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Smallthoughts:Old School Tuesday …The Floridians

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The Miami Floridians, later in their history known simply as The Floridians, were a professional basketball franchise in the original, now-defunct American Basketball Association. The Miami Floridians played in the ABA from 1968 through 1970 when they became simply The Floridians. The team had two color schemes: their original red, blue, and white, and their later black, magenta, and orange.

The Miami Floridians began as the Minnesota Muskies, a charter ABA franchise who played in Bloomington, Minnesota at the Met Center and wore blue and gold. The Muskies finished with the league’s second-best record, but wretched attendance figures (officially 2,800 per game, a figure that was likely padded) led owner Larry Shields to conclude that the team could not be viable in the Twin Cities. He sold minority shares to a group of Florida businessmen and moved the team to Miami. However, in order to pay leftover debts in Minnesota, Shields sold Rookie of the Year Mel Daniels to the Indiana Pacers, a deal now reckoned as the most lopsided trade in ABA history.

The Floridians never attracted a large following, despite numerous promotions—including ballgirls wearing white bikinis and go-go boots. However, the team did manage to make the playoffs three out of the four years of their existence. The Floridians’ first homes were the Miami Beach Convention Center and the Convention Center Annex.

The 1969-1970 season was largely forgettable for the Miami Floridians. They split their home games between Dinner Key Auditorium and Miami-Dade Junior College North’s gym. Dinner Key, a former aircraft hangar, was perhaps the most infamous building in ABA history. It had no air conditioning and would often get quite hot inside, forcing management to throw open the doors; players would then have to adjust their shots by the ocean breezes that whistled onto the court. The Floridians dismissed Pollard during the season and named Hal Blitman of Cheyney State College as their head coach.

Following the 1969-1970 season, new owner Ned Doyle dropped “Miami” from the team’s name and made it a “regional” franchise, scheduling games in Miami (back at the Miami Beach Convention Center), TampaSt. Petersburg at the Curtis Hixon Hall and Bayfront Arena, Jacksonville at the Jacksonville Memorial Coliseum, and in West Palm Beach at the West Palm Beach Auditorium. In an unprecedented move, Doyle “fired” the entire team (all players were traded or released) and kept the coach. The team replaced Blitman after an 18-30 start with Bob Bass. Bass was able to turn the team around and the Floridians finished fourth in the Eastern Division with a record of 37-47. The Floridians made the playoffs, but lost their series to the Kentucky Colonels 4-2.

For the 1971-1972 season, the Floridians split their home games between Miami and Tampa. They again finished in fourth place in the Eastern Division, with a record of 36-48. Once again the team made the playoffs, and once again they lost their series, this time to the Virginia Squires 4-0.

The Floridians’ dreadful attendance for their two home playoff games against the Squires convinced Doyle that the team could not be viable in South Florida. After a deal to relocate to Cincinnati fell through and trying to find a bigger market, he disbanded the franchise in June 1972. Big-time basketball wouldn’t return to Florida until the NBA expansion team, the Miami Heat, played their first season in 1988. The Orlando Magic followed a year later.\

Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday spotlights a long forgotten if anyone hardly knew at all the Floridians.

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