The Pittsburgh Condors were a professional basketball team in the original American Basketball Association. Originally called the Pittsburgh Pipers, they were a charter franchise of the ABA and captured the first league title. The team played their home games in Pittsburgh's Civic Arena.
|History||Pittsburgh Pipers |
|Arena||Pittsburgh Civic Arena (1967–68, 1969–1972)|
Met Center (1968–69)
|Team colors||Blue and Orange|
Red and Gold
|Team manager||Vern Mikkelsen 1967–1968|
Marty Blake 1970–1972
|Head coach||Vince Cazzetta |
Jim Harding, Vern Mikkelsen, and Verl Young
John Clark and Buddy Jeannette
Jack McMahon and Mark Binstein
|Ownership||Gabe Rubin 1967–1969 |
Haven Industries 1970–1972
|Division titles||1 (1968)|
The Pipers were one of the ABA's inaugural franchises in 1967. The team had great success on the court, posting the league's best record during the regular season (54-24, .692) and winning the league's first ABA Championship. The Pipers were led by their star player, ABA MVP and future Hall-of-Famer Connie Hawkins, who led the ABA in scoring at 26.8 ppg. The Pipers swept through the 1968 ABA Playoffs and defeated the New Orleans Buccaneers 4 games to 3 to take the title, with Hawkins earning Finals MVP honors. The ABA title remains Pittsburgh's only pro basketball championship.
The Pipers shared the Pittsburgh Civic Arena with the city's expansion National Hockey League team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Pipers attracted fairly respectable gates by ABA standards, averaging 3,200 fans per game.
Despite the championship and strong attendance figures in Pittsburgh, the Pipers franchise left Pittsburgh after their 1968 ABA Championship and moved to Minnesota in 1968, becoming the Minnesota Pipers. Minnesota was left vacant when the Minnesota Muskies had trouble drawing people in the league's first season and moved to Miami to become the Miami Floridians. The ABA league office was based in Minneapolis (home of league commissioner George Mikan), so the Pipers moved when a Minneapolis attorney named Bill Erickson bought a majority share of the team. As with the Muskies, their home arena was Bloomington's Met Center. Despite making the playoffs (but losing in the first round to, coincidentally, the Miami Floridians), the Pipers' attendance settings fared no better than the Muskies and they moved back to Pittsburgh after only one season. In Terry Pluto's book on the ABA, Loose Balls, Pipers co-owner Gabe Rubin says he returned to the Steel City because he couldn't think of anywhere else to go.
For the first season back in Pittsburgh the team retained the "Pipers" nickname. However, the team failed to match their previous success and fans stayed away. After the season, Haven Industries, maker of the "Jack Frost" brand of sugar products, bought the team and decided a name change was in order.
A "name-the-team" contest yielded the nickname "Pittsburgh Pioneers." However, local NAIA school Point Park College (now Point Park University) already had that nickname and threatened to sue. Ownership resolved the objection by changing the name to "Condors."
Jack McMahon took over as coach. John Brisker and Mike Lewis played in the 1971 ABA All-Star Game, but the Condors could only manage a 36-48 record, fifth place in the Eastern Division and out of the playoffs (one game behind The Floridians). While the Condors had a potent offense (fifth in the 11-team ABA with 119.1 points per game), they were often undone by their defense (fourth-worst, allowing 121.8 ppg). Attendance remained poor, with an announced average of 2,806, though some observers close to the team thought the actual average was less than half that. After a slow (4-8) start, general manager Marty Blake decided (in an infamous ABA stunt) to give away every available seat for an early-season game against Florida on November 17. The game attracted the biggest crowd that the team would ever draw under the Condors name as 11,012 tickets were given out; however, only 8,074 (in a 12,300-seat arena) actually showed up. (3,000 season ticket holders didn't even bother to attend the contest, which Pittsburgh lost, 122-116.) Ownership was not amused, and Blake was fired soon after.
For the next season, Haven tried to change the Condors' image, with a new logo and uniforms, plus a slick marketing campaign. In October, they lured the defending NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks (and star Lew Alcindor) to Pittsburgh for an exhibition game, guaranteeing the Bucks $25,000. A local ad proclaimed "Bring on Alcindor" and that "the ABA-NBA merger is here". (Actually, the merger would not come until 1976, and it would not include Pittsburgh.) Unfortunately for the Condors, Alcindor—who had changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar just a few days before the game—was injured and did not play. Only about eight to nine thousand fans showed up, and the Condors "took a bath" on the deal—not a good start for the season.
