Kentucky Colonels (Sports)

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Kentucky Colonels
founding 1967
resolution 1976
history Kentucky Colonels
Stadion Louisville Convention Center (1967-1970)

Freedom Hall (1970-1976)

Location Louisville, Kentucky
Club colors Yellow green and white 1967–1970.
Blue, red and white 1970–1976
league ABA
division Eastern Division
Head coach John Givens 1967
Gene Rhodes 1967–1970
Alex Groza 1970
Frank Ramsey 1970–1971
Joe Mullaney 1971–1973
Babe McCarthy 1973–1974
Hubie Brown 1974–1976
owner Don Regan (1967)
Joseph E. Gregory, Mamie Gregory, and William C. Boone (1967–1969)
H. Wendell Cherry , Bill DeWitt, Stuart Jay, David Jones, John Y. Brown, Jr., and Mike Storen (1969–1973 )
John Y. Brown, Jr. and Ellie Brown (1973–1976)

The Kentucky Colonels were an American basketball franchise based in Louisville , Kentucky , and a member of the ABA for the entire nine years that league existed. The team won the most games and had the highest winning percentage of any team in league history, but the team was not inducted into the NBA during the 1976 ABA-NBA unification. The Colonels played at Freedom Hall for their last six seasons , beginning in 1970/71, the three before that at the Louisville Convention Center, now known as The Gardens .

Overview and background

The Colonels began their time in the ABA as a colorful team, and not just because of their bright yellow-green jerseys. Among the things they were known for was their mascot, Ziggy, an award-winning Brussels Griffon dog that belonged to original team owners Joe and Mamie Gregory. Some Colonel fans believed that Ziggy was the real owner of the club. Ziggy attended owner meetings and had a front row seat at the games. During the first few seasons the dog was even part of the team logo.

They were also known for publicity campaigns. Her most famous took place in 1968 when Penny Ann Early, the first licensed female jockey , was signed up (if only for a few seconds) to appear in a game in the ABA.

That was understandably overshadowed their performance on the pitch, which was well deserved as they were mostly an average team. They did have some good local talent though, like former Kentucky Wildcat Louie Dampier and Western Kentucky University star Darel Carrier. They were among the best distance shooters of their time and benefited from the three-point line in the ABA. Carrier spent five seasons with the club while Dampier remained a Colonel the entire time.

The franchise's initial color faded more and more during the 1970/71 season when they signed another Wildcat star, All-American Dan Issel . They changed the yellow-green uniforms to blue and white, similar to that of the Wildcats. Another abnormality of the Colonels' jerseys was the player name on the back, with only the first letter capitalized, unlike almost any other name in professional or college basketball. Issel's engagement helped the Colonels become known as a decent basketball team. Despite an average regular season result, they had a sizeable run in the 1971 playoffs but missed the championship in seven games against the Utah Stars .

From the following season they proved to be even better after signing the tall Artis Gilmore . Gilmore helped the Colonels become a co-favorite for years. The Colonels won 68 games in its rookie season under coach Joe Mullaney; this was the best result of the season in the entire history of the league. In the playoffs they had trouble against the New York Nets in the first round . They recovered and had another run during the 1973 playoffs, but lost in seven physical games against the Indiana Pacers .

After that season, the franchise was almost relocated to Cincinnati , but was acquired by John Y. Brown, Jr. , later Kentucky governor , who owned Kentucky Fried Chicken for several years . Brown helped build interest on the team and saw the team improve on the pitch by hiring popular ABA coach Babe McCarthy. But after being defeated by the Nets in the second round of the playoffs, Brown sacked McCarthy.

1974/75 Brown hired Hubie Brown , a former assistant coach in the NBA, to help them to the championship. Unlike the year before, the Colonels did not disappoint. After a furious finish in the regular season, where they won 23 of 26 games, they swept through the playoffs, beating their nemesis , the Indiana Pacers, 4-1 to win the 1975 ABA Championship. Gilmore scored 28 points and an impressive 31 Rebounds in the last game.

The party mood ended in 1975 when Brown gave Dan Issel to the newly founded Baltimore Claws for financial reasons , but the Claws broke up after a few friendlies and never took part in regular gaming. They acquired all star Caldwell Jones to replace him, but he never got along with the team. Jones was swapped with the young Maurice Lucas in the middle of the season. Hubie Brown managed to keep the team competing, but lost to the Denver Nuggets in seven games .

