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An interview with Joe Newman

by Clint Corey
January 14, 2002 - American Basketball Association (ABA)

An interview with Joe Newman

by Clint Corey

The following is an interview that OurSports Central contributor Clint Corey conducted with American Basketball Association Chief Executive Officer Joe Newman. Newman is also the majority owner of the ABA Indiana Legends. In addition to his ABA interests, Newman is also President/CEO of Alliance Broadcasting Group (ABG), Inc., a publicly traded company that owns and operates twelve radio stations in Florida, Michigan, Indiana and South Carolina. Before founding ABG, he was President/CEO of Joe Newman Advertising Inc., an Indianapolis based advertising agency handling such accounts as the Indiana Pacers, Arby's, RCA and Paramount Pictures. He also owned and operated The Remote Unit Inc., an audio/video production company and was President/CEO of Dymag USA, a manufacturer of racing and aftermarket wheels.

Clint Corey: Ultimately, what is the ABA trying to accomplish this season?

Joe Newman: "The ABA is trying to complete the second season of providing exciting, professional basketball at affordable prices - and to give players and coaches a chance to play and coach in the US."

CC: The original ABA, which like the USFL, lured marquee talent from the established leagues with big money contracts. What are some marketing tactics this year's league will use to get people in the stands?

JN: "The original ABA didn't lure marquee talent from established leagues. It found players that the NBA didn't want - and created them into marquee players. The NBA didn't want Rick Barry, Spencer Haywood, George Gervin, George McGinnis, David Thompson, Roger Brown, Connie Hawkins etc, etc, etc. The ABA signed these players. When the merger happened SEVEN years later, these players went into the NBA and became All-Stars in the NBA. Our position is that all of the great players in the world are not in the NBA as can be evidenced by the fact that the NBA "dream team" barely beats other international teams. And with the style of play in the ABA, emphasizing full court defense and offense, we think many of our players 6-6 to 6-9 are better than their NBA counterparts. As far as marketing "tactics," which is not a term we use, teams are concentrating their efforts internally by getting into schools, churches, youth leagues, local service clubs, local government etc., rather than with large advertising dollars. We are trying to establish ourselves within the communities, and it is beginning to work. We have replaced the big bucks with elbow grease and hard work - the American way. We're not buying our way into the hearts of the community. And we are doing things at the games that will establish long term loyalty, starting with affordable prices for adults and kids. We could raise the prices by $10-$20 per ticket and use the difference for advertising; we choose to give the values to the fans."

CC: Speaking of the original ABA who were some of your favorite players and teams?

JN: "I was the advertising agency for the Indiana Pacers in the final ABA days and early NBA days. Obviously, my favorite team was the Pacers and I was very close friends with George McGinnis, Freddie Lewis, Darnell Hillman, Billy Keller, and a guard from Rhode Island, Steve Chubin. (I also played shortstop on the Pacer softball team). In addition, I like Louis Dampier of Kentucky (an Indianapolis high school legend)."

CC: You're part owner of the Indiana Legends. How can you compete with IU, The Pacers and even high school basketball?

JN: "We can compete just as Wendys, Hardees, Burger King and McDonalds compete. By offering a quality product, good service, good value. Walmart, K-Mart, Sears, Penneys co-exist. We are competing for the entertainment dollar in a market with nearly 3,000,000 people. There are plenty of people available. IU plays 50 miles south of Indy; Pacer tickets are $40-$100. There are some that simply don't want to drive that far or pay that much. And our game is very exciting also."

CC: Similarly, how can the Eclipse compete against the Suns, when even the Suns have a dwindling fan base?

JN: "The same thing holds true with the Eclipse. Quality product, good service, good value."

CC: Do you see Charles Barkley in an Eclipse uniform any time in the near future?

JN: "I can't really say about Charles Barkley. It would be exciting, and certainly a coup. But if he is truly working out, it is to get back into the NBA for a final effort and probably with Michael Jordan to upgrade Washington for the playoffs. Regardless, we are flattered by the interest and publicity it has provided."

CC: Can the ABA, NBDL, and CBA all coexist, produce a quality product and also be profitable?

JN: "Yes, all of the leagues can co-exist. Lots of different cities, lots of great players. All have to keep their focus. Provide good basketball at affordable prices. Remember, all of these players are pros, former McDonald's All Americans, All American or All Conference in college, record holders, big reputations. Just because they are not in the NBA doesn't mean they are not great players. In fact, I'd love to have a free throw or 3-point shooting contest with the NBA one day; you'd be surprised."

CC: What differentiates the ABA from the aforementioned leagues?

JN: "We have two excellent rules - 3-D, which provides for an extra point if there is a turnover in the backcourt (4 if a 3 point shot is made), and the Super Foul that allows for a 3 point shot instead of 2 after 10 fouls in a quarter. Both have had significant impacts on games and make it much more exciting than the other leagues (we think)."

CC: You've stated numerous times that the ABA would be on television this season. Any progress in this endeavor? Will it be televised locally or nationally?

JN: "The ABA will be on TV nationally this season. Several of the teams will be on locally this season. Announcements for both will be forthcoming."

CC: Who do you feel are some of the players to watch this season with potential for legitimate NBA playing time?

JN: "Joe Crispin was just signed into the NBA, one of four players already who have gone up. I do not want to comment on this other than to say that I've seen six players thus far better than half the NBA players and cannot imagine why they are not in the NBA. Jack Jennings from Kentucky is as close to Charles Barkley as you can get. He should be playing. But, not being a scout or really knowing talent, it would be wrong for me to comment particularly on players."

CC: Any final thoughts?

JN: "Our goal is to provide fan friendly, affordable, exciting professional basketball. We think we are doing that. We also have diversity of ownership and management, a goal from day one. Our owners are entrepreneurs, not heavily financed, nor greatly experienced who are doing everything they can to provide an alternative to the NBA, not a replacement for the NBA. We need support. We had our problems last year, we'll have our problems this year. But we are working hard to solve last year's and to avoid many this year. What more can you ask."

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central.

Note: OurSports Central no longer actively covers the American Basketball Association (ABA) as a professional league due in part to its inability to publish and play a schedule and the transitory nature of many of its teams. For information on professional minor leagues, please see OSC's basketball section.

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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer(s), and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.

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