Jerry Zgoda's Sunday Insider: A year shapes a life of former Minnesota ABAer

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 6, 2012 - 1:31 AM

Erv Inniger came north to play for a largely forgotten basketball team, then returned to build a family and career.

hide

Former Minnesota Muskies guard Erv Inniger from the American Basketball Association at his son's home in Golden Valley on Saturday.

Photo: Jerry Zgoda, Star Tribune

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Erv Inniger is grateful for that first cold northern winter spent in these parts long ago.

Grateful for the chance to play straight out of college for a fledgling franchise in a fledgling league that someday would change its sport by popularizing the three-point shot and the slam dunk with a funny-colored basketball.

Grateful for a life's change of course that transported him from an Indiana childhood to nearly five decades living in North Dakota and Minnesota.

And grateful that he survived those Minnesota Muskies uniforms, the ones the Timberwolves will wear in replica, with one important modification, for six games this season to commemorate the American Basketball Association's 45th anniversary.

"We're lucky we have kids today," said Inniger, who has two sons. "Those shorts we wore back then were a lot shorter, and tight."

Inniger came to Minnesota from Indiana University in 1967, the same autumn when both the ABA and an NHL team called the North Stars arrived to play in sparkly new Metropolitan Sports Center out in the suburbs.

The Muskies survived for one season, the ABA for just two in Minnesota. They succeeded on the court that first season, winning 50 games against the likes of the Kentucky Colonels, Anaheim Amigos, Oakland Oaks and one called the Indiana Pacers with a roster filled with rookies (included a very talented Mel Daniels).

And they flopped at the box office in a market where the new North Stars and the established NHL was king that first season.

"We had a pretty good team; too bad we didn't draw," said Terry Kunze, a former Gophers guard who played for nearly a decade in Europe and for one memorable season at Met Center. "Some nights, you probably could have heard everyone in the building."

The ABA survived and changed pro basketball with its individual expression of play and the stars -- Julius Erving, Moses Malone, David Thompson and George Gervin, among others -- that style produced until the league merged with the NBA in 1976.

The Muskies, and the Pipers that followed them the next season at Met Center, became a forgotten footnote in state sports history.

Inniger has the original $10,000 contract he signed with the team and other ABA memorabilia. He passed a couple of the league's famed red, white and blue basketballs -- collector's items now suitably insured -- down to his sons, both of whom live in Minnesota.

A 6-4 guard, Inniger followed the Muskies to Florida when the franchise moved there after that first financially failed season. But he eventually returned to Minnesota rather than return to Indiana. He coached at Golden Valley Community College, Augsburg and North Dakota State for years and years until he became NDSU's senior athletic director for the next 20.

"That was just a great time in my life," said Inniger, who still lives in Fargo, N.D., while Kunze lives in Brooklyn Center and is an original Wolves season-ticket holder. "We played for the right reasons, because you loved the game. I didn't realize until I got to be this age how fortunate I was. I never thought about it, I just did it because I loved it. That year changed my life. I applied for a job up here after that and I just never left."

That single season shaped his sons' lives, too, despite the fashionably short shorts.

  • related content

  • Jerry Zgoda's All-Star reserve picks

    Sunday February 5, 2012

    The NBA All-Star Games reserves will be announced Thursday night on TNT. Here are Jerry Zgoda's picks in a shortened...

  • The Wolves' week ahead

    Sunday February 5, 2012

    Tuesday: vs. Sacramento, 7 p.m. (FSN). Wednesday: at Memphis, 7 p.m. (FSN). Friday: vs. Dallas, 7 p.m. (FSN). Saturday: vs....

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

San Francisco - WP: M. Bumgarner 8 FINAL
Pittsburgh - LP: E. Volquez 0
Minnesota 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington
Washington 1 FINAL
Buffalo 6
Carolina 3 FINAL
Columbus 6
Pittsburgh 2 FINAL
Detroit 0
Montreal 3 FINAL
Chicago 1
Arizona 2 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Fla Atlantic 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Hamilton 10/10/14 6:00 PM
Toronto
Ottawa 10/11/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which struggling team is in the worst shape?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close