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The Most Hoops on the Coast

By MONTY MOSHER Sports Reporter
Halifax Herald

The Halifax Rainmen have never played a game and already have a second head coach.

The ABA expansion franchise announced Saturday that Rick Lewis, a member of the Kentucky State University Sport Hall of Fame, will replace Kevin MaBone as coach and general manager of the team, which will hit the court in November.

MaBone’s mother is gravely ill, precipitating the change in plans.

The 47-year-old Lewis, a native of East St. Louis, Ill., now living in Indiana, was a basketball, football and baseball star in high school. He spent more time as a baseball player than a basketball player and played professional baseball for eight years in Australia.

In recent years he has coached basketball at the high school level in East St. Louis. He also has a head coaching background in semi-pro.

Lewis and Detroit’s MaBone worked together at a free-agent evaluation camp in San Francisco in the off-season. Lewis, known for developing younger players with a focus on conditioning, became interested in joining MaBone in Halifax.

Lewis called Halifax president Andre Levingston about connecting with the Rainmen when Levingston surprised him by asking if he would like to be head coach.

"It’s definitely been a smooth transition," said Levingston. "We didn’t miss a beat bringing in Coach Lewis.

"I got the opportunity to spend a few weeks with him and he’s just a good guy. I’ve seen him in action with players for a while now and I’m just amazed at the level of intensity and skill he develops in players. He’s a perfect fit for our franchise."

Lewis wants the Rainmen to produce players for higher levels and believes Halifax basketball fans will reap the rewards while they are here.

"The people of Halifax will see good, solid, exciting basketball," said Lewis. "The players we want are the type who will strive and push to get to the next level. You aren’t going to want to do my workout unless you want to get the next level. A guy who just wants to come in and shoot some baskets and run up and down the floor and say he’s on a basketball team, they won’t last long with me."

The Rainmen now have five players under contract and a commitment from a sixth.

Levingston announced the team has signed six-foot-three guard Devino Williams, a former Michigan high school star from Benton Harbor, six-foot-eight forward James Booyer, a former NCAA player at IUPUI who went on to play pro in Saudi Arabia, and six-foot-six guard Brian Silverhorn of Kentucky, a 2006-07 NAIA all-American at Georgetown (Ky.) College.

The team also has a commitment from seven-year NBA veteran Sam Mack. Chicago’s Mack, a 37-year old small forward, is attempting to hook on in the NBA after five years out of the league, but has agreed to play in Halifax if he needs a place to stay sharp.

Former Memorial sharp-shooter Peter Benoit and six-foot-10 forward Chad Eichelberger of Atlanta were signed in July.

The Rainmen had more than a dozen players in an open tryout camp on Saturday. Those players included former St. Francis Xavier star forward Dennie Oliver.

"It’s a real exciting time," said Levingston, watching his first franchise come to life. "You sign your first two players and you start seeing a little light, but when you get to five and six players, and especially the level of these guys coming in, now it’s really starting to get exciting. And it’s countdown now. We just have a few more spots we need to fill."

Halifax released its 36-game schedule, 18 home and 18 away, that begins with a home opener Nov. 15 against the Boston United Eagles at Halifax Metro Centre. The team then embarks on a two-game road trip at the Manchester (N.H.) Millrats and Vermont Frost Heaves Nov. 17-18.

The season concludes with a pair of games March 13-14 at Metro Centre against the Westchester (N.Y.) Phantoms.



The nitty gritty

ABA Rainmen conclude successful three-day camp
By CHAD LUCAS Sports Reporter

Prospective players for the inaugural season of the American Basketball Association's Halifax Rainmen conduct a group stretch prior to the third day of training camp at The Tower on the Saint Mary's University campus on Wednesday. (TIM KROCHAK / Staff)

The colourful official game ball of the American Basketball Association rests on court as players of the league's newest franchise, the Halifax Rainmen, practise during training camp at The Tower on Wednes�day. (TIM KROCHAK / Staff)

Halifax Rainmen head coach Kevin MaBone stood in the centre of The Tower's basketball court in a New York Knicks golf shirt and shorts, grinning and working on a piece of gum as he directed players through half-court drills.

"Oh, that's nice," he shouted as one guard blew by his man on a pick-and-roll and made an easy lay-up.

The lease is signed; the marketing campaign is underway; now the nitty-gritty work of building a basketball team begins for the Rainmen.

MaBone and the Halifax owners took a look at 16 players in a three-day camp that wrapped up Wednesday, the team's first step toward filling out a roster that will join the American Basketball Association in November.

