Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘CBA’ tag

2002-2005 Great Lakes Storm

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2002-03 Great Lakes StormContinental Basketball Association (2002-2005)

Born: September 4, 2002 – CBA expansion franchise.
Died: 2005 – The Storm cease operations.

Arena: Birch Run Expo Center

Team Colors:

Owners: Greg Van Boxel, Joe Oesterling & Chris Webber

 

The Great Lakes Storm basketball team was a minor league outfit that played three seasons in the Continental Basketball Association from 2002 through 2005.  The Storm were based in the tiny village of Birch Run (pop. 1,555) in Saginaw County, Michigan.

Midway through the Storm’s second season in the 2003-04, former University of Michigan star and NBA All-Star Chris Webber became a part-owner of the team.  Webber’s former “Fab Five” teammate at Michigan, Jimmy King, played for the Storm that season too.

The Storm folded in 2005 after three seasons of play.

 

==Links==

Continental Basketball Association Media Guides

Continental Basketball Association Programs

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Written by andycrossley

September 1st, 2014 at 5:29 pm

1978-1979 Baltimore Metros

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Baltimore MetrosContinental Basketball Association (1978-1979)

Born: 1978 – The Washington Metros relocate to Baltimore, MD.
Died: January 1979 – The Metros relocate to Utica, NY in midseason.

Arena: UMBC Fieldhouse (4,000)

Team Colors:

Owner: Fred Keller

 

Doomed, totally forgotten minor league basketball effort that flamed out in Baltimore after a couple of months in early 1979.   The Baltimore Metros formed a year earlier in Washington, D.C. in the Eastern Basketball Association.  The Metros were terrible in the EBA (5 wins against 26 losses) and team owner Fred Keller moved the club to the University of Maryland Baltimore County Fieldhouse for the 1978-79 season.   The EBA also re-branded itself as the Continental Basketball Association that year.

Keller hired ABA and NBA veteran Larry Cannon to coach the team.  Cannon, the #5 overall pick in the 1969 NBA draft, got the team off to a 9-5 start.  But that wasn’t good enough for Keller, who fired him in December and took the coaching reigns himself.  By January, the club was out of money and Keller was looking to unload it.  The CBA threatened to revoke the franchise for unpaid bills.  In late January, the Metros abruptly left town and set up shop in Utica, New York, changing their name to the “Mohawk Valley Thunderbirds” in midseason.  That didn’t work out either and the Metros/Thunderbirds eventually went out of business without finishing the 1978-79 regular season.

 

==Baltimore Metros Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Date Opponent Score Program Other
10/27/1978 vs. Rochester Zeniths ?? Program Roster

 

==Links==

Continental Basketball Association Media Guides

Continental Basketball Association Programs

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Written by andycrossley

July 4th, 2014 at 1:48 am

1992-1994 Rochester Renegade(s)

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Rochester RenegadesContinental Basketball Association (1992-1994)

Born: May 1992 – The Birmingham Bandits relocate to Rochester, MN.
Died: May 24, 1994 – The Rochester Renegades relocate to Harrisburg, PA.

Arena: Mayo Civic Center

Team Colors:

Owner: Tom McMillan

 

The third time was not the charm for Alabama businessman Tom McMillan, who experienced little but heartburn and red ink after buying into the minor league Continental Basketball Association in the summer of 1989.  McMillan purchased the Pensacola Tornados that year and operated the club in Florida for two more seasons before soft attendance compelled him to move CBA franchise closer to home for the 1991-92 campaign.

But McMillan’s re-named Birmingham Bandits played in an outdate state fairgrounds neighborhood in a rough neighborhood and were a big loser at the box office.  Barely a year after moving from Florida, McMillan was looking for yet another new home and he found one when a group of investors from Rochester, Minnesota offered to take on 30% of the team if he moved his CBA franchise to the small southeastern Minnesota city.  It was a dubious proposition.  The CBA had already tried and failed in Rochester just a few years earlier, when the Rochester Flyers (1987-1989) folded up shop after only two seasons.

In Minnesota the team took on the name Rochester Renegade (yes, singular) and adopted a feathered cap and sabre for its new logo, apparently taking after the legend of Robin Hood.  Maybe this was a clever inside joke among McMillan and his new local investors: by now McMillan had to know that owning a CBA team was a swift and efficient way for the rich to be liberated of their wealth.