Kentucky was one of the league's most talented teams and had some of the best fans, but when talks about merging the ABA with the NBA came the Colonels were not a favorite to switch leagues. As a result, John Y. Brown, Jr. was persuaded to disband the Colonels.

The Colonel players were distributed to other teams in a draft. Artis Gilmore was first drafted by the Chicago Bulls . Maurice Lucas later became an all-star with the Portland Trail Blazers and Louie Dampier, the leader in internal points and assists, ended his career as the sixth man with the San Antonio Spurs . Coach Hubie Brown trained the Atlanta Hawks for five years after the union before he was fired there.

The Colonels won 448 games in the ABA, more than any other team there. Her overall result for the regular season was 448: 296; their 60.2% win rate is better than any other ABA franchise other than the Minnesota Muskies , who only played one season. (If you look at the Utah Stars' stats separately, apart from their time as Anaheim Amigos and Los Angeles Stars , their rate is also slightly better than the Colonels at 60.8%.)

In the playoffs the result of the Colonels was 55:46 (54.5%). Only the Indiana Pacers won more ABA playoffs (69).

Individual seasons


On March 6, 1967, the American Basketball Association awarded the Kentucky Colonels franchise for $ 30,000 to Don Regan. Later this was bought by Joseph Gregory, Mamie Gregory and William C. Boone.

John Givens was named the Colonels' first coach. The draft picks were used for Louie Dampier (University of Kentucky), Clem Haskins (Western Kentucky University), who went to the Chicago Bulls, Bob Verga, who signed with Dallas, and Randy Mahaffey. The team also signed Darel Carrier and Jim "Goose" Ligon. The roster was rounded off with Kendall Rhine, Stew Johnson, Rubin Russell, Bill Bradley, Cotton Nash, Bobby Rascoe, Howard Bayne, Orbie Bowling and Tommy Woods.

The Colonels played their home games at the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center and the Louisville Convention Center. The team won only five of their first 17 games, which resulted in Givens being sacked as coach and replaced by Gene Rhodes. In November, Stew Johnson was traded with Jim Caldwell of the New Jersey Americans . Darel Carrier, Randy Mahaffey and Louie Dampier played in the ABA All Star Game, but the team ended the season with 36 wins and 42 losses, fourth in the Eastern Division with New Jersey. An average of 3225 fans attended the home games.

The Colonels and Americans were scheduled to play a playoff playoff game at Commack Arena, New Jersey, but the hall was in such poor condition that the game did not take place and the Colonels were declared winners as a punishment. Kentucky moved into the Eastern Division semi-finals, where they lost 3-2 to the Minnesota Muskies.


Among the Colonels' draft picks was University of Louisville star Wes Unseld , who preferred a better-paying contract with Baltimore in the NBA. Manny Leaks and Gene Moore were also drafted. Sam Smith was signed by Minnesota and they gave in a trade with the New York Nets Randy Mahaffey and Manny Leaks for Oliver Darden and Andy Anderson.

The Colonels hosted the ABA All Star Games in Louisville in 1969. Their coach Gene Rhodes was the head coach of the East team, which lost 127-133 to the West. Darel Carrier and Louie Dampier again took part in the game, as did Jim “Goose” Ligon.

During the season, the Colonels recorded the first professional basketball player when jockey Penny Ann Early joined the team and also appeared briefly on the court during a game.

The regular season ended in 3rd place in the Eastern Division with 42:36 wins. An average of 4147 visitors came to the games. In the Eastern Division semifinals, the Colonels lost just 3: 4 to their rival Indiana Pacers.


The Colonels used their draft picks to select Bob Dandridge, who joined the Milwaukee Bucks in the NBA, and Herm Gilliam, who signed with the Cincinnati NBA team. Bud Olsen, former Kentucky Wesleyan College star George Tinsley, future Kentucky Wesleyan coach Wayne Chapman, and former University of Kentucky star Tommy Kron were added to the line-up.

In April 1969, the Colonels were bought out by a group of Louisville investors including H. Wendell Cherry, Bill DeWitt, J. David Grissom, Stuart P. Jay, David A. Hones, John Y. Brown, Jr., and Mike Storen passed. Storen was previously President and General Manager of the Indiana Pacers. The group then hired former University of Kentucky star Alex Groza as its executive director.

Darel Carrier and Louie Dampier played again in the ABA All Star Game, together with Gene Moore.