After a 4-6 start, general manager Mark Binstein fired McMahon for unknown reasons and named himself head coach. The move backfired disastrously; the Condors only went 21-50 the rest of the way.
As the season progressed, attendance dropped below 1,000 fans per game, fueling speculation the Condors would fold before Christmas. While they did manage to survive into the New Year, Haven finally had seen enough and announced the Condors would be playing elsewhere for the 1972-73 season. In the meantime, they began relocating home games, first to other cities in Pennsylvania, and then to farther-away places. On March 24, 1972 the Condors hosted the Kentucky Colonels in Birmingham, Alabama; four days later, the Condors hosted the Colonels again, this time in their last ever 'home' game, in Tucson, Arizona.
John Brisker and George Thompson played in the ABA All-Star Game. The Condors finished in sixth place in the Eastern Division at 25-59 and failed to make the playoffs. They averaged 2,215 fans per home game—a figure that would have been even lower if not for the games in both Birmingham and Tucson, which brought in significantly better gates than Pittsburgh.
Haven and the league tried to move the Condors to a bigger market. However, they were unable to do so, and in June 1972 the ABA canceled the Condors franchise. The Condors' roster was put into a dispersal draft; George Thompson went to the Memphis Tams, Mike Lewis to the Carolina Cougars, Skeeter Swift and James Silas to the Dallas Chaparrals, and Walt Szczerbiak to the Kentucky Colonels. John Brisker jumped to the Seattle SuperSonics of the NBA.
|Pittsburgh Pipers/Condors Hall of Famers|
|Buddy Jeannette 1||Head Coach||1969–1970||1994|
|Vern Mikkelsen 1||Head Coach||1968–1969||1995|
Note: W = Wins, L = Losses, % = Win–Loss %
|Pittsburgh Pipers (ABA)|
|1967–68||54||24||.692||Won Eastern Division Semifinals
Won Eastern Division Finals
Won ABA Finals
|Pittsburgh Pipers 3, Indiana Pacers 0|
Oakland Oaks 4, Minnesota Muskies 1
Pittsburgh Pipers 4, New Orleans Buccaneers 3
|1968–69||36||42||.462||Lost Division Semifinals||Miami Floridians 4, Minnesota Pipers 3|
|1969–70||29||55||.345||Did not qualify|
|1970–71||36||48||.429||Did not qualify|
The 1970–71 Pittsburgh Condors season was the 1st season of the Pittsburgh Condors, and third overall season of Pittsburgh's tenure in American Basketball Association. Haven Industries (makers of the Jack Frost sugar brand) had bought the team after the previous season and they decided to rename the team. With the prize being $500, the winning selection was "Pioneers". However, Point Park College, a NAIA college near the team offices threatened legal action due to them already using the nickname for their team. The pro team hastily came up with a replacement name in the form of "Condors", with the first game of the season being on October 15, 1970 versus the New York Nets, which they won 105–102. However, only 3,616 attended the game, a harbinger of things to come. For the November 17th game vs the Floridians, GM Marty Blake tried to spur interest by giving away all available tickets for free. Of the 13,000 seats offered, 8,074 fans showed up. Later in the year, he was fired when the team was 10 games below .500, alongside management being tired of promotional gimmicks.
On March 6, 1971, Stew Johnson scored 62 games versus the Floridians, going 25 of 44 with one three-pointer made and 11 free throws. While the team's biggest losing streak (done twice) was only 4 games, the team simply could not keep a winning streak longer than three games, with the team being reassured of a below .500 finish after losing on March 13, just nine games before the end of the season. However, the team was in contention for the final spot in the playoffs, with a game versus the Floridians (36–46) in the penultimate game for both teams (played on March 28) that could seal the spot up, as the Condors had a 35–47 record. However, they lost 130–117 to the Floridians, sealing their fate. Two days later, their season ended, with Pittsburgh having missed a playoff berth for another consecutive year. They finished 5th in points scored, with a 119.1 points per game average. Conversely, they finished 8th in points allowed at 121.8 points per game.1971–72 Pittsburgh Condors season
The 1971–72 Pittsburgh Condors season was the 2nd and final season of the Pittsburgh Condors along with the 4th and final season of Pittsburgh involvement in the American Basketball Association. General manager Mark Binstein took over as coach after a 4–6 start. By the time the season was half over, the team was 17–25. From that point, the team went 8–34, with a losing streak of 12 near the end of the season sealing any hope of getting out of the cellar of the Division. One factor was despite being 1st in points scored at 119.2 per game, they were dead last in points allowed, at 126.4 per game.Attendance had simply dried up, with games being moved (with one being moved to Uniontown, 46 miles from Pittsburgh) away from the Arena, with the team unofficially becoming the "United States Condors", with one game being played in Birmingham, Alabama. Fittingly, their penultimate game was played in Tucson, Arizona versus the Kentucky Colonels. On March 29, they played (and lost) their final game, 113–128 to the Indiana Pacers. Attempts to move the team failed after the season failed, and the league soon cancelled the franchise, ending pro basketball in Pittsburgh. Since then, no pro basketball team has played in Pittsburgh. The players were dispersed to other teams, with George Thompson going to the Memphis Tams, Mike Lewis to the Carolina Cougars, Skeeter Swift to the Dallas Chaparrals, and Walt Szczerbiak to the Kentucky Colonels.Bob Verga
Robert Bruce "Bob" Verga (born September 7, 1945) is an American retired professional basketball player, who played in the American Basketball Association and the National Basketball Association from 1967 to 1974. He was a 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m) guard and played college basketball at Duke University.
