The successful NBA franchise San Antonio Spurs were once based in Dallas, the city that hosts one of their most fierce rivals, the Dallas Mavericks. They were then known as the Dallas Chaparrals, playing in the ABA from 1967 to 1973. The Chaparrals were formed as a charter franchise for the American Basketball Association (ABA), which would later merge with the NBA in 1967. Most of their home games were played at the Moody Coliseum from 1967 to 1971 and the Dallas Conventional center from 1971 to 1973. The name Chaparrals was borrowed from the Chaparrals Club of the Sheraton Hotel in Dallas where an organizational meeting was being held. The chaparral on the club’s napkin was also adopted as the team’s mascot and logo. Cliff Hagan was installed in the player-coach role and held an open national tryout to assemble a 14-man roster.
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The Chaparrals had nothing of the enormous stature that characterizes the Spurs today. While they were not exactly a mediocre team, the Chaparrals did not win a single trophy despite making five playoffs appearances in six years. In fact, they only won one series, exiting at the first playoff round in each of the other playoff seasons. Their first season, 1967-1968 was also their most successful. They amassed their best record 46-32 and also made their deepest foray into the playoffs, reaching the Western Finals. In the playoffs they had swept cross state rivals Houston Mavericks in three straight games but they found the New Orleans Buccaneers a much a harder opponent, losing four games to one. During each of the next four seasons they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs. In 1972/73 season, their last season in Dallas, they finished in fifth place with a sorry record of 28-56 which meant that they missed the playoffs for the fist time.
Cliff Hagan, who had stamped his place as a basketball legend in the 1950s and 1960s had been convinced by Chaparrals to join the team barely one year into his retirement to assume a player-coach role in the team as it began. During his first season, his old mojo shone through as he was one of three Dallas players to average 20 points per game. He also appeared to have a bright future in coaching after the team’s exploits in their inaugural season but his star set spectacularly in 1969/70 when he retired again from playing to concentrate fulltime on coaching. He was fired in the middle of the season and replaced by Max Williams following mutiny by a clique of his players. Hagan, a typical NBA hard man found it hard to sell his aggressive style of play to his charges who were mainly SMU graduates accustomed to a principled, clean game.
Why were the Dallas Chaparrals Relocated?
For some reason, despite the Chaparrals being a fairly descent team, the fans refused to get excited about the team. The team more often than not played in front of hundreds of fans which meant that by their third season, the owners were already hemorrhaging money. Forward Len Chapell once quipped, “Fans came dressed as empty seats. There just weren’t many people there.” In an attempt to gather a lager fan base, the team decided to go regional and rebranded as the Texas Chaparrals in 1970. They played some of their games in Fort Worth and Lubbock but crowds remained lean and the idea was abandoned at the start of the next season. Following a terrible season 1972/73 season, the owners wanted nothing to do with the team. They literally had to beg San Antonio businessmen Angel Drossos and B.J McCombs to take the team off their hands after they failed to get any meaningful bids. They offered to lease the team to Drossos and McCombs for just $1 a year with the option to purchase after three years. Asked why they gave the team away so cheaply, one of the Dallas owners said, “We didn’t want that sucker back.” The new owners-to-be were reportedly reluctant to accept even these terms but they would not regret the decision. When they moved the team to San Antonio, it was an instant hit. Drossos and McCombs were so elated that they did away with the original agreement and completed the purchase in the first year. The team was renamed San Antonio Spurs, which is today the fourth most successful team in NBA history.
Dallas Chaparrals most Notable players
Cliff Hagan G 1967-1970
John Beasley C 1967-1972
Ron Boone SF/G 1968-1970
Glen Combs G 1968-1971
Cincy Powel C 1967-1970
Charlie Beasley F/G 1967–1971
Len Chappell PF 1971–1972
Bob Verga PG 1967–1968
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