I know every Nets fans like to think that Dr.J was all theirs but he was originally a Virginia Squire, however Nets fans can be thankful for the Squires giving them Dr.J.
The Squires were a legendary ABA team, but not necessarily because of their success on the court. Instead, the Squires will always be remembered for unearthing (but not keeping!) future Hall of Fame players Julius Erving and George Gervin.
The Squires moved to Virginia in 1970 after spending one year in Washington, D.C. as the Washington Capitals (1969-70), and two years in Oakland as the Oakland Oaks (1967-69). Like The Floridians and the Carolina Cougars, the Squires were a regional franchise and played their games in several Virginia cities: Norfolk, Hampton, Richmond, and Roanoke. After the 1971-72 season, the Squires abandoned Roanoke, mainly because their attendance was much higher in the other three locations.
In each of their first two seasons in Virginia, the Squires almost made it to the ABA Finals. In the first round of the 1971 ABA Playoffs, Virginia beat Rick Barry and the New York Nets in a tough six game series. In the second round, the Squires held the home court advantage against the Kentucky Colonels and Dan Issel, but lost the series 4 games to 2.
After the addition of rookie Julius Erving the next season, Squires fans were optimistic that the team could win the ABA Championship. Their hopes seemed to suffer a severe blow, however, when team scoring leader Charlie Scott abruptly left the team a few weeks before the end of the regular season. At first, the absence of Scott didn’t seem to matter as Erving and the Squires easily swept the Floridians in the first round of the 1972 ABA Playoffs . The Squires had to go overtime at home in Game 1 for a 114-107 victory. Game 2 was on national television (CBS), and the Squires ran away with a 125-100 victory. The series then shifted to Miami. In Game 3, Erving scored an incredible 53 points as Virginia barely won 118-113. Game 4 was not close (despite the fact that Erving scored “only” 39 points) and the Squires closed out the series 115-106. In this series, Erving was simply dominant. He was the Squires’ high scorer in each of the four games, averaging 37.7 points per contest. He was also the team’s leading rebounder, with over 20 rebounds per game.
In the second round, the Squires had the home court advantage against a confident New York Nets team led by Rick Barry and rookie John Roche. The home team won each of the first six games of this classic series. With the series tied three games apiece, the do-or-die seventh game was played at the Scope in Norfolk. Since the Squires were playing at home, they seemed to have the edge. However, Game 7 was (at least by ABA standards) a low-scoring defensive affair, and the absence of Charlie Scott seemed to hurt Virginia. New York pulled out a close game, 94-88, and denied the Squires their chance at an ABA title.
Even though Virginia was eliminated, several Squires turned in record-setting performances in the 1972 Playoffs. Of course, Erving carried the team by averaging an amazing 33.3 points and 20.4 rebounds per game (leading the league in both categories in post-season play). George Irvine was an unheralded performer for the Squires throughout the playoffs, hitting 56 of 85 shots from the field for a startling 65.9 field goal percentage. He also hit 25 of 31 free throws for an 80.6% mark. Finally, Ray Scott and Bernie Williams performed admirably against the Floridians and New York. In Game 5 against the Nets, Scott unexpectedly scored 26 points and propelled the Squires to a crucial win. And the hot-shooting Williams replaced Charlie Scott and won over die-hard Squires fans.
For the 1972-73 season, Erving was still with the team (despite his attempt to jump to the Atlanta Hawks of the NBA), and George Gervin appeared on the scene. The two future Hall of Famers only played with each other in the latter portion of the season. However, the Squires were eliminated in the first round of the 1973 Playoffs by the Kentucky Colonels.
After the 1972-73 season, things fell apart for the franchise. Erving was sold to the New York Nets during the summer of 1973. Then, promising center Swen Nater was also sold to the Spurs. Finally, as Gervin began to blossom in his second year, he was sold to the San Antonio Spurs. Al Bianchi became known as the “Coach Who Lost A Superstar Every Year.”
