Mr. and Mrs. Joe Gregory (tobacco money) have promised to spend millions to make the Kentucky Colonels a byword in Louisville. Nice. But Frank Ramsey and Gene Rhodes, an assistant at Western Kentucky, were high choices to coach the team, and when the Colonels would not put a sufficient amount in the kitty, both said, "No thanks." Nor do the Colonels figure to pile up many victories, in spite of such old Kentucky favorites as Larry Conley, Louie Dampier and Cotton Nash. Conley is good, all right, but he is still frail and the season is 78 games and a playoff long.
Oakland has Pat Boone and, possibly, his millions, a beautiful new arena to play in and a couple of guards—Andy Anderson and Lavern Tart—who can score in spurts but who are not named Rick Barry. If the Oaks do not go under this year, and they shouldn't, Barry will fill a stadium or two next season.
So what else is good news?
The Denver Rockets, for a start. Mikan came close to giving up on the Rockets—the owners actually had voted 10 to 3 to move the franchise to Kansas City—when the Ringsbys, father and son, put all that trucking money into the venture, and hired young Dick Eicher as general manager. Very quickly the sick Rockets became healthy.
The Pittsburgh Pipers, playing in one of the niftiest arenas in the country, have successful promoter Gabe Rubin behind them and a solid team. In Anaheim that inscrutable Hawaiian Art Kim, mostly silent at boisterous league meetings, calmly announced that season-ticket sales are going well, and that he has arranged a local television contract more lucrative than a national tie-in.
And then, there are the Indiana Pacers. Rarely has a group of entrepreneurs worked harder for a grand opening. With less cash to toss around than most of their brother owners, the vigorous young men who eventually got control of this team hired a Chicago firm to investigate the area. Back came the report. Football? No chance. Baseball? Maybe. Basketball? Why not?—provided it's top grade. You can't gull Hoosiers with inferior basketball. They see too much good basketball already. General Manager Mike Storin and Coach Larry Staverman decided right off that the only kind of talent they wanted was the kind willing to struggle. Bill McGill and Bill Buntin, two players with All-America clippings, ambled into camp, loafed through a few practices, and were on the next plane out. "We mean to be here for a long time," said Storin. "You can't fool these people with names. You've got to produce."
On the roster is Roger Brown, 6'5", a man of many moves. Brown is in the same boat as Doug Moe and Connie Hawkins, the 6'9" all-everything now with the Pittsburgh Pipers. No NBA team has ever drafted any of them. Brown and Hawkins accepted money and favors from one of the 1961 basketball scandal fixers. Moe had failed to report a similar gift. None was accused of fixing games. The ABA says they were guilty only of indiscretion and is willing to forgive.
So Moe, Brown and Hawkins have a home, and maybe Rick Barry will next year. Some franchises undoubtedly will have to move to survive. A few will go the way of the Sheboygan Redskins ( NBA, circa 1949). But you can count on that red, white and blue ball being around for a while.