1969/70: After two lackluster seasons in Houston, where they struggled to draw fans, the newly minted Carolina Cougars decided to employ a unique marketing strategy of becoming a regional team for North Carolina. While based in Greensboro, the Cougars also regularly played in Charlotte and Raleigh. New Cougars Owner James C. Gardner had a role in the power structure of the ABA, briefly taking over as commissioner when George Mikan resigned. The new Cougars got off to a strong start winning home games in Greensboro and Charlotte to start the season. With Bob Verga leading the way with 27.5 ppg the Cougars posted a .500 record of 42-42, making the playoffs while finishing in third place. However, the Cougars stay in the playoffs would be a short one as they were swept by the Indiana Pacers. Despite the playoff disappointment the Cougars had solid attendance figures particularly when they played in Greensboro.
1970/71: The Cougars attempt to land Pistol Pete Maravich, but are left disappointed as the LSU star signs with the Atlanta Hawks of the NBA. While losing Pistol Pete to the Hawks, the Cougars take Joe Caldwell, after an arbitrator ruled the Hawks violated the NBA reserve clause, when they offered him less than 75% the value of his previous contract. The deal Caldwell signed in Carolina was worth $1.1 million over five years. The Cougars also get new ownership as Ted Munchak purchases the team in November. Caldwell would have a strong season, making the All ABA second team, while playing in the All-Star Game in Greensboro. However, the Cougars would have a disappointing season, finishing in last place with a record of 34-50.
1971/72: The Cougars go for a young coach, by signing Tom Meschery who had just retired after ten years in the NBA. The Cougars appeared to land a big star for the future when they Western Kentucky star Jim McDaniels to a contract worth $1.35 million. McDaniels was off to a great start in Carolina, leading the Cougars with 26.8 points and 14 rebounds per game. However, when renegotiating a new deal, McDaniels became unhappy and decided to leave the team after 58 games and join the Seattle Super Sonics of the NBA. The Cougars would continue to struggle, missing the playoffs for the second straight season as they finished in fifth place with a record of 35-49.
1972/73: After missing with Tom Meschery, the Cougars again look for a young coach this time it was a coach who had been an ABA All-Star and had played at University of North Carolina. Larry Brown who was just 32 would go on to have a long Hall of Fame coaching career. The Cougars also added a genuine NBA All-Star with the arrival of former Tar Heel Billy Cunningham. The Cougars has signed Cunningham a few years earlier to a two year deal while he was still under contract with the Philadelphia 76ers. While he would have second thoughts about joining the ABA, a federal court ruled he was obligated to play for the Cougars as he began a two year deal. Billy Cunningham would be just what the Cougar needed as they would win their first division title and have their first winning season with a record of 57-25. Cunningham, who averaged 24.1 ppg and 12 rebounds, and 6.3 assists per game would be named ABA MVP. Also have a strong season for the Cougars was Mack Calvin who posted 17.5 ppg, while Joe Caldwell had 16.7 ppg, as first year coach Larry Brown was named ABA Coach of the Year. In the playoffs the Cougars would continue to play well knocking off the New York Nets in five games to reach the Eastern Finals. The Eastern Division Finals would be a hard fought series against the Kentucky Colonels. After six games the series was even at three games apiece. Rather than playing Game 7 at Greensboro, where they had their biggest success and biggest following, the team decided to play in Charlotte. The game would be hard fought, but the Cougars would fall short, losing 107-96.
1973/74: Injuries would take a toll on the Cougars as a pair of Kidney operations limited Billy Cunningham to just 32 games. In his absence the Cougars got strong play from Mack Calvin, Jim Chones, Joe Caldwell, Tom Ownes, and Ted McClain as they again had a solid season, finishing in third place with a record of 47-37. In the playoffs the Cougars would face the Kentucky Colonels again, this time they would go down with little fight as they were swept in four straight games. It would be the end of the Carolina Cougars, as they were sold to a investor group that moved the team to St. Louis following the season. Despite the popularity and strong attendance figures, the expense of moving around Carolina proved to be too much to maintain. However, at the time no metropolitan city in North Carolina had developed to be support a major professional team, which was the reasoning behind the unique multiple arena strategy. After the season Billy Cunningham would return to the Philadelphia 76ers as Coach Larry Brown began his career of coaching shifts signing to coach the Denver Nuggets. Eventually professional basketball would return to North Carolina, with the expansion Charlotte Hornets in the NBA in 1988. Gene Littles, who was the only player who played for the Cougars in all five seasons they existed, would coach the new Hornets for two seasons.
©MMXII Tank Productions. Stats researched by Frank Fleming, all information, and team names are property of the American Basketball Association. This site is not affiliated with the Carolina Cougars or the ABA. This site is maintained for research purposes only. All logos used on this page were from Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos Page.
Page created on July 3, 2012. Last updated on July 3, 2012 at 12:10 am ET.