Louisville Rumors

Louisville is the NBA’s perpetual bridesmaid. The decades-long dance between the basketball-crazed city and the world’s preeminent basketball league began in the mid-1970s. The ABA’s Kentucky Colonels, one of the league’s most decorated and financially successful franchises, were poised to make the jump into the NBA when the two leagues merged, but owner John Y. Brown decided to cash out by selling star players to other franchises and accepting a $3 million buyout to fold his team. Decades later, Louisville had the then-Vancouver Grizzlies in hand in 2001. “We fumbled on the one-yard line,” Steve Higdon, chairman of NBA2LOU, tells CBS Sports. A combination of local politics and the inability to raise funds for a new arena killed the deal, and the Grizzlies landed in Memphis. A year later, Rick Pitino and the University of Louisville exerted their own influence to keep the then-Charlotte Hornets out of Kentucky. Toss in a failed bid at the Houston Rockets, and the home of the 1975 ABA champions had grown sick of losing out on professional basketball.
Whether Kentuckians would throw their dollars behind a professional basketball team remains to be seen, but they already devote a fair bit of time to the NBA. Louisville routinely draws strong television ratings, particularly when it comes to the NBA Draft. It led all cities with a 5.3 rating on the 2017 NBA Draft, per Sports Media Watch, and that devotion to the game is something Issel still sees regularly. “To this day, I have people in their 50s and 60s that come up to me and say ‘We really loved the Colonels. My dad used to take me to all of the games,'” he recalls. Nostalgia, in itself, does not support a billion-dollar enterprise, but it doesn’t hurt in a region with a fairly low population. Only New Orleans and Memphis are smaller among NBA markets, but neither came with the sort of built-in market share that a Kentucky basketball team would have based purely on history.
Louisville had the then-Vancouver Grizzlies in hand in 2001. “We fumbled on the one-yard line,” Steve Higdon, chairman of NBA2LOU, tells CBS Sports. A combination of local politics and the inability to raise funds for a new arena killed the deal, and the Grizzlies landed in Memphis. A year later, Rick Pitino and the University of Louisville exerted their own influence to keep the then-Charlotte Hornets out of Kentucky. Toss in a failed bid at the Houston Rockets, and the home of the 1975 ABA champions had grown sick of losing out on professional basketball.
The KFC Yum! Center now sits on the Louisville waterfront with all of the bells and whistles of a typical NBA arena, but no professional tenant. The trouble, as former Colonels legend and current NBA2LOU president Dan Issel explains, was a lack of interest on the NBA’s part. “As we got into it, we found out that expansion really wasn’t anything, it wasn’t as inevitable as everybody felt,” Issel said. “In fact, I called the commissioner and he said ‘Dan I really appreciate it, but I’m not even taking any meetings on expansion.'” This has been the NBA’s official stance for over a decade. The league has not expanded since welcoming the Charlotte Bobcats in 2004, giving it an even 30 teams.
Storyline: NBA Expansion
As COVID-19 takes its toll on professional sports, as money grows tight and certainty scarce, the possibility of NBA expansion or relocation becomes increasingly plausible. “The quickest way for the owners to make up any shortfall in revenue is expansion,” said Dan Issel, president of NBA2LOU. “Those expansion fees would be sizable and they don’t have to split that with the players.”
That the situation is fluid “is more true now than it’s been in decades,” says J. Bruce Miller, Louisville’s long-time NBA point man. Granted, Louisville still looks like a long shot. The University of Louisville continues to control the most significant revenue streams at the KFC Yum Center and is poorly positioned to start making concessions to an NBA owner amid layoffs and budget cuts. Meanwhile, modern arenas in Vegas and Kansas City are unencumbered by leases that could cause conflict with an NBA tenant.
So long as there is more money to be made in another market, though, rumors will persist. In addition to the Grizzlies, the Charlotte Hornets, Detroit Pistons, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans, Phoenix Suns and San Antonio Spurs have all been subject to recent relocation speculation. “There might be some teams looking at moving,” Dan Issel said. “All I know is that the people that I’ve talked to who have had knowledge of those situations have promised me that I’ll get a call when it’s appropriate.”
Storyline: NBA Expansion
“Winning that championship with the Colonels in Louisville is why I’m involved with our present endeavor, to get the NBA back to Louisville,” Dan Issel told the Hardin County Chamber of Commerce audience. “Remembering that championship, how special it was, and what a great feeling everybody in Kentucky had about having a championship team was terrific,” Issel said. “That’s something I would like to see duplicated.”
