It's official: No Cagerz this year
By Bob Davidson - Salina Journal
The Kansas Cagerz nine-year run in Salina is on hold, at least for a year. Whether their hiatus ultimately becomes their demise remains to be seen. One thing does appear certain, however -- the Cagerz will be under new ownership if and when they do return.
"The Kansas Cagerz will not return to Salina, Kansas, this season," owner Gordon Kasparson said on Monday. "The (United States Basketball League) has folded and that puts us out of a place to play."
Kasparson also said he's no longer interested in owning the franchise and would entertain offers from interested parties.
"Gordon Kasparson will not be involved, period. That's a statement of fact," he said. "I've lost interest. I don't want to put up with this again."
Asked if he believes the Cagerz will return at some point, Kasparson was resolute.
"They'd have to buy the Cagerz first," he said.
Kasparson said he's not sure what he might get from the sale.
"I don't know that there's anything to sell. Equipment and so forth. The franchise is not worth anything," he said.
Kasparson expressed frustration with the USBL during his two seasons as owner. Several franchises folded just before and during the seasons, along with numerous other problems.
Finding, scheduling and paying officials was a continuous problem -- one Kasparson pointed to Monday.
The Cagerz were forced to postpone a game against Dodge City at the Bicentennial Center last season when the league failed to assign officials -- a fact no one realized until tip-off.
"How embarrassing was that to Carroll Long (president/general manager) to have to go out in front a thousand people and say 'Sorry, we don't have any referees?'" Kasparson said. "Are you kidding me? Carroll Long was not responsible for the referees."
Long was unavailable for comment Monday.
Kasparson also expressed frustration is the lack of fan support. The Cagerz routinely led the USBL in attendance but it wasn't enough to make them profitable, and there were questions each offseason whether they would return for another year.
"Everybody's interested in the Cagerz," Kasparson said. "Everywhere I go everybody wants to talk about them. But how many actually attended a ball game?"
Kasparson said he and Long had discussions with two other minor league basketball organizations during the offseason but decided against joining either league.
There also were discussions concerning the Cagerz, Dodge City Legend and Oklahoma Storm forming a new league comprised of teams from the Midwest. Kasparson said those discussions also failed.
"We talked about having our own little league. There was Salina, Dodge City, Oklahoma and one other team with the money coming out of St. Joe (Missouri). Nebraska never really committed. We also talked about a team in Wichita but they couldn't come up with the money," he said.
The Cagerz won their first USBL championship last summer during the postseason tournament in Enid, Okla., under the guidance of coach Francis Flax
But Flax, who cobbled together the group that bought the franchise from James Williamson seven years ago and stayed on as coach after Kasparson became owner, retired at the end of last season.
"Coaching was not a problem," Kasparson said. "We've got several people who wanted to go coach. We've got players who wanted to play for us. Everybody (on last year's team) wanted to come back. The problem was a (league) to play in."
Flax, who is athletic director and basketball coach at Brown Mackie College, was dismayed by the news.
"I'm sad to see the Cagerz go and I am surprised at the same time," he said. "It surprises me the Cagerz aren't coming back and (Kasparson) is done."
Flax said he expects the USBL to return.
"I just think minor league basketball in such demand that it will be back," he said. "Talent-wise the USBL was up there with any of the non-NBA leagues."
Flax agreed with Kasparson the USBL will have to change the way it does business if it hopes to be successful if and when it returns.
"It will have to be under reorganization, which is the reason they put it on hold anyway," he said. "They have to be stable where ever they decide to have a team. They have to have stable ownership."
"That's what they've lacked the last three or four years. You never knew until the last minute who was in and who was not."
* Kasparson says the USBL will come back, even though, by all accounts, the league has folded. The stock currently sits at 55 cents a share, and the recent financials are ugly. Does anyone expects to see the USBL return?
* The team looked at two other existing leagues...ABA and CBA? Could Salina have paired with Oklahoma and Rio Grande Valley to make a nice southcentral bracket of teams?