The Colonels finished the season in second place in the Eastern Division with 45:39 wins. The Colonels defeated the New York Nets 4-3 in the Eastern Division semifinals, but lost the division finals 3-4 against the Indiana Pacers.


In July, Colonels Jim “Goose” Ligon, Gene Moore and Bud Olsen gave in a trade to Dallas for Cincy Powell. They also signed University of Kentucky star Dan Issel. Issel was awarded a ten-year contract worth $ 1.4 million. The Colonels also exchanged a draft pick with the New York Nets for Walt Simon. Mike Pratt also joined the roster.

The Colonels started the regular season with 10-5 wins, which led to coach Gene Rhodes being fired and briefly replaced by Alex Groza, who won both games. He was succeeded by Frank Ramsey , former star of the Boston Celtics .

Dan Issel and Cincy Powell played in the ABA Allstar Game. Issel was named Rookie of the Year along with Charlie Scott of the Virginia Squires .

The Colonels finished the season with 44:40 wins in second place in the Eastern Division. An average of 7,375 spectators came to the home games. Since that season, the Colonels have played their home games at Freedom Hall. In the Eastern Division semi-finals they defeated The Floridians 4-2 and in the division finals the Virginia Squires also 4-2. In the championship final, both the Colonels and the Utah Stars won three games each before Utah won their seventh game in front of a record crowd at home.


The Colonels' draft picks consisted of Artis Gilmore, John Roche and Mike Gale, and Fred Browne and Larry Steele, who joined the Seattle SuperSonics and Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA. The Colonels sold Roche to the New York Nets. Like Issel, Gilmore was given a ten-year contract worth $ 1.5 million. Joe Mullaney became the Colonel's trainer.

On September 22, 1971, the Colonels played the second ABA-NBA friendly. 13,821 fans watched the Colonels beat the Baltimore Bullets 111-85 at Freedom Hall. It was the ABA's first win against the NBA. The night before, the Dallas Chaparrals lost their first duel against the Milwaukee Bucks with 103: 106.

On October 8, 1971, the Colonels received the Milwaukee Bucks and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in Freedom Hall in front of over 18,000 fans. Dan Issel got 34 points and Artis Gilmore 18 points, 16 rebounds and 5 blocks. Still, Abdul-Jabbar made 30 points, 20 rebounds and 3 blocks and the Bucks defeated the Colonels 99:93. The following night the Colonels received the New York Knicks and lost in front of 12238 fans with 100: 112.

The Colonels had an outstanding regular season. Mullaney was the coach of the East in the ABA Allstar Game, which the East won 142-115. Dan Issel, Louie Dampier and Artis Gilmore participated in this game; Dan Issel has been named the game's MVP. Gilmore was rookie of the year and MVP at the end of the season. Gilmore's impressive stats included most of a player's playing time with 3666, a throw rate of 59.8% and an average of 17.8 rebounds per game. Gilmore and Issel were both on the All-ABA First Team.

Kentucky ended the regular season with the ABA record of 68:16 wins, a rate of 81%. That secured Colonel's first place in the Eastern Division. The average attendance was 8,811. The season ended surprisingly quickly when they lost 4-2 to the New York Nets in the Eastern Division semifinals.


Prior to the season, the Colonels traded Cincy Powell to the Utah Stars for a draft pick and cash and bought Rick Mount from the Indiana Pacers for $ 250,000. Wendell Ladner joined the squad for the season.

In a friendly game, the Colonels received the Atlanta Hawks from the NBA on September 23, 1972 in Frankfort , Kentucky. Julius Erving made 28 points and 18 rebounds in 42 minutes for the Hawks, who prevailed with 112: 99. On September 30, 1972, the Colonels traveled to Phoenix for a friendly against the Phoenix Suns , which they won 120-118. On October 1st, the Milwaukee Bucks were again at Freedom Hall. Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar each made 20 points and the Bucks beat the Colonels 131-100. On October 6th, the Phoenix Suns played at Freedom Hall and won 103-91, the following night the Colonels lost 93-95 to the Baltimore Bullets.

Louie Dampier, Dan Issel and Artis Gilmore again took part in the ABA Allstar Game. Gilmore was back in the First Team All-ABA at the end of the season and managed a throw rate of 55.9% from the field and 17.6 rebounds. Issel led the league in played minutes (3531).

