Pittsburgh/Minnesota Pipers Fan Memories

MEMORIES OF VINCE CAZZETTA: "The Minnesota Muskies, the New Orleans Buccaneers, and the Indiana Pacers had the most talent when the league started. Actually, Pittsburgh had less material than anybody at first. Until I got involved in getting players we had the poorest material in the league. In fact, of the 27 players we started with in training camp, only 4 were on our championship team at the end of the season. It was a revolving door of players until I was able to get players I needed to win. Also, our owner Gabe Rubin traded my center Ira Harge without my knowledge. In spite of this and many other incidents, we won. During that first year we had a 15 game winning streak, another winning streak of 12 games, and at one time we won 18 out of 19 games. I have read a few accounts of the first winning streak, and they credit Art Heyman. He did bring something to the team that we didn't have previously, a small forward who could play guard and take his bigger opponents (over 6'8") outside, and if they put a smaller man on him, take that man inside. We exploited this as soon as we got Heyman. I had been asking our owner, Gabe Rubin, to find such a player from training camp on. The player I originally wanted was a player drafted by the New York Knicks--Mike Riordan out of Providence College. Mike was around 6'4", a hard nosed defensive player with the offensive skills of Heyman and the ability to play either the 2 or 3 position. However, as it turned out, Art Heyman filled the bill and with his versatility, he gave us that fifth starter which we badly needed. Although Art was controversial at times, I was most always able to keep him focused on our goal. Connie carried us, but Art was the missing piece to the puzzle and helped us tremendously.

MEMORIES OF JOHN BUDKE: "At a game in Indianapolis we saw the Pipers play the Pacers. Art Heyman was kind of a flake and when the introductions were made he ran out on the floor and there were a lot of boos. He just smiled put out his arms with his palms up and motioned for us to give him more. We did and he just thought it was great. This was one of several times I saw the great Connie Hawkins play. He had such huge hands and long arms and was such a great ball-handler from his globetrotter days that he was something to see. He had a good outside shot but would also drive in with those great one-handed finesse moves. One play I will never forget is when he got out on a fast break with the ball, Charlie Williams, who was very fast came streaking down the court and Connie hits him with a behind the back pass for a lay-up."

MEMORIES OF RALPH BAYKO: "As a young 10-year old, I remember going down to the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh to watch the Pittsburgh Pipers. My best friend and I would wait for the players to go in/out of the arena. One night after a game, we met Art Heyman. Back then no one waited for these guys. So we started talking to him. Next thing we knew, he told us to meet him back in the same place an hour and a half before the next game. We did, and he ushered us into the arena and gave us seats right behind the Pipers bench. This happened not once, not twice, but on many occasions. My friend and I still have the memories of "our" Pipers and our favorite player ART HEYMAN. He made our young lives a little special for that 1967-68 season. Yes , we were in the house for 1968 ABA Finals Game 7. I would love to know how to contact Mr. Heyman and ask him if he remembers the two little boys from Pittsburgh"

MEMORIES OF TOM HAGEN: "In the fall of 1968, I was the Athletic Trainer and Team Manager for the Fergus Falls, Minnesota Otters. The Minnesota Pipers decided to play an exhibition game on our campus. Dennis Anderson was our Athletic Director and Basketball Coach. Since I had the " connection" to the various sports suppliers, etc., he appointed me to be one of the "school hosts" for the Pipers.

I don't know about any of you, but for a 17-year old, this was going to be 7th heaven. Before the game I was in the locker rooms with the Pipers. The Pipers Trainer/Manager talked to me quite a bit, and even let me help tape up some of the players. He taught me some new techniques and tricks, and introduced me to some new innovative supplies and equipment. I was all eyes and ears, and in about 10 seconds I felt part of the team. I didn't mean to stare, but Connie Hawkins had to have the biggest hands of any man alive. I loved the nicknames, the uniform colors, and the entire atmosphere.

But to my dismay, some of that was shattered by the attitude and language used by Coach Harding in the locker room at halftime. I didn't think that kind of language was to be used in any locker room, but what did I know? I do know that the expressions on the players' faces told the story. During the diatribe I didn't even dare to move, and I think none of the players did either. I was far too busy all evening even to know the score at half time, but I guessed it wasn't great for the Pipers, or maybe the players weren't playing at the level the coach thought they should've been playing at. However, even at my young age, I knew that if our college coach talked and acted like this, we wouldn't have had a team, as no one would have wanted to play. This was an exhibition game for crying out loud… While I'm sure they were concerned about their paychecks, I guess it had to be the love of the game, the values of the players, to forge on with the season. Over the next years, I thought about all this when men like Connie Hawkins persisted, even in the face of significant adversity."

MEMORIES OF KERRY NELSON: "I was born in 1958 and grew up on a farm near River Falls, Wisconsin. There were many nights when I listened to Minnesota Pipers basketball games on my transistor radio. I will never forget Connie Hawkins, Chico Vaughn and Charlie Williams. After the Pipers left, I was a big Kentucky Colonels fan - Artis Gilmore. Louie Dampier were the big names and I used to have good natured arguments with my friend Mark LaRue, who was a huge Indiana Pacers fan. Yes, the ABA---the characters, that wonderful, colorful ball and the great afros on many of the players."

