Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘WBL’ tag

1988 Chicago Express

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World Basketball League (1988)

Born: 1987 – International Basketball Association founding franchise.
Died: December 8, 1988 – The Express relocate to Springfield, IL.

Arena: Rosemont Horizon (16,644)

Team Colors: Scarlet Red, Royal Blue & White

Owner: Barry Fox

 

Can you launch a minor league basketball in Chicago on the shoulders of Michael Jordan’s big brother Larry?  Apparently not, as the Chicago Express of the World Basketball League lasted just one summer, playing to acres of empty seats at the suburban Rosemont Horizon in 1988.

Larry Jordan, out of North Carolina A&T, was likely the biggest “name” on the Express, but certainly not the team’s best player.  That title went to Chicago product Alfredrick Hughes, a free shooting former star at Loyola of Chicago and former 1st round pick (1985) of the San Antonio Spurs.  Hughes was a classic tweener – too short at 6′ 5″ to make it in the NBA as a power forward, but a dominant minor league, especially in the WBL, which was restricted to players 6′ 5″ and under.  In the World Basketball League, Alfredrick Hughes was a literal and figurative giant.

Jim Les was another notable player, a guard out of Bradley University in Peoria.  Les was named to the All-WBL team in 1988 and earned a spot with the Utah Jazz in the fall of 1988-89, where he appeared in 82 games.  Les eventually played parts of seven season in the NBA from 1988 to 1995.

The Head Coach of the Express was former Northwestern University coach Rich Falk.  Falk resigned late in the season and was replaced by Assistant Coach Walt Perrin.

The Express’ first game was on May 19, 1988 against the Youngstown Pride at the Rosemont Horizon.  The game drew a decent announced crowd of 5,250 and the Express treated fans to a 115-102 victory, led by Hughes with a game high 25 points and 11 boards.

The crowds quickly evaporated though.  By the end of June, team owner Barry Fox resorted to massive free ticket giveaways, which produced the Express’ two largest crowds of the season, but failed to generate much in the way of return customers.  For the season, the Express averaged fewer than 2,000 fans in the 16,000-seat Horizon.  Late in the year, the Express moved a game to the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield, Illinois and drew over 4,000 fans, leading to speculation that the team would move there permanently for the 1989 season.

The Express finished the 1988 season at 27-27 and earned the WBL’s fourth and final playoff spot.  After defeating the Calgary 88’s in a semi-final game, the Express played the Las Vegas Silver Streaks in the World Basketball League championship game on September 9, 1988.  The Silver Streaks won 102-95.

In December 1988, Express owner Barry Fox made the rumors official and moved the team to Springfield, Illinois.  The club competed there for two more seasons as the Illinois Express before folding at the end of the 1990 season.   The WBL folded in 1992 midway through its fifth season.

 

 

==Express Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
1988 5/19/1988 vs. Youngstown Pride W 115-102 Program Rosters

 

==Links==

World Basketball League Media Guides

World Basketball League Programs

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Written by AC

January 1st, 2014 at 3:48 pm

1992 Jacksonville Stingrays

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World Basketball League (1992)

Born: December 1991 – WBL expansion franchise.
Folded: June 15, 1992

Arena: Jacksonville Coliseum

Team Colors:

Owner: Terry May et al. & World Basketball League

WBL Championships: None

 

The Jacksonville Stingrays were a doomed minor league basketball outfit that lasted for only six weeks in the World Basketball League (1988-1992) during the spring of 1992.  The WBL was a summertime minor league for players 6′ 5″ tall and shorter (seriously).

Under the WBL’s business model, the league owned 60% of each franchise. Local investors – when they could be found – owned up to 40%.  The Stingrays reportedly had a 14-person local investor group led by club President & CEO Terry May.  Problem was, with the league as the primary stakeholder and most teams earning minimal revenue from operations, almost every franchise was ultimately reliant on the league’s financial health and cash flow to pay their own bills on time.  The Stingrays joined the league in 1992 just as the WBL’s criminal house of cards was collapsing.

Unbeknownst to the league’s other owners, league founder and owner of the Youngstown (OH) Pride franchise Mickey Monus had been systematically embezzling from his Youngstown-based discount pharmacy chain Phar-Mor for years to underwrite the World Basketball League’s losses.  By 1992, Monus was on borrowed time as CEO of Phar-Mor. The stream of cash from the league office to the franchises slowed to a trickle.  Monus’ unwitting partners in the league demanded information about the league’s finances. Monus assured them everything was fine.  Nevertheless, league officials realized it was time for emergency cuts.