Storyline: NBA Expansion
Rick Pitino reached an agreement with Louisville and both sides dropped their lawsuits, the school announced on Wednesday. The former head coach of Panathinaikos OPAP will receive no money, but his personnel file will now reflect that his employment ended in 2017 as a result of a resignation. The 67-year-old American initially sued Louisville for breach of contract and was seeking more than $35 million. ULAA counter-suited pursuing damages allegedly caused by its former head coach.
“Today, I move on to a new chapter in my life,” mentioned Pitino in a statement released by his lawyer, “I am very proud of the many accomplishments my teams achieved at Louisville. I’m so thankful and honored to coach such dedicated athletes. I’m also disappointed in how it ended. But as head coach I am held responsible for the actions of all team members.”
Dan Issel has now come full circle with this effort to bring professional basketball back to Louisville where his career began with the Colonels. “We are fighting the perception that Louisville and Kentucky cannot support a professional basketball team,” Issel said. “We have reams of data that proves Louisville, Kentucky, can support a professional basketball team.”
Storyline: NBA Expansion
Yet after 42 years of tilting at windmills in pursuit of a professional basketball franchise, the 78-year-old attorney J. Bruce Miller remains disinclined to abandon his incomplete quest. Miller still believes there is a billionaire “out there” who can be convinced to bring the NBA to Louisville, and he continues to chase that oft-dashed dream despite his advancing age and amid perceptions of his diminishing influence.
Storyline: NBA Expansion
Six months since his acrimonious exit from the NBA2LOU organization, Miller has not stopped working the phones or cultivating potential owners. Previously on record that the NBA2LOU effort cannot survive league scrutiny because of financial issues associated with Signature CEO Joe Steier, Miller is now operating independently and, again, optimistically. “It hasn’t been a lost cause in the sense that it was hopeless,” he said. “We darn near had it two or three times.”
“What I’m looking for is somebody who would do something for Louisville what Danny Thomas did for Memphis,” Miller said. “And I’m not talking, necessarily, about a movie star. What he did with (St. Jude Children’s) hospital changed Memphis, Tennessee. That place is just breathtaking. That’s exactly what I’m looking for: somebody coming in and doing something like what Danny Thomas did for Memphis’ reputation. I think that person is out there.”
If you’ve lived in Louisville for any amount of time, you know this city goes wild for its basketball: high school and, of course, college. “It’s just time for that next step,” NBA Hall of Famer Dan Issel said. He’s leading the charge to bring an NBA team to town. The former UK Wildcat, Denver Nugget and executive updated the public on his dream at a lunch for entrepreneurs Wednesday afternoon. “There have been discussions for years about bringing the NBA to Louisville, but we think the timing is right now,” Issel said.
2 years ago via WDRB
He knows his plan isn’t a slam dunk. The price tag is hefty. It would take more than $1 billion to bring a team here and another $400 million to get the franchise up and running. “You’d be surprised by how many people, how many groups can write that kind of check,” he told the crowd. He knows his plan isn’t a slam dunk. The price tag is hefty. It would take more than $1 billion to bring a team here and another $400 million to get the franchise up and running. “You’d be surprised by how many people, how many groups can write that kind of check,” he told the crowd.
2 years ago via WDRB
Storyline: NBA Expansion
5. Louisville remains in the most precarious position. The Cardinals were put on probation for so-called Stripper-gate on June 15, 2017. They chose not to dismiss Pitino, so he and his staff remained in place (although not the point man for the prostitutes-in-the-dorm parties, Aaron McGee). Part of the punishment was four years of probation. Just nine weeks later, Bowen Sr. testified under oath, was the payment from Johnson, the associate head coach and thus second in command of the program. That would be another major violation and falls under the repeat offender clause, which can trigger huge penalties.
Storyline: NCAA Scandal
The man leading an effort to bring the NBA to Louisville said he’s not concerned about a recent report that says NBA expansion may not be considered until 2025. Naismith Hall-of-Famer and former Denver Nuggets coach Dan Issel, now president of the Louisville Basketball Investment & Support Group, dismissed an ESPN report last week that cited league sources saying expansion isn’t a concern for the NBA right now.
Storyline: NBA Expansion
Dan Issel has followed the money far enough to believe there are buyers. What he doesn’t know, and won’t predict, is when there might be a pro basketball team to buy. The president of NBA2LOU expressed confidence Wednesday night in Louisville’s ability to fund an expansion team, but he conceded that his timetable has grown longer. “Not the least of my worries, but one of my lesser concerns is that when the time comes we’ll find somebody to write the check,” Issel said. “That person is out there. … The challenge we’re going to have is the NBA being ready for us.”
Storyline: NBA Expansion
A group of local investors committed to bringing an NBA franchise to Louisville held its first pep rally Wednesday night as talks continue with as many as five investor groups interested in partnering on the movement. The Louisville Basketball Investment & Support Group, also known as NBA to Louisville, held the rally at the Falls City Brewing Co. taproom on East Liberty Street, where members took questions and provided updates to several dozen supporters.
