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Greensboro among cities considered for Hornets' D-League team
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Greensboro among cities considered for Hornets' D-League team

Busy coliseum complex makes Greensboro longshot among 7 finalists

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Updated 4:55 p.m. Monday

GREENSBORO — It’s been 40 years since the Carolina Cougars pulled up stakes, took their red-white-and-blue ABA basketballs and moved to St. Louis.

But now there’s an outside chance professional basketball could return to the Greensboro Coliseum Complex.

Greensboro is on a list of seven cities in North and South Carolina under consideration to host the Charlotte Hornets’ new team in the NBA Development League.

Do you think Greensboro is the best place in N.C. or S.C. for a new minor league basketball team?

Greensboro is on a list of seven cities in North and South Carolina under consideration to host the Charlotte Hornets’ new team in the NBA Development League. http://bit.ly/1Ibt1AI

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Hornets Sports & Entertainment would own and operate the new minor-league pro franchise and hopes to field the team in time for the D-League’s 2016-17 season.

But realistically, Greensboro is a longshot to land the new team, coliseum managing director Matt Brown said. The biggest obstacle is a busy calendar.

“You know us, we’ll never say no,” Brown said. “But the Hornets' preference would be to land in one building in one city. That’s not realistic for us. The reality is we’re quite active in our current programming – especially on Fridays and weekends – and might not make the best sense to make the kind of schedule the D-League would want.”

Greensboro’s proposal, something Brown calls “the Carolina Cougars model,” would be to split home games among three venues: a curtained Coliseum arena configured for 8,000 seats; a 3,400-seat arena in the Special Events Center; and a “downsized capacity” Joel Coliseum in Winston-Salem.

“You’d be able to capture and promote the Hornets brand throughout the Triad,” Brown said. “We’ve had discussions, and their preference would be for a Special Events Center-sized home. That size is the model for most D-League settings. They’re looking for one venue, where fans could feel intimate and close-up with players. But the reality is, the Special Events Center is used by consumer shows, trade shows, meetings, conventions and other events that limit the amount of prime dates available during the basketball season.”

And the coliseum’s main arena already accommodates UNC-Greensboro men’s basketball games, big music concerts and high-draw weekend events including monster trucks, rodeo and ice shows.

“We’re not talking about NBA games,” Brown said. “It’s the D-League, and you have to be realistic about revenue streams and mass appeal. … It’s good basketball, especially when you see the emergence of so many young kids leaving college early. You’re going to see expanded depth on D-League rosters, including some former ACC players who would be natural draws. But it’s still not the NBA.”

Rather, it’s a path to the NBA, one the Hornets want to control better.

“The decision to take steps toward launching our own D-League club is yet another example of (owner Michael Jordan’s) long-term commitment to our franchise,” said Greensboro native Fred Whitfield, Hornets president and chief operating officer. “And it continues to show his willingness to invest in the resources needed to improve our basketball team.”

The seven markets under consideration are North Carolina cities Greensboro, Raleigh, Asheville and Fayetteville and the South Carolina cities of Columbia, Charleston and Greenville.

Greensboro and Columbia are the closest to Charlotte, each about 90 miles away. Charleston is the farthest at 210 miles.

Eighteen teams make up the D-League, and 17 have single-affiliate relationships with an NBA team. The 18th, the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Mad Ants, is an independent that shares affiliation with 13 NBA teams, including the Hornets.

“We view player-development as critical,” Whitfield told the Charlotte Observer. “We think this is a great opportunity for our basketball people to have complete autonomy and control of how that part of the business is run. We also see it as a great opportunity to keep growing our brand regionally.”

And having their own team would allow the Hornets greater control over player development, general manager Rich Cho said.

Hornets players Jeff Taylor and rookie Noah Vonleh played parts of the past season for Fort Wayne.

“The best organizations have great synergy between the NBA team and the D-League team. There are a lot of advantages,” Cho told the Observer. “For example, running the same offense and defense, using the same terminology. So if we’re sending Noah Vonleh to our own D-League team, there’s a much more seamless transition.”

