program

 

 

==YouTube==

Montage from the Lasers 1996-97 inaugural season:

 

==Links==

American Basketball League Media Guides

American Basketball League Programs

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1998 Nashville Noise

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American Basketball League (1998)

Born: April 9, 1998 – ABL expansion franchise.
Died: December 22, 1998 – The ABL ceases operations in midseason.

Arena: Nashville Municipal Auditorium (8,548)

Team Colors: Orange, Purple & Yellow

Owner: American Basketball League

 

Thanks to reader @TimHanlon for sending in this rare media guide from the doomed Nashville Noise of the women’s American Basketball League (1996-1998).

The Noise were an expansion club for the ABL’s third and final season in the fall/winter of 1998-99.  Two clubs were added to the league, with the Chicago Condors being the other new entry.  The timing of the expansion was rather curious, as the single-entity ABL was in serious financial distress and was simultaneously contracting clubs in Atlanta and Long Beach and imposing salary cuts across the league.  Former Chicago Condors GM Denise Hodges later told Lena Williams of The New York Times that league CEO Gary Cavalli called her on the day of the press conference to introduce the Condors to Chicago to tell her the league was out of business, only to call back moments later and say everything was fine and to proceed with the event.

The Noise signed a couple of players of local repute, including former University of Tennessee All-American point guard Michelle Marciniak and 1996 U.S. Olympic gold medalist Venus Lacy, a 6′ 4″ center originally from Chattanooga.

The Noise debuted on November 6th, 1998 with a 84-67 loss on the road at Chicago.  The team flew back to Tennessee for their home debut the following evening against the league’s two-time defending champions, the Columbus Quest.  An announced crowd of 5,052 showed up at Nashville Municipal Auditorium to check out the Noise.  The team dropped its second straight, 84-76.

The Noise started the season notably weak, losing their first seven games.  Attendance was grim.  Five of the next six home games drew less than 2,100 fans to the Municipal Auditorium.  The team began to rally on the court in late November, but by this point the ABL itself was in its death throes.  Starved for national sponsorship dollars and without a significant television deal, the league abruptly terminated its season on December 22, 1998 and declared bankruptcy shortly thereafter.

The Noise played their final game, an 80-73 home victory against the Seattle Reign on December 20, 1998.  The club’s final record was 4-11 at the time of the shutdown.

 

==Downloads==

1998 Nashville Noise Schedule & Results

 

==Links==

American Basketball League Media Guides

American Basketball League Programs

###

1998 Chicago Condors

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American Basketball League (1998)

Born: 1998 – ABL expansion franchise.
Died: December 22, 1998 – The ABL ceases operations in mid-season.

Arena: UIC Pavilion (7,800)

Team Colors:

Owner: American Basketball League

 

The Chicago Condors were a blink-and-you-missed-’em women’s basketball franchise in the defunct American Basketball League (1996-1998).  Through little fault of their own, the Condors went out of business after just 12 games and six weeks of play when the ABL went bankrupt in midseason on December 22, 1998.

The ABL was one of two start-ups that tried to capitalize on the Gold Medal performance of the U.S. Women’s Basketball team at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.  The other was the NBA-sponsored WNBA, which had immense financial and infrastructure advantages over the ABL.  But the ABL was the first to market in the autumn of 1996 and signed eight members of the U.S. Gold Medal team.   Most observers of the women’s felt that the ABL bested the WNBA in the initial battle for talent.

The ABL product was outstanding.  But there were big problems.  To keep the top players away from the WNBA, the ABL paid through the nose – average salaries in 1997 of $70,000, plus year-round benefits.  (The WNBA, by contrast, had a top salary in its launch year of 1997 of $50,000, or just above the ABL’s minimum salary of $40K).  Other than the New England Blizzard franchise, which was wildly popular in Connecticut, all of the ABL’s teams struggled to draw more than 3,000 to 4,000 fans per game.  And the league’s efforts to attract national sponsorship deals and a meaningful TV contract were a flop.

The Condors were one of two expansion teams (along with the Nashville Noise) added for the ABL’s third and final season in the fall 1998.   The expansion timing was rather curious, because the single-entity ABL owned all of the franchises, was practically insolvent by the spring of 1998 and was simultaneously in contraction mode, shuttering teams in Long Beach and Atlanta.

Condors GM Allison Hodges, the wife of outspoken former Chicago Bulls sniper Craig Hodges, was the face of the team in the Chicago business and media community.  In this excellent 1999 postmortem on the ABL, Hodges tells Lena Williams of The New York Times that ABL co-founder Gary Cavalli called her on the day the Condors franchise was introduced to the media, instructing her to cancel the event because the league was out of business, only to call back moments later to say that everything was fine.

The Condors debuted on November 6th, 1998 Chicago against the Nashville Noise.  NBA stars Scottie Pippen and Juwan Howard and pop icon Usher were among the announced 7,060 on hand at Chicago’s UIC Pavilion for the festivities.  The Condors blew out the Noise 84-67 behind 26 points from their best player, Yolanda Griffith.

The true severity of the ABL’s financial problems at this moment was not known to the public nor to most league employees and players, although a 10% paycut was forced on all ABL staff a few months earlier.  In fact, speculation in the press was that the ABL might turn a corner in the fall of 1998 due to an NBA lockout that wiped out the November calendar in the men’s league.

The Condors would play only four more home games in their brief life.  The ABL very abruptly shut down and declared bankruptcy on December 22, 1998, two days after the Condors played what would be their final game in Denver against the Colorado Xplosion.

The team would finish with a 4-8 record.  We’ll never know how the team would have fared in the long run in Chicago, but through five home games in 1998, the Condors were second in the nine-team ABL with average attendance of 4,775.  The Condors reported season ticket sales of 650 with an additional 500 mini-plans in a Chicago Tribune article a few days before the season opener.

Seldom-used Condors guard Joanne McCarthy out of the University of Illinois-Chicago is the sister of pneumatic actress and Playboy model Jenny McCarthy.  The McCarthy sisters appeared together at a Condors introductory press conference in October 1998 wearing identical #21 jerseys.   Asked by a Chicago reporter how people could tell them apart, Jenny McCarthy answered “By our calf size.”

After the demise of the ABL, Yolanda Griffith moved on to Sacramento Monarchs of the WNBA.  She won that league’s MVP award in 1999 and became an eight-time WNBA All-Star and the Finals MVP in 2005.  She is considered one of the great rebounders and defensive players in the history of women’s basketball and was named to the WNBA All-Decade Team for the 2000’s.

 

==1998 Chicago Condors Game Results==

Date Opponent Score Program Other
11/6/1998 vs. Nashville Noise W 84-67
11/7/1998 @ Philadelphia Rage L 73-56
11/15/1998 @ Columbus Quest L 66-58
11/20/1998 vs. San Jose Lasers L 78-68
11/21/1998 @ Philadelphia Rage L 76-59
11/27/1998 vs. Columbus Quest W 65-61
11/28/1998 @ New England Blizzard W 70-57
12/4/1998 vs. New England Blizzard L 75-72
12/5/1998 @ Nashville Noise L 80-78
12/13/1998 @ Columbus Quest L 67-61
12/18/1998 vs. Philadelphia Rage W 78-75
12/20/1998 @ Colorado Xplosion L 66-57

 

==Downloads==

1998 Chicago Condors roster (complete)

Chicago Condors article sources

 

==Links==

American Basketball League Media Guides

American Basketball League Programs

###

Written by AC

November 7th, 2012 at 6:14 am

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