Muskies coach Jim Pollard talked to four of his starters (from left), Mel Daniels, Skip Thoren, Don Freeman and Ron Perry in the 1967-68 season. The Muskies went 50-28 that one season before moving to Miami.
Star Tribune file,
Forgotten anniversaries: Pro basketball in Minnesota
- June 20, 2013 - 12:45 AM
Plenty of Minnesota sports anniversaries and years are embedded in our collective sports minds. Merely mention 1987, 1991 or 1998, for example, and the Twins’ two World Series titles plus the Vikings’ 15-1 season spring immediately to mind. But what about some lesser-known anniversaries? We’re here to take a look back at some of those, in increments of five years, dating backward from 2013.
Today: The 1967-68 Muskies and 1968-69 Pipers basketball teams — and five things you might have forgotten about that era of pro hoops.
• The Muskies arrived as Minnesota’s first ABA representative in 1967, the same year the North Stars got here. The red, white and blue basketballs failed, however, to capture the rapt attention of the local sports market. They were here for just one year before moving and becoming the aptly named Miami Floridians. “Some nights, you probably could have heard everyone in the building,” former Muskies Player Terry Kunze said in a 2012 Star Tribune interview.
• The Muskies were far more successful on the court than they were at gaining the attention of fans. They went 50-28 that season, playing at Met Center. Center Mel Daniels, who went on to have a very good career, averaged 22.2 points and 15.6 rebounds as an ABA rookie for the Muskies — numbers that are Kevin Love-esque. The squad defeated the Kentucky Colonels in the playoffs before being eliminated by the Pittsburgh Pipers.
• In a twist of fate, the Pipers franchise moved from Pittsburgh to Minnesota the next year. The items of note about the 1968-69 Pipers could fill a much larger space, but let’s start with this: The team had THREE head coaches in their one season here. The first, Jim Harding, was fired after punching the team’s chairman of the board, according to a 1994 Star Tribune story.
• Basketball legend Connie Hawkins played for the Pipers. Injuries limited him to just 47 games, but he still averaged 30.2 points and 11.4 rebounds while helping the team make the playoffs despite a 36-42 record.
• You want it to come even more full circle? The Pipers played the Floridians – the former Muskies franchise — in the first round of the 1968-69 playoffs. The Floridians won in seven games.
© 2013 Star Tribune