On June 15, 1992 WBL Commissioner John Geletka announced the closure of the Stingrays and the league’s other Florida-based franchise, the Florida Jades of Boca Raton, effective immediately. Both teams had played just 19 games of the planned 46-game schedule.  The Stingrays were 5-14 at the time of the shutdown and averaging a reported 579 fans per game for eight home dates in the 10,000-seat Jacksonville Coliseum.

Just over a month later, Monus’ fellow Phar-Mor executives finally uncovered his scheme.  He was fired and later sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.  Phar-Mor’s ensuing bankruptcy caused the loss of 17,000 jobs – it was Enron before Enron.  The revelations sounded the death knell of the World Basketball League. The circuit folded on August 1, 1992 without completing its fifth and final season.

 

Downloads

Justia case summary: United States of America vs. Michael I. Monus

2012 interview with former WBL Director of Public Relations Director Jimmy Oldham

1992 Newsweek Mickey Monus Profile

1992 Business Week Profile of Mickey Monus

 

Links

World Basketball League Media Guides

World Basketball League Programs

###

 

1990-1992 Erie Wave

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Erie WaveWorld Basketball League (1990-1992)

Born: 1990 – WBL expansion franchise.
Died: July 20, 1992 – The Wave fold in midseason.

Arena: Tullio Convention Center (6,010)

Team Colors: Blue & Red

Owners:

  • 1990: World Basketball League & George Turner
  • 1991-1992: World Basketball League

 

If they are remembered for nothing else – and they aren’t – the Erie Wave of the World Basketball League came up with one of the all-time great cheerleading squad names: the Eriesistibles.  What else can be said about the Wave?  They plied their trade in a gimmicky basketball league that had a height limit.  Two of their players became so disgruntled with the team that they retired to start their own rival WBL franchise. And shortly after the team folded in the middle of its third season, Wave players and staff learned that they had unwittingly taken part in a massive criminal enterprise.

Erie received a WBL expansion entry in early 1990, just 67 days before tip-off of the franchise’s first game.  The three-year old World Basketball League had several unique features that separated it from other basketball leagues.  Players could be no taller than 6′ 5″ tall.  The league played an untraditional May-August summer schedule, allowing minor leaguers from the winter Continental Basketball Association to ply their trade year round.  Although the league had only seven franchises in 1990, they stretched across North America from Saskatchewan to Las Vegas to Memphis.  To fill out the schedule, the WBL employed various imported clubs from Western Europe and the Soviet Union, which were not subject to the height limit.  These games counted in the standings, but were basically an automatic win.  WBL teams routinely pummeled the lumbering foreign clubs, who collectively lost 51 out of the 56 international games played in 1990.

The WBL business model called for the league to hold a 60% equity interest in each club, with local ownership holding the other 40%.  During the 1990 season, Erie’s local investor was a car dealer named George Turner.  Turner caught the basketball bug as a season ticket holder with the WBL’s nearby Youngstown Pride, located only 100 miles away and considered the league’s model franchise.

The Wave debuted at Erie’s Tullio Arena on May 17th, 1990 against the Calgary 88’s before an estimated crowd of 4,500.  Attendance withered thereafter, as did the team’s performance on the court.  The 1990 Wave finished in last place with a 12-34 record and posted an announced average attendance of 2,270 per game.

George Turner declined to renew his financial support at the end of the 1990 season.  The WBL failed to find new local ownership to replace Turner.  When the Wave returned for the 1991 season, they were wards of the league office and its primary patron, WBL founder and Youngstown Pride owner MichaelMickey” Monus, the President of the Youngstown-based Phar-Mor discount pharmacy chain.  The 1991 Wave won 18 games against 33 losses, once again posting the worst record in the WBL.

The Wheels came off for the WBL during its fifth season in 1992.  The league’s Canadian expansion of the past few years proved quite successful, as clubs in Winnipeg, Saskatchewan and Halifax drew strong crowds.  It was the American franchises – many of whom, like Erie, did not have functional local ownership, – that were bleeding the league dry.  On June 15th, 1992 the WBL shuttered both of its poorly attended Florida clubs, the Florida Jades and the Jacksonville Stingrays, in midseason.  The remaining clubs found the league office – which owned 60% of the equity in their franchises – unresponsive as bills mounted and went unpaid.   The trail of financial problems led directly to the league’s founder and sugar daddy, Mickey Monus and his crumbling house of cards at Phar-Mor.