Under Head Coach Ron Ekker the 1992-93 Rochester Renegade were historically awful.  The team finished 6-50, which was the worst record in the 47-year history of the league.  As bad as they fared in the standings though, the 1992-93 Renegade team featured several players would later make it to (or get back to) the National Basketball Association, including Elliott Perry, Tony Farmer and Ronnie Grandison (pictured on the team’s 1992-93 program, above right).

McMillan’s local partners quickly backed away from the artistic and financial catastrophe unfolding at Rochester’s Mayo Civic Center, leaving McMillan holding the bag by himself as an absentee owner.  He decided to give the team one more shot in Rochester.  For the 1993-94 season, the team added an “s” to their name and became the more conventional-sounding Rochester Renegades.

McMillan paid former Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Bill Musselman $175,000 – a fortune in CBA money – to come in and turn around his team on the court.  In addition to his NBA experience, the hyper-intense Musselman was a legend in the CBA.  During the mid-1980’s he won four straight league championships from 1985 to 1988 as coach of the Tampa Bay Thrillers and Albany Patroons franchises.

Musselman worked his magic again, re-making the 6-50 Rochester team of the year before into a 31-25 playoff club.  Ronnie Grandison returned for a second season and was named the CBA’s Most Valuable Player.  But despite a big increase in percentage terms, Rochester’s ticket sales of 2,200 per game were still among the worst in the league and McMillan lost a reported half million dollars during the 1993-94 season. Late in the year he began talking with potential buyers in St. Paul, Massachusetts and Mississippi.

Finally, after five seasons and three cities, Tom McMillan unloaded his sinking CBA investment at the fire sale price of $350,000 to a real estate broker from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in May 1994.  The Renegade moved East and became the Harrisburg Hammerheads for the 1994-95 CBA season.  The real estate man quickly ran out of money and the franchise went out of business in February 1995 without managing to complete the season in Harrisburg.

 

==In Memoriam==

Former Renegades Head Coach Bill Musselman died on May 5, 2000 of heart and kidney failure after a series of ailments.  He was 59.

 

==Links==

Continental Basketball Association Media Guides

Continental Basketball Association Programs

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Written by andycrossley

March 9th, 2014 at 3:24 pm

1986-1988 Savannah Spirits

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Continental Basketball Association (1986-1988)

Born: April 1986 – The Detroit Spirits relocate to Savannah, GA.
Died: June 24, 1988 – The Spirits relocate to Tulsa, OK.

Arena: Savannah Civic Center

Team Colors:

Owner: Reginald Henderson

 

The Savannah Spirits were a were a brief entry in the minor league Continental Basketball Association for two winters in the mid-1980’s.  The team originated in Detroit in 1982 and won a CBA title in 1983, but struggled for relevance in the Motor City thanks to competition from the NBA’s Detroit Pistons.

The Detroit Spirits final owner was a man named Reginald Henderson who owned a blood testing laboratory.  He continued to run the Spirits as an absentee owner after moving the team to Georgia in April of 1986.

The Savannah Spirits were undistinguished on the court, failing to make the playoffs their first year and losing in the opening round their second.  But the team had a great line-up of characters, including the gonzo Chaucer scholar-turned-basketball coach Charley Rosen and former Georgia Tech star Tico Brown, who was the Crash Davis of the CBA.  Brown would play the last two seasons of his long minor league career in Savannah and finish as the CBA’s all-time leading scorer (8,538 points).   The Spirits’ 24-year old radio play-by-play man in Savannah was Craig Kilborn, later of Sportscenter, The Daily Show and Old School fame.

According to Rosen’s memoir Crazy Basketball: A Life In and Out of Bounds, Henderson was indicted and jailed during the Savannah Spirits’ second season for defrauding the federal government at his blood labs.  At the end of that season, in June of 1988, the team was sold off to an Oklahoma convenience store kingpin who moved the team to Tulsa, where it became known as the Tulsa Fast Breakers.

The former Spirits franchise went through several more sales , name changes and relocations over the next decade, roaming the continent from North Dakota to Mexico City.   Eventually the team landed in San Diego where it finally ran out of money and closed down in January 1996.