Verga owns the Duke men's basketball record for points per game (26.7) in a single season, which he achieved in 1967.Verga was drafted by the NBA's St. Louis Hawks in the third round of the 1967 NBA draft and by the Kentucky Colonels in the 1967 ABA Draft. Verga opted to play in the ABA and averaged 23.7 points per game in his rookie season for the Dallas Chaparrals. Verga averaged 18.8 points per game in his second ABA season, with the Houston Mavericks. Verga played the next two seasons with the Carolina Cougars, averaging 27.5 points per game during the 1969–70 season (in which he made his only appearance in the ABA All Star Game) and 18.8 the following season. After averaging 17.5 points per game for the Pittsburgh Condors in the 1971–72 season Verga finished his career with the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers.Charlie Williams (basketball)
Charles E. Williams (born September 5, 1943) is an American former professional basketball player born in Colorado Springs, Colorado. A 6’0” guard from Stadium High School (Tacoma) and Seattle University, he played in the American Basketball Association (which later joined the NBA in the ABA-NBA merger) in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The highlight of his career was in 1968, when he teamed with Connie Hawkins to lead the Pittsburgh Pipers to the 1968 ABA Championship. Williams also played in the 1969 and 1970 ABA All-Star Games. He retired in 1973 with 6,020 total points and a career scoring average of 16.2 points per game.Chuck Williams (basketball)
Edward "Chuck" Williams (born June 6, 1946) is a retired American basketball player who competed in both the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the rival American Basketball Association (ABA). A 6' 2" (1.88 m) guard from the University of Colorado, he played eight professional seasons (1970–1978), spending time with multiple teams including the Pittsburgh Condors (ABA), the Denver Nuggets (ABA, then NBA), the San Diego Conquistadors (ABA), the Kentucky Colonels (ABA), the Memphis Sounds (ABA), the Baltimore Claws (ABA), the Virginia Squires (ABA) and the Buffalo Braves (NBA). Williams's finest season occurred in 1972–73, when he averaged 17.7 points and 7.7 assists for the Conquistadors. He retired in 1978 with career totals of 6,849 points and 2,869 assists.Dave Lattin
David "Big Daddy D" Lattin (born December 23, 1943) is a former basketball player. He was the starting center for the Texas Western Miners in their NCAA championship year in 1966. During his playing career, he was listed at 6 feet 6 inches tall and 225 pounds.
David Lattin was born on December 23, 1943 in Houston Texas. His mother, Elsie Lattin, was widowed when Lattin’s father died in 1949. Lattin attended elementary and secondary schools in Houston before graduating from Evan E. Worthing Senior High School in 1963. Lattin was named All-State and All-American in basketball both his junior and senior years and was the first Texas player to be named to a High School All-American team.
Lattin left Tennessee State in 1964 citing the lack of basketball competition. He returned to Houston and played the AAAU before receiving a full scholarship to attend Texas Western College in 1965 where he played with the Miners, a Division 1 team in the NCAA. Under the leadership of Coach Don Haskins, the Miners won the 1966 Division 1 NCAA National Championship with five black starting players. Lattin was named All-American during the 1966 and 1967 seasons.
In 1967, Lattin left Texas Western College after he was drafted as the number ten pick by the NBA’s San Francisco Warriors.
