Carolina Cougars

Carolina Cougars

Spirits Timeline


Houston Mavericks Team Formation

The Mavericks were one of the first ABA franchises, announced on February 2, 1967 when the ABA was formed. They were owned by businessman T. C. Morrow. One of the minority partners was Bud Adams, who owned the Houston Oilers of the American Football League. Houston native and former NBA great Slater Martin was hired as general manager and head coach. The Mavericks got off to an inauspicious start during the first ABA draft. Martin arrived in Oakland to represent the team, only to find out that the owners hadn't sent the required $30,000 bond. By the time Martin was able to get the money through other channels, he'd missed the first four rounds and was forced to recruit players from the Eastern Basketball Association (now the Continental Basketball Association).

Not surprisingly given the rough start, the Mavericks had a somewhat mediocre season, finishing 29–49, good for fourth place in the Western Division. However, this was actually enough to make the playoffs. They went down rather meekly to the Dallas Chaparrals in the Western Division semifinals 3 games to none.

Move to Carolina

The Carolina Cougars franchise began when future Lieutenant Governor of North Carolina Jim Gardner bought the Houston Mavericks and moved them to North Carolina in 1969. At the time, none of North Carolina's large metropolitan areas Charlotte, the Piedmont Triad and the Triangle was large enough to support a professional team on its own. With this in mind, Gardner decided to brand the Cougars as a "regional" team. The Cougars were based in Greensboro and played most of their home games at the Greensboro Coliseum, the state's largest arena at the time. However, some games were also played in Charlotte at the Charlotte Coliseum, Raleigh at Dorton Arena and Reynolds Coliseum, and in Winston-Salem at the Winston-Salem Memorial Coliseum.

Tedd Munchak New Ownership

Gardner sold the team after one season to Tedd Munchak, who poured significant resources into the team. In 1972 - 1973, the Cougars hired retired ABA players Larry Brown and former Cougar Doug Moe as coaches. The 1972 - -1973 Cougars were fairly talented and featured players Billy Cunningham, Joe Caldwell, and Mack Calvin. All three appeared in the ABA All-Star Game that season, and Cunningham was named the league's Most Valuable Player. Carolina went on to post a 57-27 record, which was the best in the ABA. The Cougars beat the New York Nets in their first-round playoff series 4-1, but lost a close series to the Kentucky Colonels 4-3 in the Eastern Division finals. There were many upset and disappointed fans in Greensboro when the Cougars decided to hold game 7 of the series in Charlotte. Of the 42 scheduled regular season home games, 25 were usually scheduled for Greensboro while only 12 were played in Charlotte. With Cougar management having the choice of city to play game 7, it mystified its Greensboro area fans with the choice to play such a pivotal game on a less familiar court. Game 7 was hotly contested but Kentucky prevailed, much to Cougar fans dismay.

St. Louis Spirits Born

The Spirits, who took their name from the Atlantic Ocean-crossing plane flown by Charles Lindbergh were the third incarnation of a franchise that was once known as the Houston Mavericks and later the Carolina Cougars. Despite their history, they essentially were an expansion team, as there was just one holdover from the Cougars.

The Spirits were a colorful team featuring a number of players, both on and off the court, who were fairly successful in their basketball careers. Among them were Moses Malone, acquired during their second season, who went on to a long and successful career in the NBA, culminating in enshrinement in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Maurice Lucas spent most of his time in the ABA as a Spirit, then later became an all-star in the NBA with the Portland Trail Blazers. Other well-known players that played for the team included former Boston Celtics sixth man Don Chaney, future Celtics head coach M.L. Carr, and Ron Boone, who held the record for consecutive games played in pro basketball for many years. One of the most colorful players on the team was forward Marvin Barnes, famous for stories about his off-court behavior and lack of understanding of time zones.


In the summer of 1976, with the ABA at the point of financial collapse after nine years, the six surviving franchises the Virginia Squires went bankrupt immediately after the final season began negotiating a merger with the NBA. But the senior circuit decided to accept only four teams from the rival league: the Nets (the last ABA champion), Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs.

The NBA placated John Y. Brown, owner of the Kentucky Colonels, by giving him a $3.3 million settlement in exchange for shutting his team down. Brown later used much of that money to buy the Buffalo Braves of the NBA. But the owners of the Spirits, the brothers Ozzie and Dan Silna, struck a prescient deal to acquire future television money from the teams that joined the NBA, a one-seventh share from each franchise, in perpetuity. With network TV deals becoming more and more lucrative, the deal has made the Silnas wealthy, earning them $186 million as of 2008, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and $255 million as of 2012 according to the New York Times. The NBA nearly succeeded in buying out the Silnas in 1982 by offering $5 million over eight years, but negotiations stalled when the siblings demanded $8 million over five. On June 27, 2007, it was extended for another eight years, ensuring another $100 million-plus windfall for the Silnas. Presently, the Silnas receive $14.57 million a year, despite being owners of a team that hasn't played one minute of basketball in 35 years. In 2014, the Silnas reached agreement with the NBA to end the perpetual payments and take a lump sum of $500 million instead.

Team Information Team History

Houston - Greensboro, Charlotte, Raleigh - St. Louis - Salt Lake City

Cougars - Unknown Nickname Origin.

St. Louis
St. Louis Arena
1974 - 1976

North Carolina
Greensboro Coliseum 
Bojangles' Coliseum 
J.S. Dorton Arena (Raleigh)
1969 - 1974

Sam Houston Coliseum
1967 - 1969

Ozzie Silna and Daniel Silna
1974 - 1976
Southern Sports Corporation
1969 - 1974

T. C. Morrow
1967 - 1969


Established: 1967

League History:
American Basketball Association
1967 - 1976

Team History:
Utah Rockies (Never Played a Game)
Spirits of St. Louis
1974 - 1976
Carolina Cougars
1969 - 1974

Houston Mavericks
1967 - 1969

ABA Championships: 0

Joe Mullaney
Rod Thorn
Bob MacKinnon
1974 - 1975
Larry Brown
1972 - 1974
Tom Meschery
1971 - 72
Jerry Steele
Bones McKinney
1970 - 1971

Art Becker and Jim Weaver
1968 - 1969
Slater Martin and Art Becker
1967 - 1968

  *Red is this team's history

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