On July 20th, 1992 the cash-poor World Basketball League shut down the Erie Wave with 13 games remaining on the regular season schedule.  The Wave had a record of 12-26 at the time.  Attendance for the 1992 season at Tullio Arena averaged just 1,077 fans per game, compared to a league-wide announced average of 3,194.

In late July 1992, several days after the Wave folded, Phar-Mor opened its 300th store.  Days later Monus was ousted when company officials discovered Monus and his CFO were maintaining two sets of books, claiming rapid growth and profits while Phar-Mor was actually generating huge losses and falling far behind in payments to its suppliers.  Among other crimes, Monus had embezzled close to $10 million from Phar-Mor over four years to underwrite the operating losses of the WBL and its franchises.  The entire financial underpinning of the WBL was revealed to be a criminal enterprise, with the local investors and front office managers in the role of unwitting participants.  On August 1st, 1992, the World Basketball League folded in the midst of its fifth season, days after the downfall of its primary patron.  Monus’ downfall also cost the jobs of 17,000 Phar-Mor employees – the seemingly robust chain was forced into bankruptcy – and nearly sank the fledgling Colorado Rockies expansion franchise in Major League Baseball, in which Monus was a major investor.

##

One of the best Wave players was Jamie Waller, a 1987 2nd round draft pick of the New Jersey Nets.  Waller led the WBL in scoring in four consecutive seasons from 1988-1991.  Waller began the 1991 season with the Nashville Stars and joined Erie midway through, finishing the season with a 26.3 points per game scoring average.  Waller was dealt to the Youngstown Pride prior to the 1992 season.

In 2008, professional basketball returned to Erie after a sixteen year absence when the NBA D-League placed the Erie Bayhawks expansion franchise at Tullio Arena.  The D-League is the official development league of the National Basketball Association (and has no height limits).

 

==Erie Wave Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other

1990

1990 6/11/1990 vs. Illinois Express W 111-107 (OT) Program

 

==Downloads & Links==

2012 interview with former WBL Director of Public Relations Jimmy Oldham

Justia case summary: United States of America vs. Michael I. Monus

1992 Newsweek Mickey Monus Profile
1992 Business Week Profile of Mickey Monus

 

==Links==

World Basketball League Media Guides

World Basketball League Programs

###

 

Written by AC

May 16th, 2011 at 6:45 pm

1991-1992 Florida Jades

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Florida JadesWorld Basketball League (1991-1992)

Born: February 7, 1991 – WBL expansion franchise.
Died: June 15, 1992 – The Jades fold in midseason.

Arena: FAU Arena (4,439)

Team Colors: Blue & Green

Owners:

  • 1991: Gary Rice, Delray Brooks, Eric Newsome, WBL
  • 1992: Steve Tebon, Bruce Armstrong, WBL

 

The Florida Jades were dreamt up by a pair of disgruntled minor league basketball players in a Saskatoon motel room, took their name from a cheap men’s cologne,  and ultimately became a sideshow to one of the largest corporate frauds in United States history.  Not too shabby for a club that lasted barely sixteen months from start to finish.

24-year old Delray Brooks and 25-year old Eric Newsome came up with the idea of owning their own basketball franchise in the summer of 1990, while both men played for the Erie (PA) Wave of the World Basketball League.  The WBL was a summertime minor league basketball circuit with a peculiar gimmick – all players had to be 6′ 5″ or shorter.

“Being players ourselves, I think we have an understanding of what makes a successful franchise,” Brooks told Sports Illustrated’s Jack McCallum. “The players are the cornerstone. You can’t cater to them, but you have to have an understanding of their problems. That’s what was lacking in some of our other experiences in the league.”

WBL league rules called for each franchise to be owned 60% by the league and 40% by local ownership, ostensibly to maintain stability in the league and prevent disenchanted local investors from unilaterally folding their clubs.  Effectively, this placed financial control of each of the WBL’s nine franchises in the hands of Michael “Mickey” Monus, league founder and President of the Ohio-based Phar-Mor discount pharmacy chain.

