With the Charlotte Bobcats making a name for themselves in the NBA it causes one to wonder if maybe a Bobcat could have been a Cougar if events would have occured a little bit differently. There’s not a good reason why the NBA team for the Carolinas is not based right here in Greensboro. History has proven that Greensboro is the best basketball town in the Southeast and when the Gate City played host to the Carolina Cougars of the old ABA we had a chance to become an NBA city.
I will agree with most of you right away that the brand of hoops that the NBA plays these days is not what we were watching at the Greensboro Coliseum back in the early 70’s when the Cougars ruled the roost in this town. We have always been big ACC hoops backers but if you can remember back to the days of the Cougars, we liked this breed of cat long before the Carolina Panthers or the Bobcats were even a Cat’s meow, and long before KB was knocking down 81.
Greensboro backers were backing the Cougars and we even played host to the ABA All-Star game back in 1971. The high schools used to hook up with the Cougars and play doubleheaders on Friday nights at the Coliseum. For the money this was the best brand of entertainment to ever hit the Coliseum floor. Better than hockey, better than the ACC, better than the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus, better than the Monster Trucks, better than Aerosmith.
I hope some of you do remember our old Carolina Cougars. Bones Mckinney was the first ever coach and his assistant was Jerry Steele who came in from Guilford and High Point College and Steele had played for Bones at Wake Forest. The ABA Cougars had tons of local talent and the ABA with the red, white and blue ball and the three point shot was much more hip than the NBA. ACC players were all over the Cougars’ roster. Big Tom Owens from South Carolina, Larry Miller from North Carolina, Vann Williford from N.C. State, Bob Verga from Duke, Gil McGregor from Wake Forest got a shot, Gene Littles from High Point was here, there were prime time players all over this town.
Later Billy Cunningham came to town, Jim McDaniels and Jim Chones showed up along with “Pogo” Joe Caldwell,Mack Calvin, Wendall Ladner and Harley “Skeeter” Swift. Larry Brown and Doug Moe became our coaches and we saw “Dr. J” Julius Erving, David Thompson, Charlie Scott, George Gervin, Mel Daniels, Roger Brown, Dan Issel, Artis Gilmore, Rick Mount, Louie Dampier, Dale Carrier, Bob Netolicky, John Brisker, James Silas, Zelmo Beatty, and Rick Barry come to town on the opposing teams.
When the NBA and ABA merged our team had flown the coop and landed in St. Louis as the Spirits of St. Louis. San Antonio, Indiana, Denver, and New Jersey all got pulled into the NBA from the ABA and my contention is if our Cougars could have held on here just a couple of more years GREENSBORO would have been home to the NBA today. We shared the team in part with Charlotte and Raleigh but GREENSBORO was the real home. The Gate City was where the players bought houses and laid down some roots.
Ed Manning was playing here when his son Danny Manning was born. “Hound Dog” Ted McClain bought some property here. Joe Caldwell made a down payment on some carpet here but never paid off his bill. GREENSBORO was the choice city for the futre NBA stars.
We dropped the ball and the Carolina Cougars went the way of their other old ABA namesakes. I still miss the Virginia Squires, the New Orleans Buccaneers, Los Angeles Stars, the Utah Stars, Memphis Tams, Memphis Sounds, Oakland Oaks, Washington Caps, the Miami Floridians, the San Diego Conquistadors, Pittsburg Pipers, Pittsburg Condors, the Kentucky Colonels and the list goes on and on.
We had our chance to create some lasting history and in some ways we did. I’ve got to believe that there are many old Cougars fans out there somewhere in and around the Gate City. Carl Scheer was a big name who helped run the ABA and later on helped bring the Charlottte Hornets into NBA exsistance. Scheer was right here working in Greensboro in the 70’s. I’ve got to know if you’re out there reading this artilce and really believe like I do that we could have had that NBA team here in GREENSBORO. We really should have never lost Scheer or the Cougars in the first place.
The Carolina Cougars were one of my favorite all-time teams. Science says we will always remember and continue to have a soft spot in our hearts for the sports and teams we loved in our youth. This has to be true with me and probably many others too. If I could just bring back one of those Friday night games in the Coliseum with Western Guilford playing Allen Jay in the opener and the Carolina Cougars(with 7’1 Rich Nieman) taking on the Indiana Pacers(with Mel Daniels) in the nightcap.