The Spirits of St. Louis were one of two teams still in existence at the end of the American Basketball Association that did not survive the ABA–NBA merger. They were a member of the ABA in its last two seasons, 1974–75 and 1975–76, while playing their home games at the St. Louis Arena.
The Spirits (who took their name from the Atlantic Ocean-crossing plane flown by Charles Lindbergh) were the third incarnation of a franchise that was once known as the Houston Mavericks and later the Carolina Cougars. However, only one player from the 1973–74 Cougars followed the team to St. Louis, so the Spirits were essentially an expansion team.
If the Spirits were allowed to exist in the NBA at the time of the merger, it is quite possible the Portland Trailblazers would have never won it’s NBA title because one of their most important players was power forward Maurice Lucas who was with the Spirits at the time of the NBA-ABA merger.
The Spirits were a colorful team featuring a number of players, both on and off the court, who were fairly successful in their basketball careers. Among them were Moses Malone, acquired during their second and final season, who went on to a long and successful career in the NBA, culminating in enshrinement in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Maurice Lucas spent most of his time in the ABA as a Spirit, then later became an all-star in the NBA with the Portland Trail Blazers. Other well-known players that played for the team included former Boston Celtics sixth man Don Chaney, future Celtics head coach M.L. Carr, and Ron Boone, who held the record for consecutive games played in pro basketball for many years. One of the most colorful players on the team was forward Marvin Barnes, famous for stories about his off-court behavior and lack of understanding of time zones.
A couple of off-court personalities from the team became well known as well. One of the coaches in 1975 was former NBA player Rod Thorn, who became the NBA’s vice president of basketball operations (or, in essence, the No. 2 man behind commissioner David Stern) for a number of years. On radio, the team featured Bob Costas as an announcer. Costas would go on to a highly successful career working for NBC television and radio.
After a slow start in their inaugural season, 1974–75, the Spirits reached the playoffs with a late rush, then upset the defending ABA champion New York Nets in the first round of the playoffs. But the team squandered this good start the following year. Despite inheriting several players (including Malone) from the Utah Stars after that franchise failed in the middle of the season, the Spirits finished well out of playoff contention in 1975–76 as attendance in St. Louis dwindled. At season’s end, negotiations were under way to move the franchise to Salt Lake City, Utah, and rename the team the Utah Rockies.
In the summer of 1976, with the ABA at the point of financial collapse after 9 years, the six surviving franchises (the Virginia Squires went bankrupt immediately after the final season) began negotiating a merger with the NBA. But the senior circuit decided to accept only four teams from the rival league: the Nets (the last ABA champion), Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs.
The NBA placated John Y. Brown, owner of the Kentucky Colonels, by giving him a $3.3 million settlement in exchange for shutting his team down. (Brown later used much of that money to buy the Buffalo Braves of the NBA.) But the owners of the Spirits, the brothers Ozzie and Dan Silna, struck a prescient deal to acquire future television money from the teams that joined the NBA, a 1/7 share from each franchise (or nearly 2% of the entire NBA’s TV money), in perpetuity. With network TV deals becoming more and more lucrative, the deal has made the Silnas wealthy, earning them $186 million as of 2008, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and $255 million as of 2012 according to The New York Times. (The NBA nearly succeeded in buying out the Silnas in 1982 by offering $5 million over eight years, but negotiations stalled when the siblings demanded $8 million over five.) On June 27, 2007, it was extended for another 8 years, ensuring another $100 million+ windfall for the Silnas. In 2014, the Silnas reached agreement with the NBA to greatly reduce the perpetual payments and take a lump sum of $500 million. In the last few years before the lump sum agreement, the Silnas were receiving $14.57 million a year, despite being owners of a team that hadn’t played one minute of basketball in more than 35 years. The Silnas will, however, still be receiving a now much smaller portion of the television revenue through a new partnership with the former ABA teams the Nets, Nuggets, Pacers and Spurs.