The Colonels finished the season in second place in the Eastern Division with 56:28 wins. The average attendance was 7113. They beat the Virginia Squires 4-1 in the Eastern Division semifinals and the Carolina Cougars 4-3 in the division finals . In a tight championship final, the Indiana Pacers were beaten 3: 4.


Before the season the Colonels drafted ML Carr and Ron Behagen; Carr stayed in college and Behagen signed with the Kansas City-Omaha Kings in the NBA. The Colonels also elected Ernie DiGregorio, but who joined the Buffalo Braves .

In July 1973, the crew was bought out by a group led by John Y. Brown, Jr. and his wife Ellie Brown. Ellie Brown later became the team's chairman. The board itself consisted of ten women. Former University of Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp has been named executive vice president. Mike Storen left the team; he later went into hiding with the Memphis ABA franchise. Former head coach Gene Rhodes became general manager.

Coach Joe Mullaney left the team to coach the Utah Stars. He was succeeded by Babe McCarthy.

In friendly games against the NBA, the Colonels defeated the Houston Rockets 110: 102 on September 21, 1973 at Freedom Hall and the Kansas City-Omaha Kings 110: 99 the following night.

In January 1974, the Colonels traded Jim O'Brien and a first-round draft pick with the San Diego Conquistadors for Red Robbins and Chuck Williams. In the same month, Rick Mount was given to the Utah Stars for money and a draft pick, and Mike Gale and Wendell Ladner were traded with the New York Nets for former Colonel John Roche.

Louie Dampier, Dan Issel and Artis Gilmore participated again in the ABA All-Star Game, in which Babe McCarthy was coach of the east. Gilmore became the game's MVP again. During the season he made remarkable statistics with 3502 minutes played (league top) and 18.3 rebounds per game. Gilmore picked up 40 rebounds in a single game against the New York Nets that season. Louie Dampier led the league in the 3-point quota with 38.7%. Babe McCarthy and his predecessor Joe Mullaney were named Coach of the Year.

The Colonels finished second in the Eastern Division with 53:31 wins during the regular season. The average attendance was 8,201. In the playoffs they defeated the Carolina Cougars 4-0 in the Eastern Division semi-finals, but lost the Division Finals 0-4 to the New York Nets. Despite his award, McCarthy was fired after the season.


The Colonels drafted Jim Price, Greg Smith, Rowland Garrett, Herm Gilliam and Larry Steele from NBA players, bought Ted McClain from the Carolina Cougars, signed Wil Jones, and gave a draft pick and money to the San Antonio Spurs for Bird Averitt. Al Eberhard was also sent to the Denver Nuggets in exchange for Marv Roberts and Red Robbins for money to the Virginia Squires. John Roche was sold to the Utah Stars mid-season. Gene Littles joined the Colonel squad. Hubie Brown became the head coach of the Colonels.

In friendly games against the NBA, the Colonels lost a game in Lincoln, Nebraska, to the Kansas-Omaha Kings 91-102 on September 29, 1974, beat the Washington Bullets at home 118-95 on October 1, lost on October 5 the Houston Rockets 95:86, at home the Detroit Pistons beat the Detroit Pistons 109-100 on October 8th and the Chicago Bulls 93:75 on October 12th.

Louie Dampier, Dan Issel and Artis Gilmore participated in the ABA All Star Game again. Gilmore was back in the First Team All NBA at the end of the season and led the league in played minutes (3493).

The Colonels led the Eastern Division with 58:26 wins along with the New York Nets. The average attendance was 8,727. The Colonels began the playoffs with a playoff against the New York Nets for the division crown, which they won 108-99 in Louisville. In the Eastern Division semifinals they defeated the Memphis Sounds 4-1 and the Spirits of St. Louis 4-1 in the Division Finals. In the championship final, they met rival Indiana Pacers, defeated him 4-1 and won the ABA championship for the first time.


Before the season started, Colonels and ABA Commissioner Dave DeBusschere challenged the NBA to an encounter with their champions, the Golden State Warriors , in a series that would win a million dollars for the winner. The NBA refused. Interest in games between ABA and NBA expanded into the management of the two leagues. In 1976 CBS tried to establish playoffs between ABA and NBA and to win the broadcast rights for it.

To the dismay of Colonel fans and players, owner John Y. Brown, Jr. star Dan Issel to the Baltimore Claws for $ 50,000 pre-season; the money was not available and Issel ended up with the Denver Nuggets just before the Claws were broken up by the League.

Gene Rhodes became Vice President and David Vance became General Manager of the team.

