Friday, November 8, 2013

Remembering the Charlotte Hornets 25 years later: The First Win

On selected days during this Charlotte Bobcats season, we are continuing our series looking back at some of the key moments during this, the 25th Anniversary of the Charlotte Hornets first season, and in this installment, we'll be talking about the night that the Hornets would finally notch its first win as a franchise, back on November 8, 1988.

A young team earns its first win in franchise history

The Charlotte Hornets were 0-2 entering that night's game against the Los Angeles Clippers at the Charlotte Coliseum before a crowd of 18,865, and on the day of the game, Hornets owner George Shinn was addressing the media about a possible name change for the facility, since many of the media members were trying to figure out where in the world was Charlotte located at during his quest to bring an NBA team to the city. Some thought Charlotte was located in South Carolina, while others thought it was in Virginia, or West Virginia, but we all know that Charlotte is located right here in North Carolina.  

It was during that meeting with the media, that Shinn realized that his left arm was shaking, as Spencer Stolpen, the team's president at the time was checking on Shinn to see if he was okay when he came into the offices at 100 Hive Drive on the day of the game, as Stoplen realized that Shinn wasn't feeling good, and coincidentally, Stolpen had to take Shinn to the hospital, as he did not realize that he had a stroke, and many of the fans that were heading to the game that night were worried about the man who made it all happen for Charlotte to get an NBA team.

As for the game that night against the Los Angeles Clippers, it would see another first in Charlotte Hornets history, the first-ever Double-Double.  It would be recorded by Kurt Rambis, who would score 17 points on just 7-of-9 shooting from the field, to go along with 14 rebounds, while Kelly Tripucka would lead the way for Charlotte with 24 points to lift the Hornets to its first ever win in franchise history, with a 117-105 win over the L.A. Clippers at the Coliseum, sending the 18,865 fans home happy, and the players were indeed worried about George Shinn after he suffered a stroke earlier in the day, and when the game ended, they all signed a basketball and gave it to George in honor of the team's first win in franchise history.

The Hornets first win on November 8th, 1988 was another special moment in the history of the Charlotte Hornets during the 1988-89 campaign, as we continue to look back at the team's memorable moments from that first season in honor of the 25th Anniversary of their debut, and looking ahead to the long-awaited return of the Hornets to Charlotte in 2014-15.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Special Comment: How will the Bobcats finish in their last year as the "Bobcats" before becoming the Hornets

And now once again, at the request of my "Boss", Jake Cook over at "The Fake ESPN", another "Special Comment" about how will the Charlotte Bobcats finish in their last year as the "Bobcats" and how will the fans will remember the "Bobcats" name 5, 10, or 20 years from now.  This season is the last year that the Charlotte Bobcats will play under the name before switching it's name to the "Charlotte Hornets", and since me and my partner, Jake have been following this team since day 1, we have seen this team have it's ups and downs.

We are already 3 games into the season, and Charlotte is 1-2, and sure, the Bobcats have already played 3 games, with the team being in action tonight in New York to take on the Knicks.  I have no particular target on how will the Bobcats finish in it's last season as the "Bobcats", but I'm going on record to say that they will finish with a 35-42 record. I am going on record and say that my prediction of finishing the season with 35 wins may be a bold statement for this team, and sure, some say we could be the sleeper team in the Eastern Conference, but 35 wins would sound good for me in my book.

If you recall last season, Mike Dunlap's plan to turn the team around was an absolute disaster, are we as fans going to sit through this again? I HOPEFULLY think not!  We went out and hired a man who has a plan to turn this thing around in Steve Clifford, and the reason why I'm saying that we will win 30 to 35 games could be a big sign of improvement, and even though that we won't make the playoffs, I believe that 35 games could be a major sign of improvement for a Bobcats team that will wrap up their 10th and final season playing as the "Bobcats".

