NBA at 75: How Ted Stepien virtually killed the Cleveland Cavaliers

NBA at 75: How Ted Stepien virtually killed the Cleveland Cavaliers

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The NBA has had its justifiable share of horrible homeowners, however just one has ever had a rule named after them — Ted Stepien of the Cavaliers.

Quickly after Ted Stepien bought the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1980, Akron Beacon-Magazine reporter Sheldon Ocker offered himself to the brand new proprietor and requested if he may spend time with him for a tale. Stepien used to be receptive to the speculation and mentioned that Ocker may come over the following Sunday after church “We’ll take a seat across the pool and watch porno motion pictures,” he mentioned. Fortunately for Ocker, that specific assembly by no means got here to fruition. As an alternative, he watched as Stepien performed auditions for cheerleaders, asking them questions like “What’s your favourite colour?” and “In the event you had been on holiday, would you move to a nude seashore?”  For Ocker, it used to be an inauspicious advent to one of the crucial worst homeowners in sports activities historical past.

Such questions and statements weren’t out of persona for Stepien. In line with Joe Menzer and Burt Graeff’s super historical past of the Cavaliers, Cavs: From Fitch to Fratello, he used to be reportedly heard a number of instances introducing his daughter Nancy by means of asking others, “Doesn’t she have nice titties?” On every other instance, Stepien mused to the media: “It’s a undeniable fact that having extra white gamers can be really useful from a advertising and marketing perspective. But when we now have 11 Blacks and win a name, that’s nice.” In all probability buying and selling away the entire Cavaliers draft selections used to be a long way from the worst factor about him.

Because the 1970’s ended and the 80s started, the Cleveland Cavaliers had been in a state of disarray. In line with Cavs PR director Invoice Needles, “You hardly knew who owned the staff week to week.” There used to be a minority proprietor of the Cleveland MLB staff who used to be taken with purchasing the suffering Cavs despite the fact that, an promoting govt named Ted Stepien.

Stepien had made his fortune by means of founding National Promoting, an organization which might spouse with firms looking for new staff and purchase categorized ads for them. In 1980, Stepien started by means of purchasing 37 % of the Cavs for $2 million, however would move on to shop for increasingly stocks till he owned 82 % of the franchise.

After purchasing the staff, Stepien started a promotional blitz. He selected a struggle track — a polka, no much less — and had copies of it brought to native radio stations “in conjunction with a pound of kielbasa,” consistent with Menzer and Graeff. He would cross out brochures, ostensibly supposed to marketplace the Cavaliers, that featured his personal face at the duvet. He additionally recruited two new staff mascots: Loopy George and the Superb Boot. Loopy George, nee George Schauer used to be touted as “The International’s Largest Ballhandler.” His regimen would conclude with him shaving a girl’s leg whilst he spun a basketball on a literal razor’s edge. In the meantime, Don Buttrey, higher referred to as the Superb Boot had an act which consisted of him “crunching empty beer cans along with his enamel, blowing up firecrackers within his mouth, and devouring uncooked eggs and entire powdered donuts.” When recounting the Stepien generation in his e-book, Antique Cavs, Terry Pluto used to be positive so as to add that Buttrey used to be a “great man.”

When Stepien purchased the staff, Stan Albeck used to be the top trainer. In line with him, of their first actual dialog, Stepien advised him that he sought after to fireside him. He would apply via quickly sufficient however no longer ahead of he reportedly advised Albeck to make a choice Wealthy Yonaker from North Carolina within the upcoming NBA Draft “as a result of he knew his dad.”

Albeck used to be certainly out quickly, changed by means of Invoice Musselman, the previous trainer of the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Stepien used to be offered on Musselman’s training skills by means of 5-time International Collection Winner Billy Martin who used to be managing the Oakland Athletics on the time. On the other hand, Musselman used to be no longer temperamentally provided to be an NBA trainer. Within the first recreation of his tenure, he performed Randy Smith all 48 mins — in a preseason contest. He would additionally display up past due for follow because of his taking part in racquetball within the suburbs and shedding monitor of time. In line with Menzer and Graeff, Don Delaney — former supervisor of Stepien’s Cleveland Competition softball staff who used to be then tasked to transform the Cavs GM — mentioned that he may “display you junior prime coaches which can be higher ready” than Musselman used to be and that the trainer used to be “probably the most vicious human being I’ve ever met.”

