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