MEMORIES OF AARON MILLS SCOTT: "I have an ABA memory, but it isn't mine. I'm only 22 so I never saw any of the games. But my dad tells a great ABA story every chance he gets. My dad saw Connie Hawkins play during the one year he was with Minnesota. My dad lived in Minneapolis and he was one of the very, very few people who ever gave the ABA the credit and attention the league deserved. The Pipers' attendance was just terrible in Minnesota, even by ABA standards. During one game, Connie made a play that my dad swears is the best he's ever seen, on TV or in person. One of the Minnesota guards went down the lane and missed a floating layup. The ball went off the back rim and headed back out toward the foul line. The Hawk was working hard on the boards and he went up to get it. Connie (my dad swears) jumped up, grabbed the ball in one hand, and was actually MOVING AWAY FROM THE BASKET. So he now had the ball way up high in one hand as he drifted AWAY from the basket (while facing it). Then he jammed it straight down. I am awed by even hearing the story. He had such long arms, huge hands, and such great body control. My dad insists that people would and should be talking about the Hawk along with Wilt, Oscar, and Mike as one of the very greatest players of all time. I sure wish I could have seen that play in person. It probably wasn't even filmed. It's too bad most of the video of Connie comes from his Phoenix Suns/NBA days. "

MEMORIES OF AGUSTIN TORRES: "Fred Cranwell was the public relations man for the Pipers during their third year. He told me a funny story about the time the Pipers had a rare game on television, against the Carolina Cougars. It was on a UHF channel. Cranwell sold about 25 advertising spots for that game. But he really only had room for 22 of them. The game was tied near the end of regulation and the Pipers still had about 3 spots to run. Cranwell was fearful that they'd never get another shot at television if those ads didn't run. So during a timeout he ran down to the Carolina huddle and told the Cougars' coach, Bones McKinney, about his plight. Cranwell hinted that it would help the ABA in general if the game went into overtime. Bones didn't say yes or no, but a Cougars player (Cranwell doesn't recall his name) promptly missed two shots, and the Pipers got their overtime. Cranwell still doesn't know if Carolina did it on purpose."

MEMORIES OF PAUL DORMAN: "I was playing high school basketball during the heyday of the ABA, so that combined with the fact that I lived 175 miles from Pittsburgh made it difficult to attend a lot of Pipers games. But my grandparents lived outside of Pittsburgh so occasionally we made it to a game while we were on family trips. I can remember seeing the L.A. Stars, Kentucky Colonels and the Indiana Pacers play the Pipers the year that they came back to Pittsburgh (1969-70). The city basically wrote the team off for good reason. It was hard to have many fans left after the team deserted Pittsburgh the year that it won the championship, and then came back two years later with its tail between its legs. There were never many people at Pipers games, maybe a thousand or two. I can remember just walking up and buying courtside tickets for $4 or $5. However despite all of this, the games were great fun for a kid my age who had never seen pro basketball before. I have many memories of Darel Carrier and Louie Dampier raining three pointers, Mel Daniels and Roger Brown dominating games, and John Brisker, Charlie Williams, Chico Vaughn and Mike Lewis (my personal favorite) playing for the Pipers, and later the Condors."

MEMORIES OF LARRY LEVIN: "I grew up in Pittsburgh. When the Pipers returned pro basketball to the city (after the Rens of the ABL), I began to follow the team. My favorite players were of course Connie Hawkins and Art Heyman. Heyman was the team cut-up. I remember getting tickets to the final game of the 1967-68 Championship Series. My friend and I got floor seats. A ball came our way during the game and my friend went to retrieve it. He gave the ball to the referee and then began to wave wildly towards the television cameras (this was before Jumbotrons in the arenas). We were quite disappointed when the team moved to Minnesota. Even though it eventually came back, things were never the same."

MEMORIES OF ED DEMARCO: "To a 13 year-old basketball fan growing up in Pittsburgh, the Pipers were 'Heaven on Earth.' They ran a 16-and-under $1 admission promotion. I saw all the 1967-68 regular season and playoff games at the Civic Arena. My father always gave me enough money for a bus ride to and from the game, admission, a program, popcorn, and soda (or 'pop' as we say in Pittsburgh). Connie Hawkins, Chico Vaughn, Charlie Williams, Tom Washington and Art Heyman were our starters. Jim Jarvis, Richie Parks, Willie Porter and Craig Dill were our bench players. Vince Cazzetta was the coach. It was the time of my young life. I was crushed when they moved to Minnesota. In fact, I've never rooted for a Minnesota team since. It was very enjoyable when the Steelers defeated the Vikings in the Super Bowl in the mid 70's. I'm now 45 years old and my interest in sports has lessened greatly. But I'll always remember the 1967-68 Pipers."

MEMORIES OF PAT COSGROVE: "During the 1969-70 preseason I attended a game in Bayonne, New Jersey between the New York Nets and the Pipers. A crowd of about 2,800 saw a vastly improved Nets squad. As for the Pipers, the only player who generated any interest prior to the contest was former Marquette star George Thompson. However, an out of shape Thompson played only limited minutes. Another Piper (at right) actually stole the show. By the second quarter, people were becoming extremely curious about a "mystery man." He was built like a linebacker, and he flashed a feathery jump shot from all over the gym. By the time the game ended everybody in attendance knew the name: John Brisker."

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