After a 25-46 begin to the season, Stepien’s endurance ran out and he made up our minds to fireside Musselman, despite the fact that he did retain him in a front-office place. Changing Musselman used to be Delaney. Whilst Delaney did have some revel in training basketball, it used to be at neither the NBA nor the Department 1 stage, having prior to now led Lakeland Neighborhood Faculty and Dyke Faculty. It used to be an unorthodox variety. To start with, gamers welcomed the alternate of tempo from the competitive Musselman, despite the fact that good fortune used to be no longer fast to apply.

Ted Stepien changed into a legend for his solution to the NBA Draft with the Cavs

Nowhere used to be Stepien extra short-sighted than when it got here to the NBA Draft. Determined to win now, the Cavaliers would industry away long run draft selections for gamers Stepien, Musselman, or Delaney idea may lend a hand the staff right away. The issue used to be they had been very dangerous skill evaluators. To call one instance in their faulty wheeling and working, the Cavaliers traded Invoice Robinzine, in conjunction with two first around choices, to the Dallas Mavericks in change for Richard Washington and Jerome Whitehead. The staff would play Whitehead in 3 video games then waive him simply 17 days after obtaining him whilst Washington averaged not up to 10 issues in 87 video games over two seasons.

For the reason that Cavaliers had already traded a separate first-round pick out to Dallas for Mike Bratz, the Mavericks now owned the staff’s first-rounders in 1983, 1984, and 1986. The Cavaliers then owned only one first-round choose from then till 1987. At this level, league commissioner Larry O’Brien stepped in, saying that the league used to be quickly disallowing the Cavaliers from making any longer trades.

A memo used to be allotted to each and every staff mentioning that no industry with Cleveland may happen except authorized by means of league govt Joe Axelson. Nonetheless Axelson quickly authorized every other Cleveland-Dallas transaction with Cleveland sending their 1985 first-rounder to Dallas for Geoff Huston. Axelson did notice he used to be “clearly disturbed” by means of Cleveland’s decision-making despite the fact that. Mavericks trainer Dick Motta claimed, “I used to be afraid to visit lunch for concern that I’d pass over a decision from Cleveland.”

Such movements, in addition to his constant mishandling of the Cavs, didn’t endear him to the media or to Cavaliers fanatics but Stepien may no longer stand the grievance that got here with being a public determine. As an alternative of creating peace with the clicking, he can be confrontational, most effective solidifying their damaging impressions. He used to be utterly not able to simply accept any blame for the staff’s failings and would reflexively threaten to transport the staff. He as soon as spoke of his want to rename the staff the Ohio Cavaliers and time table house video games in towns with the exception of Cleveland to construct a broader fan base. He named 3 towns he would love the staff to play in: Columbus, Pittsburgh, and Buffalo, it seems that failing to understand that most effective a kind of 3 towns is in truth situated in Ohio. At one level, past due in his tenure as proprietor, he pledged to stay the Cavaliers in Cleveland ahead of going to Toronto the next day to come and keeping a press convention saying that he deliberate to transport the staff there. This used to be no longer a person who idea forward.

After naming Delaney as trainer, Musselman changed into Stepien’s right-hand guy and took each and every likelihood he may to undercut Delaney. Musselman would take a seat subsequent to Stepien, criticizing the brand new trainer and his ways. After a 4-11 get started, Stepien fired Delaney. Bob Kloppenburg crammed in for 3 video games (all losses) ahead of the staff introduced in a 76ers assistant named Chuck Daly. This used to be Daly’s first head training process, and he used to be below no illusions concerning the mess he had walked into. Although his contract used to be for 3 years, with the primary two assured, he made up our minds to reside out of a Vacation Inn in Richfield. It grew to become out to be a prudent resolution. After going 9-32, Stepien fired Daly after a loss to Golden State, agreeing to pay him the remainder of his wage for that season and $125,000 for the following.