Now, onto the second half of this "Special Comment", how will the fans remember the "Bobcats" name 5, 10, 20, or even 50 years from now.  When this team first got the name "Bobcats", a lot of us thought that was a good name to replace the name "Hornets", after the team moved to New Orleans in 2002, and in the 10 seasons that this team has played as the "Bobcats", named after former owner Bob Johnson, we have been struggling, and struggling, and struggling, but how will we remember the name in 5, 10 or 20 years from now?  If we are still alive by then, some would say that the "Bobcats" name will not be remembered by many here in Charlotte, but many of us that was hoping for the day we finally found out that we were going to be known as the "Hornets" after almost 12 years last summer, finishing off a long, fought rally cry to tell Charlotte that we want that name back right where it belongs.  And as for the "Bobcats" name, some will say "Good riddance" to that name once it become disestablished at the end of the season, but in 5, 10, 15, or 20 years from now, a lot of will still have memories of the name, while others wouldn't care less about the nickname "Bobcats".

And lastly, my "Boss", Jake, demanded me to ask you this question: Will the change from "Bobcats" to "Hornets" make the team better? YES! YES! YES! IT WILL MAKE THE TEAM BETTER BECAUSE WE ARE THE ONES THAT WANTED THE HORNETS NAME TO COME HOME IN THE FIRST PLACE, AND DO YOU WANNA KNOW WHY? IT WAS ALL BECAUSE OF THE NOSTALGIA THAT MADE THE ORIGINAL HORNETS BE ONE OF THE MOST SUCCESSFUL FRANCHISES IN THE NBA UNTIL GEORGE SHINN MOVED THE TEAM TO NEW ORLEANS ALMOST 13 YEARS AGO! IT WILL BE BETTER BECAUSE IF YOU LOOKED AT THE PROVED TRACK RECORD OVER THE LAST 10 SEASONS WE'VE BEEN KNOWN AS THE "BOBCATS", WE ONLY HAD 1 WINNING SEASON, ONE WINNING SEASON, PEOPLE! OUT OF 10 YEARS OF WHAT SOME MAY CONSIDERED A DISASTER, AND WHEN WE BECOME THE HORNETS AGAIN, WE WILL SEE FANS COME BACK TO SUPPORT THIS TEAM NIGHT IN AND NIGHT OUT JUST LIKE WHAT THE ORIGINAL HORNETS DID DURING THEIR 14 YEAR RUN IN THIS TOWN.  Good night, and Good Luck.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Remembering the Charlotte Hornets 25 years later: A night to remember

In the 7th and final installment of our series looking back at the 25th Anniversary of the Charlotte Hornets first game, we'll look back at the big day, a day that will live on in the hearts of sports fans in Charlotte, and the Carolinas.

November 4th, 1988.  A day that will live in Charlotte and Carolina sports history forever.  It was more than just a typical day in Charlotte, North Carolina, a city of 350,000 people at the time as this city was about to hit it big on what may be considered an historic day for Charlotte and the Carolinas, it was a day that NBA basketball came to town.  A culmination of 3 1/2 years of planning was all going to become a reality on this night as the Charlotte Hornets took on the Cleveland Cavaliers in their first game in franchise history.

The game wasn't just any regular game, it was more like an Hollywood premiere combined with a gala or awards ceremony, if you get the picture, as the men were all dressed up in tuxedos, while the women wore gowns, and if you were driving down Tyvola Road, you may have saw the searchlights lighting up the sky to lead you to the new Charlotte Coliseum, which was opened 3 1/2 months ago back on August 11, 1988, and yes, the red carpet was indeed rolled out to welcome the 23,388 attendees to the first game.

Even the Charlotte Symphony was there to provide the pregame entertainment.  It was a festive atmosphere as North Carolina governor Jim Martin, and South Carolina governor Carroll Campbell, both made the journey to honor the man responsible for making the dream of bringing NBA basketball to the Carolinas a reality, George Shinn.

