San Diego Sails
|San Diego Sails|
|History||San Diego Conquistadors (1972–1975)
San Diego Sails (1975)
|Arena||San Diego Sports Arena (1974-75)
|City||San Diego, California|
|Team colors||Ocean Cap White, Royal Blue, and Kelly Green )|
|Head coach||Bill Musselman|
The San Diego Sails were an American Basketball Association team based in San Diego, California. Originally called the San Diego Conquistadors (popularly known as the "Q's"), they played from 1972 to 1975. As the Sails, they played an incomplete season only, beginning the 1975-1976 season but folding before its completion.
San Diego Conquistadors
The franchise was founded by Leonard Bloom as the ABA's first--and as it turned out, only--expansion team. But a feud between Bloom and Peter Graham, manager of the city-owned 14,400 seat San Diego Sports Arena, led Graham to lock the newborn team out of the facility for two years. By the time the conflict was resolved in the fall of 1974, it was too late for a weakened franchise that had been forced to play, in the interim, at such bandboxes as Peterson Gym (3,200 seats) and Golden Hall (sports venue), a multipurpose facility.
After reaching the 1973 ABA Playoffs in their inaugural season, the Q's seemingly pulled off a coup by paying center Wilt Chamberlain $600,000 to become their player-coach. But the Los Angeles Lakers sued to block their former star from playing for his new team. Relegated to a sideline role, Chamberlain was reduced to an indifferent, 7-foot-1-inch sideshow who once skipped a game in favor of an autograph session for his recently published autobiography. (His fill-in, on that and other occasions, was Stan Albeck, who later skippered the Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs and New Jersey Nets of the NBA.) Nonetheless, the team again reached the postseason, bowing out in the first round, for the second year in a row, in the 1974 ABA Playoffs.
The season, however, was overshadowed by the arena situation. Frustrated with his inability to get a lease for the Sports Arena, Bloom announced plans for a 20,000-seat arena in Chula Vista. However, a referendum on the arena, held just after the season started, failed by only 294 votes. League officials then ordered Bloom to take preliminary steps toward moving to Los Angeles, in hopes of returning to a market abandoned by the Utah Stars four years earlier.
For their third season in 1974-75, the Conquistadors lost Chamberlain and finally gained a lease in the Sports Arena. But without Chamberlain as a gate attraction, the team was roundly ignored by San Diegans, and placed last in the Western Division, missing the 1975 ABA Playoffs.
San Diego Sails
Bloom sold the franchise during the summer of 1975 to Frank Goldberg, a former co-owner of the successful Denver Nuggets franchise. Goldberg started anew, renaming the team the San Diego Sails for 1975-1976. Goldberg hired former University of Minnesota coach Bill Musselman and, with a completely different roster, color scheme, set of uniforms and just about everything else, sought to repeat Denver's turnaround a season earlier from mediocrity to championship contender.
But the Sails attracted only 3,060 fans to their home opener on October 24, 1975 - a loss to the Nuggets - and fan attendance rapidly dwindled further as the team limped to a 3-8 start. (A "crowd" of 1,670 showed up for San Diego's third and last home game, against the San Antonio Spurs.) Goldberg soon learned San Diego was to be shut out of the pending ABA-NBA merger. Reportedly, the Sails were shut out at the insistence of Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke, who refused to share his Southern California fan base with a team to the south.
With the team lacking fan support or a long-term future, Goldberg folded the franchise on November 12.
ABA's demise and later San Diego basketball
With the failure of the Sails, combined with the folding of the Utah Stars during the same season, the folding of the Baltimore Claws, the relocated Memphis Sounds, before the season began, and the moribund state of the Virginia Squires, which folded after the season, left the ABA with only six teams and forced the league to seek a merger with the more established NBA, which absorbed four of the six remaining franchises.
From 1967-1971, San Diego was the home of the NBA's expansion San Diego Rockets, who also played at the then-new Sports Arena. Although they were to draft University of Houston prodigy Elvin Hayes, who would later become a star for the Washington Bullets, the Rockets failed to garner wins or significant support in San Diego. Real estate broker Wayne Duddleston and banker Billy Goldberg bought the franchise for $5.6 million, and brought the team to Houston, bringing Hayes home to his adoring UH fans. In 1978, the NBA's Buffalo Braves arrived in San Diego and became the San Diego Clippers; in 1984, they moved to Los Angeles to attempt to compete with the already-established Lakers. San Diego has not had another major league professional basketball team since.