The Kansas City Chiefs, of the American Football League, used their final pick in the 1967 draft (443rd overall) on Lattin as a prospective wide receiver. He went on to play with the Phoenix Suns, the Pittsburgh Condors, and the Memphis Tams, ending his professional career with the Harlem Globe Trotters from 1973 to 1976. Returning to school, Lattin earned his B.S. degree in business administration and started several successful business ventures including Your Maison Housing.
Lattin was inducted into the Texas Black Sports Hall of Fame and the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007. That year, he also wrote Slam Dunk to Glory.
Lattin has a son Clifton, a daughter Leslie, and several grandchildren.
His Grandson, Khadeem is currently a Senior at the University of Oklahoma. He has started every game of the 2016–2017 basketball season for the Sooners.
He was portrayed by Schin A.S. Kerr in the 2006 Disney film Glory Road produced by Jerry Bruckheimer.George Carter (basketball)
George Carter (born January 10, 1944) is an American retired professional basketball player. He was a 6'4" guard/forward.
Carter played at Silver Creek High School in New York, graduating in 1963. He was a two-time all-Western New York selection in basketball. He also played high school football and ran track.Carter played collegiate basketball at St. Bonaventure University.Carter was selected by the Detroit Pistons in the eighth round of the 1967 NBA draft. He was also selected by the New Orleans Buccaneers in the 1967 ABA Draft.Carter played only game for the Pistons and then joined the Washington Caps of the rival American Basketball Association. He went on to play seven seasons in the ABA, spending time with eight teams: the Caps, the Virginia Squires, the Carolina Cougars, the Pittsburgh Condors, the New York Nets, the Memphis Sounds, the Baltimore Claws (preseason games only) and the Utah Stars. Carter represented the Squires in the 1971 ABA All-Star Game, and he retired from basketball in 1976 with 8,863 combined ABA/NBA career points.Jack McMahon
John Joseph McMahon (December 3, 1928 – June 11, 1989) was a professional basketball player and coach. A 6'1" guard from St. John's University, McMahon was selected by the Rochester Royals in the 1952 NBA draft. He played eight seasons in the National Basketball Association (NBA), for Rochester and the St. Louis Hawks.
McMahon became a successful coach in the American Basketball League, the NBA and the American Basketball Association (ABA), with eleven seasons as a head coach in the three leagues. His first coaching stint was with the Kansas City Steers of the ABL (1961–62 season). The following season, he began coaching in the NBA with the Chicago Zephyrs in the 1962–63 season. He would also coach the Cincinnati Royals, the San Diego Rockets, and the ABA's Pittsburgh Condors.Jim Ligon
Jim "Goose" Ligon (February 22, 1944 – April 17, 2004) was an American professional basketball player.
A 6'7" forward/center, Ligon starred at Kokomo High School in Indiana but never played in college due to legal issues. In 1967, he earned a spot with the Kentucky Colonels of the American Basketball Association and went on to have a seven-year ABA career with the Colonels, Pittsburgh Condors, and Virginia Squires. Ligon averaged 12.8 points per game and 10.9 rebounds per game in his ABA career and appeared in the 1969 ABA All-Star Game.John Brisker
John Brisker (born June 15, 1947) was an American professional basketball player from Detroit, Michigan who disappeared in Uganda in April 1978. He was declared legally dead in 1985.Ken Spain
John Kenneth Spain (October 6, 1946 – October 11, 1990) was an American professional basketball player.
Spain was selected by the National Basketball Association's Chicago Bulls with the 20th overall pick in the 1969 NBA Draft and by the Oakland Oaks in the 1969 ABA Draft. He played in eleven American Basketball Association games during the 1970-71 season for the Pittsburgh Condors.
A 6'9" center, Spain played college basketball at the University of Houston with Elvin Hayes from 1966-1969. Spain graduated from Austin High School in Houston.Spain died of cancer at age 44 in Houston, Texas.Mickey Davis
Edward J. "Mickey" Davis (born June 16, 1950) is an American former player in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Davis first played professionally for the Pittsburgh Condors of the American Basketball Association. He was later drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in the seventh round of the 1972 NBA draft and played with the team until 1976.
Davis' professional career was mostly unheralded, but he did garner some national attention during the 1974 NBA Finals with the Bucks. With starting guard Lucius Allen hurt and the rest of the Bucks' guards unable to handle the defensive pressure of the Boston Celtics, Davis, an adept ballhandler, was called upon to play point guard (unusual at the time at 6'7") alongside Oscar Robertson for much of the series and helped the Bucks extend the Celtics to seven games.Mike Lewis (basketball)
Michael J. Lewis (born March 18, 1946) is a retired American professional basketball player.