"This is a great start for us," team president and majority owner Andre Levingston said after Wednesday's workout at Saint Mary's. "The reality of it is coming into focus now."

The Halifax group showed they're serious about looking far and wide for talent. Aside from former Memorial Sea-Hawks standouts James Saxby and Peter Benoite and Cole Harbour's Vantino Grant, most camp participants were former NCAA and junior college players from the United States.

"I'm really pleased with how camp went," said MaBone, who will also handle the Rainmen's general manager duties. "What I was really impressed with is how they caught on quickly to the (ABA) style of game."

MaBone and Levingston both said there are four or five players from this week's camp that they'd like to sign to contracts, though they didn't want to name names before details were settled.

"We see a few kids who can help us win every night," Levingston said. "There are a handful of kids that we're really excited about here. I'm pretty confident we can get them on board with us."

Many players seemed impressed with the camp and the ABA team. University of South Florida graduate Brian Graham has played in the NBA's Development League and overseas in Poland, but he called this week's camp and the treatment he received "one of the best experiences I've had."

"I loved it," said Graham, the older brother of Toronto Raptors forward Joey Graham. "It's unparalleled anywhere else. The only thing is the weather is a little bit cold, but I can adjust to that," he joked.

Saxby, a Bridgewater native, said he'd love to earn the chance to play professional ball in Halifax. He thinks the ABA will be a hit once people give it a chance.

"I'm confident that when people get into the stands and they see this kind of basketball (that) Coach is running here, they're really going to respect it and they're going to enjoy it," said Saxby, who played in Germany last year. "It's a fun brand of basketball.

"If I have the opportunity to play in this, I'll certainly make the most of it."

The Rainmen also plan to evaluate players in Toronto and San Francisco before holding an open tryout in Halifax later in the summer.


Rainmen hoop tryout includes local flavour

The Daily News

Peter Benoite (right) of Memorial University and Kevin Wilkerson of Georgia Permimeter College audition for the ABA's Halifax Rainmen in Halifax on Wednesday. (Daily News/Andre Forget)

A couple of former Memorial University Sea-Hawks standouts and a local high school star were amongst the 16 hopefuls out at Wednesday morning's Halifax Rainmen basketball tryout at The Tower.

Jeff Saxby of Martin's Brook (near Bridgewater) and Peter Benoite, along with Vantino Grant of Cole Harbour, aim to play for the American Basketball Association's team set to debut at the Metro Centre in mid-November.

Rainmen are set to storm Halifax

Halifax, May 30, 2007 - The American Basketball Association (ABA) is headed to Halifax. The Halifax Rainmen's inaugural 2007 / 2008 season will be played at the Metro Centre. The Rainmen are one of the newest additions to the ABA league, which has sixty teams playing in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The Halifax Rainmen will provide high-energy excitement and will bring together an unmatched collection of basketball talent on one court. The freewheeling, fast-pace style of the game will showcase the players' athleticism in an atmosphere that is charged by the latest entertainment experience.

"I'm looking to build a winning team that will bring fun and excitement to the Halifax fans," said Andre Levingston, President of the Rainmen. "I believe Halifax will passionately welcome the fast-paced, gripping brand of basketball that is exciting and affordable entertainment. One of the reasons we want to bring the team to Halifax is they have the most passionate fans in Canada and they love the sport of basketball."

The Rainmen announced Kevin MaBone as Head Coach and General Manager of Basketball Operations. MaBone will be responsible for overseeing team operations, including scouting and overall development for the new team. This will be MaBone's first professional head coaching role in the ABA, a position for which he has been well prepared during his 16-year career. His most recent accomplishments include Job Corps Athletic Director and Basketball coach, where he led the Job Corps team to regional champions and national runner ups in 2006 and 2007. MaBone's greatest accomplishment has been recognizing raw talents and developing them into prospective professional players.

"I'm committed to developing not only better basketball players but better men", said MaBone. "I'm looking forward to cultivating strong relationships with the local community and a long lasting and productive relationship with the Halifax Rainmen."

The Rainmen official website www.rainmenbasketball.com launched today and will be kept update with all the latest Rainmen information and news (schedule, tickets, announcements, weathergirls try-outs, forum and more).

The Rainmen are proud to announce that TPH®, a nation-wide printing company with over 70 company-owned locations across Canada, has been secured as one of their Rainmaker sponsors. Westin Hotel & Resorts and Halifax Daily News are continuing on board as a sponsor of the team, which was initiated during the 2007 ABA All-Star game.