Moving beyond just idle talk, Brooks and Newsome turned to Newsome’s father, a Vice President at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.  Buy-in for a WBL expansion franchise in 1991 was $500,000.  Using the elder Newsome’s contacts, the pair of young and insolvent minor league ballers found a local businessman, Gary Rice, to fund their $200,000 stake for 40% interest in the team.  Rice owned a cosmetics distribution company in Georgia.  The team would take their name – the Florida Jades – from “Jade East”, a discount brand of men’s cologne marketed by Rice.  The WBL formally introduced the Jades at a press conference in a Boca Raton Holiday Inn on February 7th, 1991.  Brooks and Newsome would both serve as Vice Presidents of the Jades…and taxi squad players.

On the court, the Jades put together a strong team for their debut season.  Under Head Coach Matt Creamer, the club went 30-21, finishing second in the WBL’s Southern Division.  The Jades defeated the Memphis Rockers in the first round of the playoffs before falling to the eventual champion Dayton Wings in the league semi-finals.

Newsome, tasked with the business operations of the Jades, told The Boca Raton Daily News that he hoped the club would draw 2,500 to 3,000 fans per game to the Florida Atlantic University’s 4,500 gymnasium.  Season tickets ranged from $200 to $285 for the Jades’ 27 home games in the spring and summer of 1991.  Actual attendance was significantly less, with the Jades frequently announcing crowds of fewer than a thousand at FAU.

When the Jades returned for the 1992 season, Rice was gone, along with his proteges Brooks and Newsome.  The league  increased its ownership stake in the Jades to 80%, as it had in another troubled franchise, the Erie Wave.  Less than a month before the 1992 season tipped off, WBL Commissioner John Geletka travelled to Florida to introduce the Jades’ new management team.  Geletka also worked as a sports agent and the new investors included one of his clients, New England Patriots All-Pro tackle Bruce Armstrong.  Local triathlon and road race promoter Steve Tebon of Exclusive Sports Marketing took the remaining 10% stake and served as the club’s managing partner, encouraged by Monus’ reputation and the rapid growth of Phar-Mor.

The Jades off court woes continued under the new regime.  The club only sold a reported 300 season tickets.  Renovations at FAU forced the Jades to play 15 of their first 19 games away, at one point spending 22 straight days on the road.  Only 900 or so fans turned out for the 1992 home opener against the Winnipeg Thunder.  In a bizarre twist, Delray Brooks, the Jades’ founder and deposed Vice President of Basketball Operations, returned to the court and earned a roster spot our of training camp.

On June 15th, 1992 the WBL shut down both of its Florida clubs in midseason, eliminating the Jacksonville Stingrays along with the Jades.  A WBL source told The Boca Raton News that the Jades operation lost $300,000 during May and June before the league turned out the lights.  But the full story was rather more complicated.

As 80% owner, Mickey Monus was responsible for most of the Jades financial burden.  But the Phar-Mor offices were increasingly unresponsive to the Jades and other WBL franchises as they desperately tried to get their bills paid.  Jades minority partner Steve Tebon reported that of $700,000 promised by the league office to operate and promote the team, only $80,000 materalized.  In late July 1992, one month after the Jades folded, Phar-Mor opened its 300th store.  Days later Monus was ousted when company officials discovered Monus and his CFO were maintaining two sets of books, claiming rapid growth and profits while Phar-Mor was actually generating huge losses and falling far behind in payments to its suppliers.  Among other crimes, Monus had embezzled close to $10 million from Phar-Mor over four years to underwrite the operating losses of the WBL and its franchises.  The entire financial underpinning of the WBL was revealed to be a criminal enterprise, with the local investors and front office managers in the role of unwitting participants.  On August 1st, 1992, the World Basketball League folded in the midst of its fifth season, days after the exposure of its patron.  Monus’ shocking downfall also cost the jobs of 17,000 Phar-Mor employees – the seemingly robust chain was forced into bankruptcy – and nearly sank the fledgling Colorado Rockies expansion franchise in Major League Baseball, in which Monus was a major investor.

##

Guard Tracy Moore of the Jades averaged 25.2 point per game in 1991 en rooute to WBL Player-of-the-Year honors.   Moore, undrafted out of the University of Tulsa, used the WBL as a springboard to the NBA, where he appeared in 119 games over 5 seasons from 1991-1997.

Mickey Monus served 10 years in federal prison for his financial crimes.

 

 

==Downloads==

Justia case summary: United States of America vs. Michael I. Monus

2012 interview with former WBL Director of Public Relations Director Jimmy Oldham

1992 Newsweek Mickey Monus Profile
1992 Business Week Profile of Mickey Monus

Article Sources

 

==Links==

World Basketball League Media Guides
World Basketball League Programs

###

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