Smallthoughts:Old School Tuesday spotlights the Stlouis Spirits.
If you a regular reading of this blog , then you know I am very fond of the league once known as the American Basketball Association also known as the ABA. This league gave us basketball fans superstars Julius Dr. J Erving, David Thompson, Moses Malone, George Mc Ginnis, George Ice Man Gervin, Artis Gilmore among others. The league also featured the slam dunk and was the first to have a slam dunk contest long before the NBA decided making that a yearly event at all star games. The ABA did that first. And the ABA also was the league that gave us the 3 point shot that is prevalent in the NBA today. There were many teams that never made it to the end of the ABA’s run and one of those teams was the Pittsburgh Condors /Pipers, yet a once time the Condors/Pipers feature NBA great Connie Hawkins.
The Pittsburgh Condors were a professional basketball team in the original American Basketball Association. Originally called the Pittsburgh Pipers, they were a charter franchise of the ABA and captured the first league title. The team played their home games in Pittsburgh’s Civic Arena.
The Pipers were one of the ABA’s inaugural franchises in 1967. The team had great success on the court, posting the league’s best record during the regular season (54-24, .692) and winning the league’s first ABA Championship. The Pipers were led by their star player, ABA MVP and future Hall-of-Famer Connie Hawkins, who led the ABA in scoring at 26.8 ppg. The Pipers swept through the 1968 ABA Playoffs and defeated the New Orleans Buccaneers 4 games to 3 to take the title, with Hawkins earning Finals MVP honors. The ABA title remains Pittsburgh’s only pro basketball championship.
The Pipers shared the Pittsburgh Civic Arena with the city’s expansion National Hockey League team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pipers attracted fairly respectable gates by ABA standards, averaging 3,200 fans per game.
Minnesota Pipers (1968–1969)
Despite the championship and strong attendance figures in Pittsburgh, the Pipers franchise left Pittsburgh after their 1968 ABA Championship and moved to Minnesota in 1968, becoming the Minnesota Pipers. Minnesota was left vacant when the Minnesota Muskies had trouble drawing people in the league’s first season and moved to Miami to become the Miami Floridians. The ABA league office was based in Minneapolis (home of league commissioner George Mikan), so the Pipers moved when a Minneapolis attorney named Bill Erickson bought a majority share of the team. As with the Muskies, their home arena was Bloomington’sMet Center. Despite making the playoffs (but losing in the first round to, coincidentally, the Miami Floridians), the Pipers’ attendance settings fared no better than the Muskies and they moved back to Pittsburgh after only one season. In Terry Pluto‘s book on the ABA, Loose Balls, Pipers co-owner Gabe Rubin says he returned to the Steel City because he couldn’t think of anywhere else to go.
Pittsburgh Pipers (1969–1970)
For the first season back in Pittsburgh the team retained the “Pipers” nickname. However, the team failed to match their previous success and fans stayed away. After the season, Haven Industries, maker of the “Jack Frost” brand of sugar products, bought the team and decided a name change was in order.
Pittsburgh Condors (1970-1972)
A “name-the-team” contest yielded the nickname “Pittsburgh Pioneers.” However, local NAIA school Point Park College (now Point Park University) already had that nickname and threatened to sue. Ownership resolved the objection by changing the name to “Condors.”
Jack McMahon took over as coach. John Brisker and Mike Lewis played in the 1971 ABA All-Star Game, but the Condors could only manage a 36-48 record, fifth place in the Eastern Division and out of the playoffs (one game behind The Floridians). While the Condors had a potent offense (5th in the 11-team ABA with 119.1 points per game), they were often undone by their defense (8th in the league (essentially 4th worst), allowing 121.8 ppg). Attendance remained poor, with an announced average of 2,806, though some observers close to the team thought the actual average was less than half that. After a slow (4-8) start, general manager Marty Blake decided (in an infamous ABA stunt) to give away every available seat for an early-season game against Florida on November 17. The game attracted the biggest crowd that the team would ever draw under the Condors name; however, it was still only 8,074 (in a 12,300-seat arena), and 3,000 season ticket holders didn’t even bother to attend the contest, which Pittsburgh lost, 122-116. Ownership was not amused, and Blake was fired soon after.
