New Orleans Buccaneers
Years of existence: 1967-68 through 1969-70
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The New Orleans Buccaneers were a major force in the early years of the ABA. The franchise stayed in the Crescent City only three years: from 1967-68 through 1969-70. But while the team was in New Orleans, it was always fun to watch.
The fun started with the Bucs' first and only coach, Babe McCarthy. McCarthy was affectionately known as 'Ol Magnolia Mouth because of his so-called "honey-dew Mississippi drawl." In fact, Babe could always be counted on to come up with appropriate "Babe-isms" during games to motivate his players. "Babe-isms" were short funny phrases that earned McCarthy his nickname. A few of the more famous (and often used) Babe-isms were:
"Boy, I gotta tell you, you gotta come out at 'em like a bitin' sow,"
"My old pappy used to tell me the sun don't shine on the same dog's butt every day,"
"Why panic at five in the mornin' because it's still dark out?" and
"Now, let's cloud up and rain all over 'em."
Game Action: Houston Mavericks at New Orleans Buccaneers, March 22, 1968
During the ABA's inaugural year (1967-68), the Bucs were one of the most interesting teams to watch. The Bucs had a fancy passer (Larry Brown), a rugged shooter (Doug Moe), and a slick rookie (Jimmy Jones). Even when they played last-place teams like Houston, the Bucs were still entertaining.
RealPlayer plug-in required -- free download here) (copyright Gary DeLaune and used with permission)
Moe's close friend from North Carolina, Larry Brown, also signed on with the Buccaneers in that first year. Brown had been spurned by the NBA because he was only 5'9". But in the ABA, he flourished. The Buccaneers' publicist "Steamboat" Fulton promoted Brown as the smallest player in professional basketball, and he was a favorite with the fans. Brown also made the First ABA All-Star team, but in a unique way. He was a last minute replacement for Dallas' Bob Verga, who was called away on military duty. Brown made the most of All-Star appearance, sparking the West team in the fourth quarter of the All-Star game with numerous assists. He won the MVP award and a brand new red convertible. At the end of the year, he ended up leading the league in assists, averaging 6.5 per game.
Two other players sparked the first year Bucs. Austin "Red" Robbins was a rookie out of Tennessee. Many regarded him as the top center in the Western Division in the ABA's first year. Finally, Jimmy Jones joined New Orleans after being drafted by the NBA's Baltimore Bullets. Jones became a perennial ABA All-Star.The Bucs advanced through the playoffs to the ABA Finals, surviving first and second round series with Denver and Dallas. In the ABA Championship, the Bucs had a chance to wrap up the title in Game 6 at home, but Connie Hawkins and the Pittsburgh Pipers rallied to send the series back to Pittsburgh for a deciding Game 7. In Game 7, the Pipers cruised to the title.
|The 1967-68 Buccaneers were a powerful team with superstars like Doug Moe and Larry Brown. But they also had many role players.
Forward Gerald Govan (left, #25), a rookie from St. Mary's of the Plains, began a career that spanned all nine ABA seasons and four ABA teams (New Orleans, Memphis, Utah, and Virginia). Known for his thick black glasses, Govan was a rebounding specialist. His rookie year, he averaged "only" 7.6 boards per game, but during his third year with New Orleans (1969-70), he pulled down 14.5 rebounds per contest.
Guard Jimmy Jones (#15, center) was also a rookie with that first Bucs team. Arriving from nearby Grambling State, Jones gave Bucs fans a clear glimpse of his high-scoring future by averaging 18.8 points per game in 1967-68.
Jackie Moreland (#32, right) was hardly a rookie with the 1967-68 Bucs. From 1960 through 1965, he had played with the NBA's Detroit Pistons. Coach McCarthy convinced him to try out for the Bucs when he was already 29 years old. Alongside the many rookies on the New Orleans squad, Moreland was a calming, veteran influence. He averaged 14.6 points for the Bucs that first year, and played two more seasons for Coach McCarthy.
(Photos copyright Robert Hurt and used with permission)
In their second year, the Bucs traded All-Stars Doug Moe and Larry Brown to the Oakland Oaks for Steve Jones and Ron Franz. That gave New Orleans the tallest and most deadly backcourt in the ABA, with Steve and Jimmy Jones. They were known as the "Jones Boys." Jimmy Jones averaged 27 points per game and, according to Coach McCarthy, was the best clutch player on the team. Steve Jones averaged 20 points and also thrived. The Bucs won 46 games and attendance increased 60%, for an average of 3,000 fans per game. The team really came together late in the regular season, winning its last 14 games, and 27 out of its last 35. In the playoffs, however, the Bucs collapsed. They barely beat Dallas in the first round, and then easily succumbed to the powerful Oakland Oaks in the Western Division Finals.
There was at least some cause for optimism in the third season, 1969-70. New Orleans signed Harley "Skeeter" Swift, a deadeye shooter out of East Tennessee State. Swift had been coveted by the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks, but chose to sign with New Orleans. The Bucs started the season the same way they finished their 68-69 campaign. They won 13 out of their first 14 home games, and at one point, they won 20 out of 24 games. When Gerald Govan broke into the starting lineup after Ron Franz departed for Army Reserve duty, he doubled his scoring average and became a major impact player.
The Bucs had prolific scorer Jimmy Jones (left) from the very start. But when Steve "Snapper" Jones (right, hands raised) arrived for New Orleans' second season, the "Jones Boys" terrorized the league with their quickness and scoring. In 1968-69, Jimmy averaged a career high 26.6 points per game, while Steve averaged 19.9. During New Orleans third year, both Jimmy and Steve scored about 20 points per contest. Both players remained with the team after it moved to Memphis, but only for one year. During that year (1970-71), Jimmy and Steve were joined by Wil Jones, increasing the number of Jones' on the team to three.
(Photos copyright Robert Hurt and used with permission)
However, a few factors worked against the team in its third year. First, New Orleans moved its home games into the Tulane Gymnasium, a small, dark structure with a seating capacity of only 4,500. Second, Skeeter Swift tore ligaments in his knee in December and was lost for the season. Third, interest in the team lagged once it came back to earth in January and February. The franchise had never been strong financially, and it especially suffered once fans stopped coming to the games. The Bucs ended up at only .500, and failed to qualify for the playoffs.
The Bucs' owners considered "regionalizing" the franchise for the 70-71 season; the team would have played in New Orleans, Lafayette, Monroe, Baton Rouge, and Shreveport. Other alternatives were to move the franchise to Kansas City, Salt Lake City, or Memphis. Memphis turned out to be the most attractive choice for the Bucs' owners, since the team had played several regular season games there, and had always drawn well. The team left New Orleans and became the Memphis Pros.
Record: 48-30, First Place in Western Division
1968 Playoff Results:
Western Division Semifinals vs. Denver Rockets (45-33)
Buccaneers won series, 3-2
Western Division Finals vs. Dallas Chaparrals (46-32)
Buccaneers won series, 4-1
ABA Championship vs. Pittsburgh Pipers (54-24)
Pipers won Championship, 4-3
Record: 46-32, Second Place in Western Division
1969 Playoff Results:
Western Division Semifinals vs. Dallas Chaparrals (41-37)
Buccaneers won series, 4-3
Western Division Finals vs. Oakland Oaks (60-18)
Oaks won series, 4-0
Record: 42-42, Fifth Place in Western Division