When the pregame festivities all wrapped up, they finally got to the starting lineups, the Cleveland Cavaliers were going to be introduced first, but when the team's first Public Address announcer, John Edwards said "And now, the starting lineups for the Cleveland Cavaliers.....", the Cavaliers remained in the locker room not knowing that the pregame ceremonies all wrapped up.  The Hornets and Cavaliers were getting ready for tip-off, and everyone took out their cameras to capture the moment that would be a memorable one indeed on a night to remember.

The two bright spots that the Charlotte Hornets would have in the game that night was the first basket ever scored in Hornets history as Kelly Tripucka would snag a rebound from Cavaliers center Brad Daugherty and he would put it in the basket, and the lone lead of the night for the Hornets would be a 34-32 lead in the second quarter, giving the crowd something to cheer about, in a building that was truly electric, and when I talked to Gerry Valliancourt, the former sports director at the Hornets television flagship at the time, WCCB, and now works at Fox affiliate WVUE in New Orleans, Louisiana back in 2008, he said that the crowd noise was indeed a factor.  "The noise was a factor and I couldn't hear myself during the broadcast." quoted Valliancourt.

But in the end, the Cavs would spoil the inaugural game for the Charlotte Hornets as they would roll on to a 133-93 win, and when the game ended, the Hornets would receive a standing ovation from the crowd acknowledging their support in the first game, despite being on the losing end of the scoreboard, to cap off a very special night in history.  The next morning, Ron Green, Sr., the long-time sports writer for The Charlotte Observer, would give his own take on the Hornets first game, stating 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."  Experience was indeed the word of that night in November of 1988, and for those of us that were here at the time, or for those that weren't around, the night that the Charlotte Hornets took the floor for the first time would always be a special moment for all of us Charlotte and Carolina sports fans alike.  And if you're wondering who led the Hornets in the loss on November 4th, 1988, it was Tripucka and Kurt Rambis that scored 16 points each for Charlotte.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Remembering the Charlotte Hornets 25 years later: Who are these guys?

Over the last 6 days, we have been chronicling the early years of the Charlotte Hornets franchise as we approach the 25th Anniversary of the team's first game. This time around, we'll talk about the most important thing a franchise needs, a head coach and some players that would make up the 1988-89 edition of the Charlotte Hornets.

Scheer begins an extensive hunt for a coach

Carl Scheer, who was hired as the first general manager of the Charlotte Hornets, would have a plan to look for a coach that would roam the sidelines of the Charlotte Coliseum for the Hornets first season, and after an extensive search, he would select Dick Harter, who was an assistant coach with the Indiana Pacers at the time, to be the very first coach in Hornets history.  Harter had a background as an college and NBA coach, first breaking into the head coaching capacity at Rider University for a season, before leaving there to be the coach at Penn, where he spent 5 1/2 years as their coach.  His best years came during his time at the University of Oregon, where his teams were known as the "Kamikaze Kids" from 1971 until the time he left for Penn State University as it's head coach from 1978-83.

Harter made his NBA coaching debut as an assistant coach for the Detroit Pistons in 1983 and served in that capacity until the 1986 season, where he moved to Indiana to serve as a Pacers assistant coach.  The extensive background that Harter had coaching in college and in the NBA was exactly what Carl Scheer and owner George Shinn had in mind during the search.  With the coach in place, the next thing the Hornets would add on to their list of needs to make the team work, a list of players, in the expansion draft and in the 1988 NBA Draft

Who are these guys?

On June 23, 1988, the Hornets, along with the Miami Heat, led by a group headed by Zev Buffman and former NBA player/coach and Charlotte native Billy Cunningham, participated in the 1988 NBA Expansion Draft.  The players that the Hornets and Heat were going to get came from previous established teams in the league.  Charlotte won the coin toss, allowing Miami to select first in the expansion draft, and Miami would take Arvid Kramer from the Dallas Mavericks.  Charlotte had the next pick in the draft, and the Hornets would select the player that would have a huge impact on basketball in Charlotte, Dell Curry, who was with the Cleveland Cavaliers.  Another player that would be an integral part of the Hornets was Tyrone "Muggsy" Bogues, who was picked 6th by Charlotte.  There was a few draft day trades during the expansion draft, and the Hornets were involved in one, as they sent Mike Brown, who was picked 8th by Charlotte, to the Utah Jazz in exchange for Kelly Tripucka.