A 6'8" power forward/center from Duke University, Lewis played in the American Basketball Association from 1968 to 1974 as a member of the Indiana Pacers, Minnesota Pipers, Pittsburgh Pipers, Pittsburgh Condors, and Carolina Cougars. He averaged 12.1 points per game and 11.9 rebounds per game in his ABA career and appeared in the 1971 ABA All-Star Game. His career was cut short by an Achilles tendon injury.Nate Bowman
Nathaniel "Nate the Snake" Bowman (March 19, 1943 – December 11, 1984) was an American basketball player born in Fort Worth, Texas.
A 6'10" center from Wichita State University, Bowman played five seasons (1966–1971) in the National Basketball Association and one season (1971–1972) in the American Basketball Association as a member of the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks, Buffalo Braves, and Pittsburgh Condors. He won an NBA Championship as a reserve for the Knicks in 1970. In his NBA/ABA career, Bowman tallied 745 total points and 878 total rebounds. He was a good rebounder, but a poor shooter who had a problem with committing personal fouls, thus earning the nickname "Nate the Snake." In his NBA/ABA career, he committed more personal fouls than he scored field goals.
Bowman was one of several players involved in a November 20, 1968 brawl between the Knicks and Atlanta Hawks at Atlanta's Alexander Memorial Coliseum. The fight eventually spilled into the stands, where fans grabbed Bowman so that Atlanta's Bill Bridges could land a punch. None of the participants were fined more than $25.Bowman died on December 11, 1984 in New York City.Paul Ruffner
Paul Ruffner (born October 15, 1948) is a retired American basketball player who played in both the American Basketball Association and the National Basketball Association.
Ruffner was born on in Downey, California. He played basketball at Earl Warren High School in Downey, California.A 6'10" center, Ruffner played college basketball for Brigham Young University. The Chicago Bulls selected Ruffner in the second round of the 1970 NBA draft and the Virginia Squires selected him in the 1970 ABA draft. Ruffner signed with the Bulls.Ruffner played his rookie season, 1970–71, with the Bulls. Ruffner played for the Pittsburgh Condors of the ABA in the next season. After a year out of both leagues, Ruffner played during the 1973–74 and 1974–75 seasons for the NBA's Buffalo Braves. Ruffner then landed with the Baltimore Claws but the team folded after a few preseason exhibition games. Ruffner concluded his professional career in the final season before the ABA–NBA merger by appearing in two games for the Spirits of St. Louis during the 1975–76 campaign.Rich Johnson (basketball)
Richard Lewis Johnson (December 18, 1946 – June 15, 1994) was an American professional basketball player.A 6' 9"center from Grambling State University, Johnson played parts of three seasons (1968–1971) with the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association. He averaged 4.7 points per game in his NBA career and won an NBA Championship ring in 1969.
Johnson later played for several American Basketball Association teams.Skeeter Swift
Harley E. "Skeeter" Swift (June 19, 1946 – April 20, 2017) was an American professional basketball player.
A 6'3" guard from East Tennessee State University, Swift was selected in the third round (31st pick overall) of the 1969 NBA draft by the Milwaukee Bucks, but he instead played five seasons in the American Basketball Association as a member of the New Orleans Buccaneers, Memphis Pros, Pittsburgh Condors, Dallas Chaparrals, and San Antonio Spurs. He averaged 11.6 points per game in his professional career.Swift died on April 20, 2017, at the age of 70.Tiny Ron Taylor
Ronald "Tiny Ron" Taylor (born November 21, 1947) is an American film actor and former basketball player. He is possibly best known as Lothar in The Rocketeer (1991) and as Roc in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994), roles that exploited his 7 ft (2.13 m) frame and craggy features. He also played Al, the tall police detective whose face is never seen, in The Naked Gun (1988) and on the TV series Police Squad!. He has also appeared on television, including seven episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine as the Hupyrian manservant Maihar'du, and two episodes of Star Trek: Voyager as the Hirogen alpha Idrin.
Taylor was born in Torrance, California. He attended North Torrance High School and graduated from the University of Southern California.Walter Szczerbiak
Walter Szczerbiak Sr. (born August 21, 1949) is an American former professional basketball player. At 6'6" (1.98 m), Szczerbiak played at the small forward position.
On February 3, 2008, Szczerbiak was chosen as one of the 50 most influential personalities to European club basketball, over the previous half-century, by the EuroLeague Basketball Experts Committee.
American Basketball Association champions
Defunct sports teams based in Pennsylvania
Category: Defunct sports teams in Pennsylvania