|Arena||Norfolk Scope, Hampton Coliseum, Richmond Coliseum, Roanoke Civic Center, Old Dominion University Fieldhouse, Richmond Arena|
|City||Norfolk, VA, Hampton, VA, Richmond, VA, Roanoke, VA|
|Owner(s)||Earl Foreman 1970-1975|
|Head coach||Zelmo Beaty 1975-1976|
|Division titles||1 (1970-1971)|
The Squires were founded in 1967 as the Oakland Oaks, a charter member of the ABA. The team colors were green and gold. An earlier Oakland Oaks basketball team played in the American Basketball League in 1962.
The Oaks were owned in part by pop singer Pat Boone. They were probably noted more for a major contract dispute with the cross-bay San Francisco Warriors of the established National Basketball Association over the rights to star player Rick Barry than for any on-court accomplishments. Barry, a former NBA Rookie of the Year who led the Warriors to the NBA finals in 1966-67, was so angered by management's failure to pay him certain incentive awards he felt he was due that he sat out the 1967-68 season. He joined the Oaks in the following year, leading the franchise to its one and only ABA championship in 1968-69.
However, even with Barry the team proved to be a very poor investment for Boone and his co-owners. Despite winning the ABA championship, the Oaks were an abysmal failure at the box office, due in large part to the proximity of the NBA Warriors who at the time were also playing some home games in Oakland (and would eventually move to Oakland permanently in 1971). At one point they only drew 2,500 fans per game.
Facing foreclosure on a loan from Bank of America, Boone sold the team to Washington, D.C. lawyer Earl Foreman, who moved the team to Washington for the 1969-70 season as the Washington Caps. The team colors of green and gold were retained, but the logo was a red, white and blue rendition of the United States Capitol. They played at the Washington Coliseum. However, for reasons that remain unknown to this day, they remained in the Western Division—forcing them on the longest road trips in the league. Attendance was no better in Washington than it was in Oakland because the Coliseum was located in the North East Washington area, which was considered to be a bad neighborhood. Miraculously, they managed to finish four games above .500, but lost in the first round to the powerful Denver Rockets.
Merger talks with the NBA were already underway, but a major stumbling block was the presence of the Caps in Washington. Baltimore Bullets owner Abe Pollin wanted to move his team to Washington, but didn't want the Caps there. The other ABA owners persuaded Foreman to move the Caps for the second time in as many seasons. Foreman decided to make the Caps a regional franchise, the Virginia Squires. The team would be based in Norfolk, and also played home games in Hampton, Richmond and Roanoke. However, Roanoke was dropped from the list of "home" cities after only one season. The Squires' colors were red, white, and blue.
Rick Barry, who originally played with the inaugural Oaks, appeared on the August 24, 1970 front cover of Sports Illustrated in a Squires uniform; in the accompanying article inside the magazine, Barry made several negative remarks about the Commonwealth of Virginia. (He angered Southerners by remarking that he didn't want his children to grow up saying, "Hi, y'all, Dad.") On September 1, 1970, the Squires traded Barry to the New York Nets for a draft pick and $200,000. The negative comments weren't the primary reason; rather, Foreman was still bogged down by financial troubles and sold Barry to help meet his expenses.
The Squires played most of their games at Old Dominion University's fieldhouse in their first season as a "regional" franchise, with other matches at the Richmond Arena, Hampton Coliseum and Roanoke Civic Center. In spite of the initial controversy surrounding former player Barry, the Squires finished their inaugural season in Virginia by winning the Eastern Division by 11 games. They defeated the New York Nets in the first round of the ABA playoffs but went on to be upset by the Kentucky Colonels. In 1971, the Squires make their biggest draft pick ever by drafting Julius Erving from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. During the 1971-72 season, Erving became an instant sensation with his scoring prowess and dazzling on-court acrobatics; the Squires defeated The Floridians in the first round of the playoffs but lost to the New York Nets in the second round.
The 1972-73 season marked the beginning of the Virginia Squires downturn. Although blessed with a combination of Julius Erving ("Dr. J") and a young George Gervin, the duo only played together late in the season. The Squires lost to their division rival Kentucky in the first round of the playoffs. During the summer of 1973, Dr. J was sold to the New York Nets for cash.
During the 1974 ABA All-Star Weekend, rumors abounded that Gervin was about to be sold to the San Antonio Spurs. These rumors became fact on January 30, when the Squires sold Gervin to the Spurs for $225,000. ABA commissioner Mike Storen tried to block the sale on the grounds that selling the team's last true star was not in the best interest of the league. However, the sale was eventually upheld.
While the trades may have provided enough short-term financing to keep the Squires in business, the loss of so much talent angered the fans. The Squires' attendance fell through the floor and never recovered. The Squires' final two seasons in the ABA were forgettable as the losses mounted and popular coach Al Bianchi was fired. The 1974-75 and 1975-76 teams went 15-69 (17.8%). It was the worst winning percentages in ABA history. The team was coming unraveled off the court as well. In 1974, Barry Parkhill sued the team after his paychecks bounced. The Squires nearly shut down for good in February 1976, but only managed to stay afloat by a sale of advertising banners and a $250,000 loan from a local bank. Even if the Squires had been on stronger financial ground, they stood no chance of being included in any ABA-NBA merger. "Regional" franchises were not considered viable, and none of the Squires' home cities were nearly big enough to support an NBA team.
On May 11, 1976—only a month after the end of the season—the ABA canceled the franchise after it missed a $75,000 assessment. This cost the Squires a chance to be compensated as part of the merger, which closed only a month later.
Former home arenas of the Virginia Squires
|Old Dominion University Fieldhouse||5,200||Norfolk, Virginia|
|Hampton Roads Coliseum (now Hampton Coliseum)||9,777||Hampton, Virginia|
|Roanoke Civic Center||9,828||Roanoke, Virginia|
|Norfolk Scope||10,253||Norfolk, Virginia|
|Richmond Coliseum||12,500||Richmond, Virginia|
- Pluto, Terry, Loose Balls: The Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association (Simon & Schuster, 1990), ISBN 978-1-4165-4061-8
- Pattison, Dan, Count Dracula Has Struck, Basketball Weekly, January 1976
- Remember the ABA: Virginia Squires
- Virginia Squires Franchise Index at BasketballReference.com
- Unofficial Virginia Squires homepage