||This article includes a list of references, related reading or external links, but its sources remain unclear because it lacks inline citations. (September 2013)|
|League||Premier Basketball League|
|Team history||Central Illinois Drive (2011-2012) Bloomington Flex (2012-Present)|
|Arena||U.S. Cellular Coliseum|
|Based in||Bloomington, Illinois|
|Colors||Navy blue, sky blue, gold, white
|Head coach||A. J. Guyton|
|Division titles||3 (2012)(2013)(2014*)*Removed for league violations|
The Bloomington Flex is a professional minor league basketball team that plays in the Premier Basketball League. Based in Bloomington, Illinois, the Flex play their home games at U.S. Cellular Coliseum.
The Flex are owned by Bloomington businessman Scott Henderson. Their head coach is A. J. Guyton, a Peoria native and former Chicago Bulls and Golden State Warriors player who also enjoyed a long playing career overseas.
The Flex played the 2012 season as the expansion Central Illinois Drive. The Drive finished the 2012 regular season 18-1 and swept the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Steamers in the first round of the PBL playoffs, and then on April 14, 2012, the Drive completed a two-game sweep of the defending PBL champions, the Rochester RazorSharks, at U.S Cellular Coliseum in the PBL Finals to win the 2012 PBL Championship.
Despite their success, Drive owner Jim Morris decided he no longer wanted to own the team after just one season of play. Henderson, the Executive Vice President of the Drive, wanted to take over the team, but he and Morris could not come to an agreement about the use of name and logo for the Drive. Henderson and his management team then decided to reboot the entire operation. On December 1, 2012, Henderson announced the new franchise as the Bloomington Flex.
The Flex logo, uniform prototype and colors were announced at a news conference on January 18, 2013.
The Flex held their first open tryout December 16, 2012, with a second tryout on February 24, 2013.
Prior to the start of the 2013 season, the PBL merged with the Independent Basketball Association (IBA), to create the IBA-PBL.
The Flex opened the 2013 season on March 15 against the Sauk Valley Predators, losing on the road 100-94. The Flex then dropped their home opener on March 29 to the Gary Splash, spoiling their championship banner-raising ceremony. But the team regrouped and went on to win ten of its next twelve regular-season games.
During the season, the team announced its official community outreach program, Flex it Forward. Flex it Forward began with the 15-year old daughter of the owners of the Bloomington Flex, who came up with the idea after watching the movie “Pay it Forward” at church. Following the movie, the church leaders gave each of the kids in the class $100, and challenged them to pay it forward. She decided to buy a season ticket to Flex Basketball for $99, and donated the tickets to a community center serving kids who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford tickets. She then, on her own, decided that she would ask friends and family to do the same thing—-and sold more than 400 tickets all on her own. The Flex then decided to incorporate her approach into their outreach program, and launched Flex it Forward. An outreach effort with Home Sweet Home Ministries in Bloomington, a 24-hour homeless shelter, led the Flex to collect more than 600 pounds of infant formula, diapers, baby food, and other desperately needed children's items over the course of just one week.
As the season wore on, the owners of the PBL's franchises became increasingly unhappy with either playoff structure suggested by Barry Bradford, the IBA-PBL commissioner who owned the IBA's Kankakee franchise and who had served as the IBA commissioner before the leagues merged. The PBL teams were also displeased about instances of IBA teams failing to appear for scheduled games against PBL teams over the final two weeks of the season. And so with less than two weeks left in the regular season, on May 24, 2013, the four top former PBL teams (Bloomington, Rochester, Indiana Diesels and Sauk Valley Predators) broke away from the IBA to re-establish the PBL and hold a four-team playoff, identical to the PBL's 2012 format.
In the 2013 playoffs, the Flex swept the Indiana Diesels in two games, and then, on June 9, completed another two-game sweep of the Rochester RazorSharks, 106-86 and 88-77, winning the first game in Bloomington and then clinching the PBL title at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester. In the two wins, the Flex defense held in check the RazorSharks high-scoring offense, which had averaged 118.5 points per game in the regular season.
The Bloomington Flex finished the 2014 season with a perfect 18-0 record, winning the Midwest Division championship and earning the top seed and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
When league officials realized the championship series, as scheduled, would take place over Easter weekend, the league moved the playoff schedule up by one week. The change resulted in a facility conflict for the second-place team in the East Division, the Carolina Pee Dee Vipers. Carolina had no available dates in its arena, the Florence Civic Center, and when the league proposed the entire series be played in Rochester, Carolina refused. “It’s unfortunate that we have to deal with certain issues with our league sometimes,” Vipers’ general manager Sharone Wright told SCNow.com. “I’m responsible for this program and I will never let anyone bully us or take advantage of us, and I think that’s what was happening with the schedule here." Vipers’ coach Andre Bovain told SCNow.com that the league tried to force Pee Dee to play the entire series at Rochester against the RazorSharks, which are owned by league owner and Chairman of the Board Dr. Sev. Hrwynak: “We really wanted to give them a home playoff game. It would have been a great reward for them. We didn’t want to play three games at Rochester. We wanted a home playoff game for our fans,” Bovain said.
The league canceled the entire first round of the playoffs—including the Mid-West series between the 10-5 Indianapolis Diesels and 18-0 Bloomington Flex, and announced the finals would start Sunday, April 6 in Rochester. However, Bloomington was contractually locked into two dates at its arena, U.S. Cellular Coliseum, on Friday, April 4, which had originally been scheduled as a regular-season game against the Lima Express, and Sunday, April 6, which the team had booked when the playoff schedule was announced. Bloomington, the two-time defending league champions, balked at having to play what was amounting to an exhibition game Friday, travelling Saturday, and then playing Sunday afternoon in Rochester, saying the travel and possibility of injury on Friday would give Rochester an unfair competitive advantage. Bloomington officials were also concerned about their credibility with fans, sponsors and media by cancelling a playoff series, as well as incurring financial penalties from their venue by cancelling. While the two sides were still negotiating for a way for Bloomington to appear in Rochester on Sunday, April 6, the league abruptly announced on April 3 that Bloomington was disqualified from the playoffs and suspended for the entire 2015 season “due to its unwillingness and inability to participate in the championship series.” The league also announced that Bloomington would be replaced in the finals by second-place Indianapolis, despite refusing to consider having the third-place Buffalo 716ers replace Carolina in the first round. The finals started Sunday, April 6, in Rochester as scheduled, with the RazorSharks coming away with a one-point win over the Diesels. Rochester won the game on a rebound tip-in after two missed free throws which were awarded on a controversial blocking call against Indianapolis with :03 remaining in the game.
- Bloomington Flex official website
- Flex it Forward, official Bloomington Flex community outreach program
- Official PBL press release announcing team
- Official news conference announcing Bloomington Flex
|East Division||Buffalo 716ers||Erie Hurricane||Fayetteville Shipmen||Lynchburg Titans||Pee Dee Vipers||Rochester Razorsharks||West Virginia Angels|
|Midwest Division||Bloomington Flex||Chicago Tide||Indianapolis Diesels||Lafayette Legends||Lake Michigan Admirals||Lima Express|