The Louisville Basketball Investment & Support Group is a collective of Louisville investors who are working to attract a majority investor and owner who could help generate at least $1.4 billion to start an NBA franchise in Louisville. The organization has pledges of at least $3 million for startup costs. This was the first official rally for the grassroots movement, but the group plans to host similar events in Lexington and other parts of the state in an effort to build a groundswell of fan support ahead of a possible NBA expansion.
The University of Louisville will lose its 2013 national championship banner. The NCAA’s Infractions Appeals Committee announced on Tuesday that it upheld the Committee on Infractions’ ruling that Louisville must vacate 123 wins, including the 2013 title and the 2012 Final Four appearance, as punishment in the school’s escort case. It is the first time in modern Division I men’s basketball history that a championship was vacated.
Storyline: NCAA Scandal
The decision, released via the NCAA’s website, was the last step in an infractions process that lasted more than two years after Katina Powell’s bombshell book prompted an NCAA investigation in October 2015. Louisville self-imposed a postseason ban for the 2016 ACC and NCAA tournaments, and later added self-imposed recruiting sanctions after confirming Powell’s allegations that former Cards basketball staffer Andre McGee paid women thousands of dollars and gave them game tickets in exchange for them dancing for and having sex with players and recruits.
Storyline: NCAA Scandal
Efforts to bring the NBA to Louisville, long seen as a longshot, may finally be shortening the distance to the goal. It’s not yet a layup — far from it — but the percentages should be more promising after Wednesday’s announcement that Dan Issel has joined some of the city’s deepest pockets in pursuit of a professional basketball team.
Storyline: NBA Expansion
Around the time Pitino arrived, a group of Louisville businessmen and politicians were making a concerted effort to land an NBA team. In part, this was a play for economic development. Louisville could see how pro football and hockey helped revitalize Nashville. But it also came just as much from a desire for respect. The city burghers even had a nonbinding agreement with the Charlotte Hornets, which wanted to relocate. The plan centered around building a downtown arena that the Hornets and the Cardinals would share. Jurich and Pitino had other ideas. They had no intention of sharing an arena with an NBA team—they didn’t even want to share the city with an NBA team. Louisville was theirs. David Stern, who was then commissioner of the NBA, recalls thinking, “If Rick Pitino doesn’t want us there, why are we going there?” The Hornets went to New Orleans instead.
Peter Vecsey: Six decades later, to the surprise of nobody as little as droopily conscious, college chicanery involving the recruitment of prized HS players, and their families (including AAU coaches, I suspect), continues to run amok. It also continues to be coordinated by one or more bag men/assistants per shady school. They consider it a privilege to muck the head coach’s stall, and perform any other necessary dirty work to gain trust, a promotion or a letter of recommendation. The master plan is to insulate the head coach from prosecution, if not dismissal, should the school’s business be put out on the street.
Peter Vecsey: Had Katina Powell, the madam who’d choreographed the 2015 campus sex parties — that included her two teenaged daughters — not written a book (aptly titled ‘Breaking Cardinal Rules’) about it, the trafficking and prostitution almost certainly would’ve become an annual recruiting tool. Again, out one side of his mouth, Pitino repudiated any culpability, claiming he knew nothing about it. Out the other side, he habitually claimed to know everything that went on within the program. One way or the other, a head coach is strictly accountable for any dishonorable deeds committed by subordinates.
As the college basketball world was shaken by the FBI indictments and Rick Pitino’s ousting at Louisville, Beasley spoke out on the corrupt culture in college basketball. Beasley was a top-5 recruit out of high school who chose to go to college in Manhattan, Kan., without ever visiting the school during his recruitment. This was what he had to say on Wednesday, even adding that he’s personally responsible for the population growth in Manhattan, Kan. He said via Mike Vorkunov: “Man, you guys are just catching on. And that’s all I gotta say.
Storyline: NCAA Scandal
“My jerseys. They sell my jerseys. Not just me but what about Kentucky and Anthony Davis. USC and O.J. Mayo. Western Kentucky and Courtney Lee. We bring a lot to these schools and we can’t even park in front of the arenas for games. They still make us, as freshmen, park two parking lots away from the dorm rooms in the freezing cold. So do I think that guys need to be compensated for their work? Yes. Because most of us don’t make it to this level. A lot of us don’t make it to the professional level, let alone the NBA. So I do think guys should be getting paid. The NCAA is making billions: not just off basketball but off football and soccer – by the way, golf players get paid. Tennis players get paid. There are athletes getting paid at the college level. We’re just not one of them.”