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Will the CBA's Puerto Rico Coquis move to Birmingham?

March 9, 1985
Reports out of San Juan claim that the owner of the Continental Basketball Association's Puerto Rico Coquis will move his team to Birmingham before the 1985-86 season. "There is a very good possibility that Birmingham will be the home of a CBA team next season," said Robert Jones, a team representative.

"I am currently negotiating with representatives of the State Fair Authority for a lease of the State Fair Arena, and everything is contingent on those negotiations. If we can obtain a workable lease agreement, I am 99% certain that Birmingham will have professional basketball next season. The people that I am representing are very serious about Birmingham, even though they have surveyed other cities in Alabama and Georgia. Birmingham is at the top of the list because the city is felt to be a good sports city. We would like a lease of the Fair Park Arena because it would best suit our needs. The Birmingham-Jefferson County Civic Center would be too large for our needs and Boutwell Auditorium isn't acceptable to us," Jones said.

     Continental Basketball Association logo
The 14 team Continental Basketball Association was originally founded on April 23, 1946 as the Eastern Pennsylvania Basketball League. At some point, the EPBL renamed itself the Eastern Basketball Association. On June 1, 1978, the EBA became the Continental Basketball Association to better reflect the geographical expansion of the league. Since 1980, the CBA has been the official developmental league of the National Basketball Association. In addition to financial assistance, the CBA grooms players, coaches, and officials.

The Coquis are owned by San Juan insurance executive Walter Fournier and are playing in their second season as a CBA expansion team. Fournier wants to relocate the franchise due to poor attendance and Birmingham has been the only city named as a likely candidate. The Coquis have only averaged around 300 people per game this season despite finishing in first place for the regular season last year.

April 1, 1985
The Alabama State Fair Authority Board has reached a tentative agreement with representatives of the Coquis for rental of the State Fair Arena.

If a board committee and an attorney for the franchise decide to sign a contract, the team would play at least 24 home games in the arena this winter. The terms are for three years with the franchise posting a $25,000 certificate of deposit to offset any loss by the Authority if the team fails to stay for the three years. The team would pay $1,500 per game for the use of the arena and would receive 41% of concession income.

May 21, 1985
Local attorney Bob Jones announces that the Puerto Rico Coquis will not be moving to Birmingham.

     Maine Windjammers logo
Jones, who had been handling the negotiations for Coquis owner Walter Fournier, said the delays in securing a lease for the State Fair Arena forced a decision not to move here. Even though a tentative agreement was reached, the State Fair Authority would not commit to the agreement before the league deadline for moving the team had passed.

"I think the CBA is still interested in Birmingham. But we just ran out of time as far as the 1985-86 season is concerned," Jones said.

June 5, 1985
It is reported that the Puerto Rico Coquis franchise will be moving from San Juan to Bangor, Maine and will be renamed the Maine Windjammers.

The CBA has been in Bangor once before, when the Maine Lumberjacks played from 1978-79 to 1982-83. During the off-season, the team moved to Brockton, Massachusetts and became the Bay State Bombardiers, where they play to this day.

December 1985

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The Maine Windjammers were not successful in Bangor and the team folded after playing just one season.

However, the Continental Basketball Association eventually came to Birmingham in 1991.

In search of a larger fan base, the owner of the CBA's Pensacola Tornados moved his team to Birmingham.

Unfortunately, the Birmingham Bandits didn't make many new fans in town and the team moved at the end of the season to Rochester, Minnesota to become the Rochester Renegade.

Over time, the CBA didn't fare any better than the Bandits did.

On October 1, 1999, former star of the NBA's Detroit Pistons Isiah Thomas purchases all nine CBA teams and the league office in Phoenix, Arizona for $10 million.

Roughly a year later, Thomas places his CBA ownership into a formalized trust. The NBA required this to avoid any conflict of interest before he became coach of the NBA's Indiana Pacers.

On January 24, 2001, reports began appearing that the Continental Basketball Association is in a grave financial state. The CBA began its 55th season in December 2000.

The NBA's recent announcement that it will start its own National Basketball Developmental League next season has put the CBA's title of "Official Developmental League of the NBA" into serious jeopardy. The CBA has had that position for over 20 years. Along with the endorsement, the NBA gives the CBA an undisclosed amount of financial support. Not only is the NBA interested in helping develop players, it also has a stake in officials, and front-office personnel, many of whom sharpen their skills in the CBA.

The NBA is hoping to create a minor league basketball farm system along the lines of Major League Baseball, where every NBA team will have its own minor league team or teams. "Right now, the CBA is not in the mindset of our plans," said Michael Bass, senior director for the NBA who also is involved with the NBDL. "And it would be premature to speak on possible expansion in the NBDL (to possibly include CBA teams) not having gone through our first season."

The idea for the NBDL came about five years ago, when the NBA launched the Women's National Basketball Association. But because the U.S. Women's Olympic basketball team was coming off a gold-medal triumph in the Atlanta Games and the popularity of the women's game was at an all-time high, the NBA decided to start the WNBA first.

Brendan Suhr, a former coach and co-owner of the CBA's Grand Rapids Hoops who is now director of player personnel for the NBA's Detroit Pistons, said the NBA made an $11 million offer to then-CBA owner Isiah Thomas to buy the league last March. "The NBA made an offer that wasn't what Isiah expected so he decided not to sell the league at that time."

Thomas still owns the league and there are a few interested buyers. Who those buyers are only Ivan Thronton, an investment banker in New York, knows. Thronton is in charge of the trust, making sure the league has the day-to-day finances to operate. Thronton was appointed by the NBA to handle the possible sale of the CBA.

     International Basketball League logo
On January 29, 2001, it was reported that the CBA was attempting to merge with the International Basketball League. The 6-team IBL would purchase and join the 10-team CBA and the leagues would complete their respective schedules separately this season, but meet in the postseason in a modified playoff format.

On February 8, 2001, the Continental Basketball Association, $2 million in debt, officially suspended play indefinitely. The trust charged with selling the debt-ridden CBA for Isiah Thomas abandoned that effort Thursday afternoon, announcing instead that it would return each of the league's teams to the owners from whom Thomas bought them 15 months ago. However, not all of the old owners want their teams. Some are allowing their franchises to fold, some are joining the IBL and others are going to wait and see what happens.

Most insiders believe Thomas is the sole reason the CBA folded. "I think he's the ultimate con man," the CBA's Yakima Sun Kings coach Paul Woolpert said. "His legacy, as far as the CBA is concerned, will be that he ruined an institution older than the NBA. He single-handedly ruined a league."

"He was one of the most hated players in the history of the NBA and now we know why," another CBA employee said. "I don't know if he's aware that he's playing with peoples lives and livelihoods, and that because of his ego, he dooms the league to failure."

On February 23, 2001, the Continental Basketball Association filed for bankruptcy in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Under the laws of Chapter 7, all league assets will be sold to help pay creditors, which include a number of former CBA teams.

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