Despite the fact that one industry that came about all through Daly’s transient time in Cleveland would pay dividends for the long run Corridor of Popularity trainer in future years. With the Cavaliers determined to industry for a draft pick out after dealing all of their very own in the previous couple of years, Musselman and Stepien despatched middle Invoice Laimbeer to the Pistons in change for a primary and 2nd around pick out. The Cavaliers didn’t do the rest exceptional with the ones selections, settling on John Bagley and Dave Magley. On the other hand, Laimbeer and Daly would reunite in Detroit a couple of years later and move directly to win two NBA championships within the procedure.

With Daly out, the Cavs had been searching for their fourth trainer of the 1981-82 season and Invoice Musselman took good thing about the chance, discovering himself training Cleveland for the second one time in as a few years. He had already proven he used to be no longer the appropriate guy for the process and but right here he used to be, keeping it once more in spite of a string of abnormal and provoking habits.

In line with, a number of secretaries believed that Musselman used to be liable for “obscene telephone calls they had been receiving on the workplace.” He used to be additionally noticed spying on other folks a couple of instances. On one instance, on a street travel in Houston, broadcaster Joe Tait, teacher Paul Spicuzza, and reporter Invoice Nichols had dinner in combination. Whilst they had been strolling in combination, they noticed that the trees subsequent to them had been transferring; it used to be Musselman, keeping track of them from in the back of the foliage.

Unsurprisingly, Musselman used to be no longer the solution for the floundering Cavaliers. They went 2-21 with him as head trainer and misplaced their ultimate 19 video games within the season. Regardless of the sorrowful finishing, Stepien however organized for champagne to be within the locker room after the ultimate recreation of the season. Predictably, the gamers weren’t in a celebratory temper, opting to take the champagne with them for a extra appropriate instance reasonably than consuming it within the locker room after wrapping up this sort of abnormal and miserable marketing campaign.

Musselman used to be changed by means of Tom Nissalke the following season, and but Stepien would say years later that he must have had extra religion within the ill-tempered Musselman: “That used to be the largest mistake I made. He used to be a confirmed trainer.” The Cavaliers did marginally support the following season with Nissalke on the helm, going 23-59, an 8 recreation growth over the former yr. But Stepien had had sufficient. In simply 3 years as an proprietor, he had misplaced round 20 million greenbacks, and used to be getting bored stiff with the ceaseless grievance.

Input George and Gordon Gund. The Gund brothers already owned the Richmond Coliseum and didn’t need the staff to depart the world, which gave the impression increasingly more most likely with Stepien persistently threatening to transport the Cavaliers. With a deal as regards to of entirety, long run commissioner David Stern stepped in to sweeten the deal, convincing different league homeowners to permit Gund and the Cavaliers to shop for themselves again into the draft, giving them bonus first-round selections. A brand new generation of Cavaliers basketball had dawned.

In a technique, the Ted Stepien generation functioned as a take-heed call for a league that used to be aching for credibility. The NBA wanted homeowners who had been extra dependable and no more impulsive, homeowners who had been clever sufficient to steer clear of destroying their staff from the interior. Stepien is thus a relic and an emblem of a time ahead of the NBA changed into extra unified, company, and controlled. And the Cavalier groups he helped put in combination had been testaments to each his personal ineptitude and the need of fine govt management.

Along with the Cavaliers, Stepien additionally owned a bar known as the Competition Membership. He would from time to time emcee undies displays and luncheons there, even as soon as summoning Chuck Daly to fulfill him there for a gathering. Reflecting on his relative abilities, Stepien as soon as mentioned, “I would possibly not be capable to run a basketball staff, however I will be able to run a undies display.” I will not attest to Stepien’s skills because the emcee of undies displays, however the first a part of that remark could also be the truest phrases he ever spoke.

Take a look at extra reflections in our NBA at 75 collection and subscribe to The Whiteboard to make sure to stay alongside of all our newest NBA information and research.

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