In all, the Hornets picked 11 players in the expansion draft, and in the NBA Draft, held on June 28th, 1988, Charlotte used the 8th pick in the draft to select Rex Chapman out of the University of Kentucky.  Setting up the inaugural roster for the Charlotte Hornets to take the floor in 1988:

1988-89 Charlotte Hornets inaugural season roster

Forwards(5):
  • Kurt Rambis
  • Tim Kempton
  • Robert Reid
  • Brian Rowsom
  • Tom Tolbert
Guards(7):
  • Muggsy Bogues
  • Rex Chapman
  • Dell Curry
  • Rickey Green
  • Michael Holton
  • Ralph Lewis
  • Sidney Lowe
Centers(3):
  • Earl Cureton
  • Dave Hoppen
  • Greg Kite
The roster is set, the coaching staff has been assembled, and for the Charlotte Hornets, there was only one more thing left to do....play some basketball.  In the 7th and final chapter of this series, we will look back at the day that would live in Charlotte and Carolina sports history forever, as the Charlotte Hornets hit the floor for the first time as a team, as Charlotte would finally make the big time at last on that Friday night in November of 1988.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Remembering the Charlotte Hornets 25 years later: The making of a mascot

In the first 4 chapters of our series looking back at the early years of the Charlotte Hornets franchise leading up to the 25th anniversary of the team's first game this upcoming Monday, we covered a lot of background of the Hornets franchise during it's infancy.  From George Shinn's intentions to bring a NBA franchise, to the day that Charlotte would join the NBA, to the team's decision to have a "Name-the-Team" contest which saw "Hornets" be the winning favorite, and we talked about Alexander Julian's involvement in designing the team's uniforms...all for some North Carolina barbecue.

In Part 5 of our series, we'll talk about the involvement of how the daughter of the "Muppets" creator, got to work on building a mascot from scratch.

The birth of "Hugo"

When the team was going to be known as the Charlotte Hornets, it was obvious that the team needed a mascot that fans of all ages can love, and they turned to the daughter of Jim Henson, the man responsible for creating the "Muppets" to come up with a mascot that would be the face of the Hornets franchise.

Cheryl Henson, the daughter of "Muppets" creator Jim Henson,
came up with the design for Hugo the Hornet.
The person that came up with the concept of the mascot was Cheryl Henson, who is the President and CEO of the Jim Henson Foundation.  After the team unveiled it's logo, designed by Jerrell Caskey of Hendrick Sportswear, that featured a teal and purple hornet dribbling a basketball, Henson wouldn't waste any time to come up with a design for the team's mascot.

When she finished up earning a degree in textile design, she first went to Alexander Julian to ask him for a job with his company, and he informed her that he wasn't hiring at the time he was designing the uniforms for the Hornets, and she asked Julian if she needed any help in designing the mascot.  The backstory of it was that Cheryl did a lot of work building the characters on "The Muppet Show" as a teenager.

She and Alex both agreed, and Cheryl would turn the logo into a full-bodied costume, done in of course, purple and teal, which was suggested by Julian, and she done the work on the costume by hand and she even hand-sculpted the head of the mascot, which would be known as "Hugo" by the time he made his debut on November 4, 1988.  The name was suggested by over 6,000 people, and another backstory to the name was that the name "Hugo" was chosen one year before Hurricane Hugo struck the Carolinas on September 22nd, 1989, as there was talk about changing the mascot's name, but a Hornets spokesman at the time said that "Hugo" will continue to be the name.

In Part 6 of our series, we'll talk about the core of every NBA team, a head coach, and players, and on Monday, we'll commemorate the anniversary with a look back at some of the hoopla from November 4th, 1988