For the next season, Haven tried to change the Condors’ image, with a new logo and uniforms, plus a slick marketing campaign. In October, they lured the defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks (and star Lew Alcindor) to Pittsburgh for an exhibition game, guaranteeing the Bucks $25,000. A local ad proclaimed “Bring on Alcindor” and that “the ABA-NBA merger is here”. (Actually, the merger would not come until 1976, and it would not include Pittsburgh.) Unfortunately for the Condors, Alcindor—who had changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar just a few days before the game—was injured and did not play. Only about eight to nine thousand fans showed up, and the Condors “took a bath” on the deal—not a good start for the season.
After a 4-6 start, general manager Mark Binstein fired McMahon for unknown reasons and named himself head coach. The move backfired disastrously; the Condors only went 21-50 the rest of the way.
As the season progressed, attendance dropped below 1,000 fans per game, fueling speculation the Condors would fold before Christmas. While they did manage to survive into the New Year, Haven finally had seen enough and announced the Condors would be playing elsewhere for the 1972-73 season. In the meantime, they began relocating home games, first to other cities in Pennsylvania, and then to farther-away places. On March 24, 1972 the Condors hosted the Kentucky Colonels in Birmingham, Alabama; four days later, the Condors hosted the Colonels again, this time in their last ever ‘home’ game, in Tucson, Arizona.
John Brisker and George Thompson played in the ABA All-Star Game. The Condors finished in sixth place in the Eastern Division at 25-59 and failed to make the playoffs. They averaged 2,215 fans per home game—a figure that would have been even lower if not for the games in both Birmingham and Tucson, which brought in significantly better gates than Pittsburgh.
Decline and fold
Haven and the league tried to move the Condors to a bigger market. However, they were unable to do so, and in June 1972 the ABA canceled the Condors franchise. The Condors’ roster was put into a dispersal draft; George Thompson went to the Memphis Tams, Mike Lewis to the Carolina Cougars, Skeeter Swift and James Silas to the Dallas Chaparrals, and Walt Szczerbiak to the Kentucky Colonels. John Brisker jumped to the Seattle SuperSonics of the NBA
Smallthoughts: Old School Tuesday spotlights the Pittsburgh Condors/Pipers.
The Knicks have lost at least 50 games all three seasons under him and have gone 80-166 in that span. They ended 2016-17 with a 31-51 mark after beating the 76ers in their finale Wednesday night. Since taking the reins in March 2014, Jackson has overhauled the roster multiple times. He brought in a total of 33 players, and only Carmelo Anthony is left from the team that Jackson inherited. Anthony could be moved this summer.
Jackson also has appointed three head coaches — Derek Fisher, Kurt Rambis and Jeff Hornacek — and insisted they run the triangle offense. That system helped Jackson win an NBA-record 11 championships as coach of the Bulls and Lakers. Many in the NBA consider the system outdated, but the Knicks went all-in on the triangle after the All-Star break and Hornacek said they will run it from the start of training camp. Yet Jackson failed to realize it wasn’t the Triangle that hurt the Knicks it was their lack of defense they disinterest in even making a defensive posture that doomed their season not oh we didn’t run the Triangle enough!
Jackson’s best moves have been drafting Kristaps Porzingis and acquiring the draft rights to Willy Hernangomez.Jackson will have a high lottery pick, two second-round choices and roughly $20 million to use in free agency as he tries to rebuild the Knicks into a playoff team next season. Be honest Knicks even with these assets working in the Knicks favor you can’t feel good about next season knowing Jackson gets to hit the reboot button yet again!