Saturday, November 8, 2008

Former Charlotte Hornet staffers have a lot of memories

This week marked the 20th Anniversary of when the Charlotte Hornets made their entry into the NBA and played their first game on November 4th, 1988 at the old Charlotte Coliseum. They had a lot of memories during their 20 years in the league, with 14 of them being here in Charlotte from 1988-2002, when the franchise moved to New Orleans to become the New Orleans Hornets.

Last night, I managed to interview some of the holdovers from the Hornets family when they were in their final year in Charlotte when I was at the Bobcats/Hornets game last night, along with a former Hornet who was one of the original Hornets when they came into existence and a guy who was their first General Manager in franchise history, and I'll tell you, they had a lot of memories from the first 20 seasons of their existence.

Carl Scheer-Former Hornets General Manager(1988-1990); currently Senior Adviser for the Charlotte Checkers

Carl Scheer, a longtime NBA executive, was hired by George Shinn as the team's first General Manager and served in that capacity until 1990, when he left the team to spend 2 seasons working with the Denver Nuggets. He returned back to Charlotte lead the effort to bring hockey back with the founding of the ECHL's Charlotte Checkers along with Felix Sabates back in 1993 and he is currently a Senior Adviser to the team. He had one special memory of the first year of the Hornets, and he says that "My favorite memory was when we threw the ball up and the season started since we were a new franchise back in November of 1988".

Dell Curry-Former Hornets player(1989-2000); currently Bobcats color analyst for SportSouth

Dell Curry and Muggsy Bogues were known as the originals when the Hornets started and the fans loved Dell's three-point shooting during his time with the Hornets, leading to longtime Public Address Announcer James K. Flynn's signature "DC for Three"! catchphrase. He was also known for his clutch game winning shots as well, especially this memorable shot. "The one against Golden State when I shot it from the corner." Curry was one of the team's two popular players along with Bogues that skyrocketed the Hornets from a unknown team to a popular team. Nowadays, Curry is a color analyst for Bobcats telecasts on SportSouth, while his son, Stephen is with the Golden State Warriors and Stephen's brother, Seth is at Duke playing for the legendary "Coach K".

Gerry Valliancourt-Hornets Broadcaster(1988-2012); anchor at WVUE-TV(FOX 8) in New Orleans and blogger for

When you think of Sports radio in Charlotte and Hornets Basketball in general, you think of the man who was known as the original "King of Sports Talk" in Charlotte, Gerry Valliancourt, or "Gerry V." Valliancourt was Sports Director at WCCB-TV(which was the television home of the team until 1992) when the Hornets first started and he had several years in Charlotte radio, with the former WCNT-AM(now WGFY, the Radio Disney affiliate in Charlotte), WFNZ-AM, and later at News-Talk 1110 WBT, which was the Charlotte Hornets radio flagship from 1988-2002.

Nowadays, he's currently an anchor at WVUE-TV(FOX 8) in New Orleans(the station is owned by Louisiana Media Company, headed up by Tom Benson, owner of the Hornets and New Orleans Saints), and he also writes about New Orleans and Louisiana sports for, the website for the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and he had shared with me two interesting thoughts. He talked about the noise factor on Opening Night back in 1988, when he said that "The noise was a factor and I couldn't hear myself during the broadcast" and he also said about Charlotte trying to support the Bobcats, and he says "I think that it's time for Charlotte to support it's own team since I have friends here when I come back and visit them".

Gil McGregor-Hornets Broadcaster(1988-2012)

Gil McGregor has been a fixture on Hornets broadcasts for over 20 seasons before he was let go last season, and he shared his three big memories. "The memories are when we defeated the Bulls for the first time(the game that started the 364-game consecutive sellout streak at the Charlotte Coliseum), when we defeated the Sixers(Barkley's charge) and the death of Bobby Phills".

Last season was a exciting one for the Hornets in New Orleans, a city that is rebounding from Hurricane Katrina back in 2005, it was so exciting, the fans played a vital role in the success of last year's edition of the New Orleans Hornets, and former Hornets television broadcaster Bob Licht, who was also the Hornets radio play-by-play voice during their time in Charlotte said that "The fans discovered a first place team and we sold out New Orleans Arena and the fans were the biggest success last season".

Thursday, November 6, 2008

20 years ago: The Charlotte Hornets played their first game

On the eve of the New Orleans Hornets visit to Charlotte to face the Bobcats tomorrow night at Time Warner Cable Arena, a little bit of Charlotte and Carolina Sports history took place 20 years ago this week.

This past Tuesday marked the 20th Annniversary of the first professional sports game ever played in the Carolinas and that game was played by a unknown team that would become a household name for 14 seasons here in Charlotte, and that team would be none other than the Charlotte Hornets.

Let's turn back the clock to Friday November 4th, 1988, a day that will be remembered by a lot of people not only here in Charlotte, but for those throughout North and South Carolina.

It was a festive atmosphere out at the old Charlotte Coliseum off of Tyvola Road, lots of fans were dressed in tuxedos and gowns and the Charlotte Symphony provided the pregame entertainment and there was several dignitaries that were at the first Hornets game, including former North Carolina Governor Jim Martin and the late Carroll Campbell, the former Governor of South Carolina to honor the man who made the dream of bringing professional sports to the Carolinas, the Owner and Founder of the Hornets, George Shinn.

And the funny thing was that once the Pre-game ceremonies ended, the team's very first Public Address Announcer from 1988-1990, John Edwards(not to be confused with the former North Carolina Senator), was about to introduce the Cleveland Cavaliers and they didn't show up for the introductions, and do you want to know why? They stayed in the locker room.

23,355 packed the 4-month old facility, which was opened on August 11 of that year and the only key moment that bought the crowd to its feet was when the Hornets grabbed the lead in the 2nd Quarter 34-32, but in the end, the Cleveland Cavaliers defeated Charlotte 133-93 and the sellout crowd gave them a standing ovation in a city that was primarily a baseball town with the old Charlotte O's(who Shinn purchased in 1988 and renamed the team as the Charlotte Knights).

The Charlotte Hornets had two more memorable moments from year 1 of their existence, they won their first game in team history, a 117-105 win over the L.A. Clippers on November 8th at the Coliseum, but the game that ushered in the golden years of Hornets Basketball and the title of "Carolina's Team" took place on December 23rd of 1988, when Michael Jordan, now Managing Member of Basketball Operations for the Charlotte Bobcats, the city's current NBA team, led the Chicago Bulls to the Coliseum for a nationally-televised game on SuperStation WTBS and the Hornets won at the buzzer on a Kurt Rambis tip-in, 103-101 to start a 364-game sellout streak and the rise of "Hornetmania" here in Charlotte, an era that saw the team lead the league in attendance for 9 out of 10 years.

On the night following the Hornets first game, former Charlotte Observer Sports writer Ron Green, Sr. said that "It was a good day, the most exciting in Charlotte sports history, as fine a day a city like this can hope to experience." It was indeed a day that would go down in Charlotte and Carolina sports history back on that November night back in 1988, when the Hornets played their first game.

Now, the team is in New Orleans, keeping the nickname that they had when they were here and they'll be back in town tomorrow night to face the Bobcats, and some of us will wear the Orange and Blue of the Bobcats, while others will break out the old Purple and Teal of the team that was the original "Carolina's Team".

Oh by the way, the leading scorers for the Hornets in their first game were Kelly Tripucka and Kurt Rambis, who had 16 points each to lead Charlotte in the loss.