 

==Links==

Continental Basketball Association Media Guides

Continental Basketball Association Programs

Crazy Basketball: A Life In and Out of Bounds by Charley Rosen

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Written by andycrossley

March 8th, 2014 at 8:05 pm

1983-1985 Toronto Tornados

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Continental Basketball Association (1983-1985)

Born: 1983 – CBA expansion franchise.
Died: December 1985 – The Tornados relocate to Pensacola, FL in midseason.

Arena: Varsity Arena

Team Colors:

Owner: Ted Stepien

 

During the 1982-83 NBA season, despised Cleveland Cavaliers owner Ted Stepien threatened to move his woeful club to Toronto.  It was one of the final missteps in a four year marathon of gaffes and civic humiliations that began with Stepien’s 1979 Rave Magazine interview where he opined that the Cavaliers had “too many black players” and spanned his disastrous three-year reign as Cavs’ owner from 1980 to 1983.  The Cavs’ move to Toronto never came to pass and Stepien mercifully divested himself of the Cavaliers in the spring of 1983.  But oddly, the reviled owner ended up with his Toronto hoops team anyway.

Stepien applied for a Toronto expansion franchise in the Continental Basketball Association in the spring of 1983.  The CBA was, at the time, a developmental partner of the NBA.  For players, the CBA was simultaneously one rung below the NBA and 10,000 light years away.  The league played in burgs like Billings, Montana, Casper, Wyoming and Lima, Ohio.  Ted Stepien was assuredly the only NBA owner ever to drop ranks into the blue collar CBA, but beleaguered Cleveland fans would likely argue he ran ran the Cavs like a bush league operation in the first place, so he probably just ended up where he truly belonged.

As an expansion club in the winter of 1983-84, the Toronto Tornados finished last in their division at 16-28.  Toronto averaged just over 1,200 at Varsity Arena.

During their second season 1984-85, the Tornados began to win under Head Coach Gerald Oliver.  But it was clear that Toronto sports fans didn’t care.  Attendance dipped below 1,000 spectators per game and the Tornados openly explored relocation to Jacksonville, Memphis, Pensacola and San Diego.

As usual with Stepien-owned teams, chaos swirled around the organization.  After a 9-18 start, the Tornados won 17 of their final 21 games in 1985 to clinch the CBA’s final playoff spot with a 26-22 record.  They were the hottest team in the CBA.  Stepien’s peculiar response to this late season rally was to fire his head coach, Gerald Oliver, 36 hours before the start of Toronto’s 1985 first round playoff series with the Phil Jackson-coach Albany Patroons.

When Stepien arrived in Albany for Game 1, he rattled off a long list of complaints against Oliver: the team only sold 162 season tickets and Oliver had been responsible for the business operations as well, the ex-coach rested his starters in the final regular season game and “backed in” to the postseason in the owner’s estimation, and Oliver may (or may not) have been angling for other coaching jobs in the league during the season.  As to the last allegation, if it was true – who could blame him?

“The coach is only worth 20 percent.  He doesn’t play,” Stepien explained to Schenectady Gazette sportswriter Tim Layden.

The Tornados lost to the Patroons in five games.

Rather surprisingly, the Tornados returned to Toronto for a third season in the winter of 1985.  But the team’s fortunes continued to drop, with attendance down to fewer than 700 per game.  At Christmas 1985, with the Tornados mired in last place with a 2-7 record, Stepien abruptly shipped the club off to Pensacola, Florida to finish out the 1985-86 CBA season as the Pensacola Tornados.  Incredibly, Stepien would go on to move the team twice more in the next twelve months, first to Jacksonville and later to Biloxi, Mississippi.

 

==Tornados Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Year Date Opponent Score Program Other
1984-85 3/18/1985  vs. Albany Patroons  W 117-105 Program Roster

 

==In Memoriam==

Former Tornados owner Ted Stepien died on September 10, 2007 at age 82.  The normally snark-free Sports Business Journal headlined his obituary thusly: “Stepien, Successful Businessman, Bad Owner, Dies at 82″

 

==Links==

Continental Basketball Associations Media Guides

Continental Basketball Associations Programs

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Written by andycrossley

December 14th, 2013 at 9:24 pm