Lawyers retained by several creditors are considering trying to recover money directly from Thomas, who has paid off $2.7 million of the original purchase price but still owes $1.8 million based on his personal guarantee. "What makes you really sick," says Coffey, "is that Isiah let this league die, and he makes $100,000 a week now."
As arenas from Hartford to Boise, Idaho, scramble to fill dates the CBA vacated, fans look elsewhere for their hoops. Consider 86-year-old Herb Brautzsch, sales manager for a packaging plant in Fort Wayne. When the Pistons left for Detroit in 1957, Brautzsch vowed he would buy season tickets if pro basketball returned. When the Fury started, in 1991, he ordered four courtside seats, and for a decade he rarely missed a home game. "They were my guys, and I miss them so much," he says. "I drove three hours to Bloomington to watch the [ Indiana] Hoosiers play, but it wasn't the same." With the league bankrupt, he received no refund on his $2,800 ticket package. His sole consolation: His tickets are good for two-for-one dinner vouchers at Mad Anthony Brewing Company, a local pub.
Like Brautzsch, former team owners lament the passing of the quirky, fan-friendly league. Jay Frye, who owned the Fury, grew sentimental walking around the team's practice facility. "The team was five percent of my income," says Frye, who is owed $380,000 by Thomas from the purchase of Frye's stake in the Fury. "And 80 percent of my enjoyment." Adds Bill Bosshard, "Some people do the United Way; I did minor league basketball. Both are great for the community."
After the season was aborted, the CBA players dispersed, continuing to pursue their NBA ambitions. The luckiest ones caught on with teams overseas. Among the less fortunate was former Yakima forward Carlos Daniel, who took a pay cut, moved into a room at a Days Inn and joined the Sioux Falls IBL entry. But that's not the worst part. During a CBA game earlier this season, Daniel had caught an elbow in the mouth and chipped his tooth. With the CBA in bankruptcy, he'll have to pay for the dental work himself. "The way the whole tiling went down, there's a bad taste in my mouth," he says without irony. "Then again, at least I have a job now."
Not so scores of other former CBA employees. In Fort Wayne, Kent Davison spent last week cleaning out his office at the team's practice facility. After 28 years of advancing through the coaching ranks—from high school to junior college to the USBL—he took an assistant's job with the Fury in 1998. When the team's head coach, Keith Smart, accepted a post with the Cleveland Cavaliers last summer, Davison was promoted. "It was slow progress," he says wistfully, "but I felt as if I had reached a goal."
Little did he know that his tenure would last 20 of the scheduled 56 games. With a wife, two children and no salary or severance, he's back to sending out r�sum�s and working the phones looking for someone—anyone—to give him another shot on the bench. "I feel I'm back to square one," says Davison, who, like many former CBA employees, admits to guilty pleasure in watching Thomas's Pacers struggle to qualify for the playoffs.
As Davison slalomed between boxes of files, stacks of unopened fan mail for long-departed Fort Wayne players such as Priest Lauderdale, and hundreds of Fury Frisbees that were supposed to be part of a halftime promotion, he pointed to a sign. A gigantic placard, festooned with the pre-Thomas mission statement of the defunct league, was propped in a corner. Davison couldn't suppress a bittersweet smile as he read aloud: The CBA organization, through teamwork, mutual respect and a burning desire to be the best, will continue to build on the legacy of the CBA through more than half a century of providing first-class entertainment to fans in emerging sports communities throughout the world.