Virginia Beach could be the landing spot for a relocated NBA team, reportedly the Sacramento Kings. If it happens, some fans in the commonwealth surely will celebrate by saying, "Finally, a major-league sports team in Virginia!"
How could they dismiss the Virginia Squires, an American Basketball Association franchise that existed from 1970-71 through 1975-76 and played some games at the Richmond Coliseum?
Based in Norfolk, the Squires were promoted as a "regional franchise" by the ABA. They also played "home" games in Richmond, Hampton and Roanoke.
The Virginia Squires were the state's first, and only, modern-day major-league franchise. The team featured some well-known stars, including Julius "Dr. J" Erving, George "Iceman" Gervin and Charlie Scott.
The ABA believed it could draw additional investors for the franchise if the Squires played home games at assorted Virginia locations. But Roanoke was eliminated from the home-court rotation following the 1971-72 season because of lack of support.
Jack Ankerson moved to Hampton Roads in 1974, at age 32, to become the Squires' general manager. He also coached the team for two games in 1975-76, when the Squires had five coaches.
"When I came, they told me that we would be playing in three places, Norfolk, Hampton and Richmond," Ankerson recalled on Friday. "I was dead-against that. Nothing against Richmond, but to me, that made absolutely no . . . sense at all, to play in Richmond."
Ankerson remembers only one successful night in Richmond, where the team played a handful of games each season. David Thompson starred on the visiting team, the Denver Nuggets, and the Squires-Nuggets game was preceded by a Maggie Walker High game that featured Clyde "The Glide" Austin.
"That was a huge house, a great night, but that was about it for what we did in Richmond," Ankerson said. "Our ownership was up there a few times, meeting with various people in Richmond, but it just wasn't going to work, and I think we knew that."
ABA teams in Denver, San Antonio, Indianapolis and New York (later became the New Jersey Nets) were invited to join the NBA in 1976, when the leagues merged. The remaining three ABA franchises, the Squires, Kentucky Colonels and Spirits of St. Louis, folded.
The Squires weren't attractive to the NBA primarily for financial reasons, according to Ankerson. Virginia players occasionally were not paid on time. The team drew poorly by NBA standards.
Team ownership took the ABA to court, claiming the Squires had not been treated as an equal partner. Squires ownership reached a financial settlement with the ABA. Part of the negotiated settlement was that it be kept confidential, according to Ankerson, now 70 and recently retired as the executive director of the Hampton Roads Sports Commission.
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