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Carolina Cougars
Carolina Cougars logo
Conference None
Division Eastern Division
Founded 1969 (as Carolina Cougars)
History Houston Mavericks
1967-1969
Carolina Cougars
1969-1974
Spirits of St. Louis
1974-1976
Arena Greensboro Coliseum
Charlotte Coliseum (original)
J.S. Dorton Arena (Raleigh)
City Greensboro, North Carolina
Charlotte, North Carolina
Raleigh, North Carolina
Team colors Green and White
         
Owner(s) Southern Sports Corporation
General manager {{{General Manager}}}
Head coach Bones McKinney 1970-1971
Jerry Steele 1971
Larry Brown 1971-1974
D-League affiliate {{{affiliate}}}
Championships 0
Conference titles no conference play in ABA
Division titles 1 (1972-73)
Official website

Carolina Cougars was a basketball franchise in the former American Basketball Association that existed from late 1969 through 1974. The Cougars were originally a charter member of the ABA as the Houston Mavericks in 1967. The Mavericks moved to North Carolina in late 1969 after two unsuccessful seasons in Houston at the Sam Houston Coliseum. The Cougars' colors were green, blue, and white.

History

The history of the Carolina Cougars franchise began when the former Houston ABA franchise was relocated to North Carolina in 1969. During the 1970s, North Carolina did not have a large primary metropolitan area to base a professional sports franchise, so the team's ownership decided to have the teams play its home games in Charlotte at the Charlotte Coliseum, Greensboro at the Greensboro Coliseum, Raleigh at the Dorton Arena and Reynolds Coliseum, and in Winston-Salem at the Winston-Salem Memorial Coliseum as a regional team.

Early on, the Carolina Cougars were not especially successful on the court, posting a 42-42 record in the 1969-1970 season, a 34-50 record in 1970-1971, and a 35-49 record in 1971-1972. Only the '69-'70 Cougars managed to make the ABA playoffs but lost in the Eastern Division Semifinals (first round) to a much stronger Indiana Pacers team. In spite of this, the Cougars had a good fan following, particularly in Greensboro.

In 1972-1973, the Carolina Cougars hired retired ABA players Larry Brown and former Cougar Doug Moe as coaches. The '72-'73 Cougars were fairly talented and featured players Billy Cunningham, Joe Caldwell, and Mack Calvin. All three appeared in the ABA All-Star Game that season, and Cunningham was named the league's Most Valuable Player. Carolina went on to post a 57-27 record, which was the best in the ABA. The Cougars beat the New York Nets in their first-round playoff series 4-1, but lost a close series to the Kentucky Colonels 4-3 in the Eastern Division finals.

The 1973-1974 season proved to be the last for the Carolina Cougars in North Carolina. Due to injuries and internal squabbles, the '73-'74 Cougars posted a 47-37 record but was swept in the Eastern Division semifinals 4-0 by the Kentucky Colonels. Later in 1974, the Carolina Cougars were moved to Missouri and became the Spirits of St. Louis until the ABA-NBA merger in June 1976. The Spirits of St. Louis were one of only two ABA teams to survive until the very end of the league but not join the NBA; the other was the Kentucky Colonels. (The Virginia Squires folded after the final ABA regular season ended but before the ABA-NBA merger due to their inability to meet a league-mandated financial assessment after the season ended.) At the time of the ABA-NBA merger the Spirits' owners planned to move the team to Salt Lake City, Utah to play as the Utah Rockies.

The Cougars were moderately successful overall and had more supportive fans than many other ABA franchises; nonetheless, even those elements were not enough to keep the Cougars from relocating. The regional concept may have also been a factor; several persons quoted in the book Loose Balls by Terry Pluto say the added travel expenses incurred by the regional concept contributed to the Cougars' failure.

Professional basketball would return to North Carolina in 1988 when the Charlotte Hornets entered the National Basketball Association, but the Hornets would eventually move to New Orleans in 2002. The NBA returned to Charlotte two years later when the Charlotte Bobcats began their inaugural NBA season in 2004-2005.

External links








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