Hornets rookie shooting guard P.J. Hairston of Greensboro followed a path through the D-League to the NBA after the star shooting guard left college at North Carolina midway through the 2013-14 season and played for the Texas Legends, a team affiliated with the Dallas Mavericks.

D-League teams feature 12-man rosters with at least two NBA players and the rest under contract with the league itself rather than individual franchises. Non-NBA players are typically paid around $25,000 per season, but the upside is that 38 percent (170 of 450) players in the NBA last season spent some time in the D-League during their careers.

The D-League was founded in 2001, and four of the cities under consideration by the Hornets have hosted now-defunct teams – Asheville Altitude (2001-05, moved); Charleston Lowgators (2001-04, moved); Fayetteville Patriots (2001-06, folded) and Greenville Groove (2001-03, folded).


3 p.m. Monday

GREENSBORO — It’s been 40 years since the Carolina Cougars pulled up stakes, took their red-white-and-blue ABA basketballs and moved to St. Louis.

But now there’s a chance professional basketball could return to the Greensboro Coliseum.

Greensboro is on a list of seven cities in North and South Carolina under consideration to host the Charlotte Hornets’ new team in the NBA Development League.

Matt Brown, managing director of the Greensboro Coliseum, could not be reached as of 3 p.m. today.

Hornets Sports & Entertainment would own and operate the new minor-league pro franchise and hopes to field the team in time for the D-League’s 2016-17 season.

“The decision to take steps toward launching our own D-League club is yet another example of (owner Michael Jordan’s) long-term commitment to our franchise,” said Greensboro native Fred Whitfield, Hornets president and chief operating officer. “And it continues to show his willingness to invest in the resources needed to improve our basketball team.”

Do you think Greensboro is the best place in N.C. or S.C. for a new minor league basketball team?

Greensboro is on a list of seven cities in North and South Carolina under consideration to host the Charlotte Hornets’ new team in the NBA Development League. http://bit.ly/1Ibt1AI

You voted:

The seven markets under consideration are North Carolina cities Greensboro, Raleigh, Asheville and Fayetteville, and South Carolina cities Columbia, Charleston and Greenville.

Greensboro and Columbia are the closest to Charlotte, each about 90 miles away. Charleston is the farthest at about 210 miles.

Right now, there are 18 teams in the D-League and 17 have single-affiliate relationships with an NBA team. The 18th, the Fort Wayne (Ind.) Mad Ants, is an independent that shares affiliation with 13 NBA teams — including the Hornets.

“We view player-development as critical,” Whitfield told the Charlotte Observer. “We think this is a great opportunity for our basketball people to have complete autonomy and control of how that part of the business is run. We also see it as a great opportunity to keep growing our brand regionally.”

And having their own team would allow the Hornets greater control over player development, general manager Rich Cho said.

Hornets players Jeff Taylor and rookie Noah Vonleh both played parts of the past season for Fort Wayne.

“The best organizations have great synergy between the NBA team and the D-League team. There are a lot of advantages,” Cho told the Charlotte Observer. “For example, running the same offense and defense, using the same terminology. So if we’re sending Noah Vonleh to our own D-League team, there’s a much more seamless transition.

“And conversely, if we were to bring up a player from that team that uses the same offense, defense and terminology, there’s a much better opportunity for him to jump right in.”

Hornets rookie shooting guard P.J. Hairston of Greensboro followed a path through the D-League to the NBA after the star shooting guard left college at North Carolina midway through the 2013-14 season and played for the Texas Legends, a team affiliated with the Dallas Mavericks.

D-League teams feature 12-man rosters with at least two NBA players and the rest under contract with the league itself rather than individual franchises. Non-NBA players are typically paid around $25,000 per season, but the upside is that 38 percent (170 of 450) players in the NBA last season spent some time in the D-League during their careers.

The D-League was founded in 2001, and four of the cities under consideration by the Hornets have hosted now-defunct teams — Asheville Altitude (2001-05, moved); Charleston Lowgators (2001-04, moved); Fayetteville Patriots (2001-06, folded) and Greenville Groove (2001-03, folded).

Contact Jeff Mills at (336) 373-7024, and follow @JeffMillsNR on Twitter.

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