In friendly games, the Colonels defeated the Chicago Bulls on October 1, 1975 in Cincinnati, Ohio, 95:86, lost to the New York Knicks in Landover, Maryland, 102: 107 on October 4, defeated the Detroit Pistons on October 5. October in Cincinnati 113-114, at home the Milwaukee Bucks on October 10th 91:96, lost after extra time in Detroit to the Detroit Pistons on October 12th 107-115, defeated the Buffalo Braves at home 120-116 on October 14th, the Philadelphia 76ers in Cincinnati 112-110 on October 17th and the Washington Bullets 121-111 in the penultimate league match ever in Lexington, Kentucky. Another friendly game of the Colonels deserves special attention. Last year, the NBA rejected the challenge of the ABA master against the NBA master Golden State Warriors. Nevertheless, the two teams met in an encounter on October 8, 1975 in the Freedom Hall. The Colonels won the champions' match 93:90. The Colonels won seven out of nine comparisons with NBA teams. Overall, the ABA won the most encounters in its entire existence.

Shortly after the start of the season, the San Diego Sails broke up and the Colonels got Caldwell Jones from their roster. Kentucky traded Jones with the Spirits of St. Louis for Maurice Lucas. They also gave Marv Roberts to the Virginia Squires during the season for Johnny Neumann and Jan van Breda Kolff . Mid-season, Ted McClain was sold to the New York Nets for $ 150,000. Allen Murphy, Jimmy Dan Connor, Jimmy Baker, Kevin Joyce and Jim McDaniels joined the roster.

Artis Gilmore took part in the ABA All-Star Game again and was back in the first team at the end of the season. All ABA-Dampier was not selected for the first time in eight years in a row.

The Colonels finished fourth in the Eastern Division with 46:38 wins. 6935 spectators watched the home games on average. The Colonels defeated their rival Indiana Pacers 2-1 in the first round of the playoffs. In the semifinals, the Colonels and the Denver Nuggets each won three games before Denver was able to win Game 7 in Denver on April 28, 1976 with 133: 110. This was the Kentucky Colonels' last game.


The ABA began the pre-season 1975-1976 with ten teams. After three preparatory games, the Baltimore Claws were disbanded from the league due to financial problems and unpaid bills from the league. The San Diego Sails and the Utah Stars withdrew from the league shortly after the start of the season, the Sails after eleven games, the Stars after 16. The ABA was reduced to seven teams for the rest of the season. Shortly after the end of the season, the Virginia Squires also had to disband because they could not meet the league's financial requirements. The six remaining teams began negotiations for an eventual union between ABA and NBA.

In the end, the NBA agreed to include four teams; the colonels weren't among them. Though never confirmed, the NBA preferred the Pacers over the Colonels because Indianapolis was a more lucrative market. Still, the Colonels were financially firmer than the Pacers.

On July 17, 1976, the Kentucky Colonels came to an end when John Y. Brown, Jr. agreed to dissolve the Colonels for $ 3 million. Brown used the money to buy the Buffalo Braves.

The Colonel players were distributed by means of a draft. The Chicago Bulls selected Artis Gilmore for $ 1.1 million, the Portland Trail Blazers Maurice Lucas for $ 30,000, the Buffalo Braves Bird Averitt for $ 125,000, the Indiana Pacers Wil Jones for $ 50,000, the New York Nets Jan Van Breda Kolff for $ 60,000 and the San Antonio Spurs Louie Dampier for $ 20,000.

In contrast to Brown's $ 3 million for the Colonels, the owners of the Spirits of St. Louis received $ 2.2 million along with a seventh of the television money from the four former ABA teams. This trade is estimated to have brought in over $ 250 million to date.

There have been unsuccessful efforts to relocate the Charlotte Hornets or Vancouver Grizzlies to Louisville, as did the Houston Rockets when they needed a new arena. Even so, professional basketball has not returned to Louisville since the end of the Colonels, with the exception of minor league teams like the Louisville Catbirds in the CBA , the Louisville Shooters in the GBA and the Kentucky Colonels in the ABA 2000 .

New ABA, new Kentucky Colonels

In 2004, the ABA 2000 Louisville brought a new team of the same name, the Kentucky Colonels.

Individual evidence

  1. The Official NBA Basketball Encyclopedia, . Villard Books, 1994, ISBN 0-679-43293-8 , p. 240.
  2. CBS's Super Ball , New York Magazine, May 3, 1976, p.65

Web links