"One of TPH®'s founding principles is to give back to the communities in which we do business. The Rainmen sponsorship is the perfect opportunity for TPH® to extend its reach into the Halifax community by supporting a brand new local team that has all-star potential. After 46 years in business, TPH® knows to accomplish anything it takes teamwork that is focused on delivering wins for all stakeholders. Our sponsorship of the Halifax Rainmen is a win for the sport of basketball, a win for the Halifax community, a win for the athletes, a win for the ABA League, and a win for Nova Scotian businesses. TPH® is excited to be part of this new team!" said Jamie O'Born, Executive Vice President.

Season tickets for the Halifax Rainmen's 18 home games will go on sale Monday June 4, 2007 by calling the Halifax Rainmen office (902)444-4708. The price range for season tickets are Children 12 and under $170.59, Students/Seniors $198.94, Adults from $255.80, all ticket prices are before taxes and service charges. Where else will you witness the finest basketball players perform amazing skills, sportsmanship, and talent at such an incredible value? Fast-paced, fan-friendly, and exciting basketball; be part of the action on Thursday November 15th, 2007 at the Metro Centre for the Halifax Rainmen home opener.

Rainmen wins in ABA name contest
Indianapolis, IN. ThHow to make the Halifax Rainmen fly 

Expert advice on running a successful basketball team – from the man who made the Windjammers fill the Metro Centre

Alex J. Walling
The Daily News

Jadranka Crnogorac, Paul Riley and Andre Livingstone want to bring the American Basketball Association to Halifax. In fact, they’re planning an ABA all-star showcase, starting in 12 days at the Halifax Metro Centre.

They’ve had a rocky start to this ABA endeavour here. From what I’ve seen, they could use some help.

In fact, they could use a lot of help, so I went out and got them some, in the form of sagacious advice from Mike Doyle.

Doyle made pro basketball work in Halifax with the Windjammers. And it was in two different leagues — the World Basketball League and the National Basketball League in the early 1990s.

On July 10, 1991, the WBL held its all-star game in Halifax, and it was a sellout.

Imagine that — a sellout in something other than hockey.

In fact, Doyle’s Jammers, through a variety of promotional methods, led the league in attendance.

So how did he do it?

A drive to Fredericton, where he now resides, and coffee got the following advice from the guy who may be the best sports promoter/marketer in Halifax history.

“First, never forget that you are in the entertainment business and you have to fight for every dollar,” he tells me. “You are fighting movies, restaurants, bands, nightlife, video rentals and other sports that want your time, attention, and most of all, your hard-earned dollars.”

He was very strong on entertainment.

“You have no control over the game,” he adds. “It could be great or a bomb, so you need more than the game.”

And that’s what the Windjammers were. Sure, they had great players like Willie Bland, Steve Burt and Milt Newton, but they also had the Jammer man, who was lowered from the rafters prior to every game.

They had the Jammer girls, who always looked great. Mike Cowie and his trumpet were blaring all the time, too.


They had promotion after promotion, and Rick Anderson, a wild type of public-address announcer who got the crowd into the game.

Promote, promote and promote again was his motto. That, he did.

“If anything, he was ahead of his time in that he recognized the entertainment value of the product,” says Peter Halpin, a well-known basketball aficionado in this city.

Halpin was the local chairman of the Final 8 CIS tourney for part of the 1990s.

But even before that first game, Doyle says, “you need a business plan and have to line up all your ducks in a row.”

You need your investors, basketball supporters, corporate sponsors and contacts in the local basketball community.

Have all of that before you go to the public.

He did. His news conference announcing the arrival of the Jammers in the winter/spring of 1991 was one of the best I’ve attended — and I’ve attended thousands of news conferences.

When the Jammers were announced, he had everyone there. From investors, to corporate sponsors, to a local basketball advisory board. The place was jammed, with basketball people such as Frank Baldwin and Gail Rice on hand.

The papers the next day told not one, but many stories of Jammerball. The Jammers were on the front page, and on the front of the sports section. A business columnist even had a story on them and editorials were about the new team.

I’m sure Doyle had more than $10,000 in free publicity.


Doyle says you need people around you who know the basketball scene and have contacts.

“At some point, this ABA team will have a draft, and they will need to know the players available and the league,” he says. “And never forget, teams will make players available, so they have to know: Why these guys are up for grabs? Are they weaker players, or maybe trouble makers? You need to know where to find the players who will fit into your payroll.

Doyle also says you have to be able to deal with the media. In that respect, he may have no equal in my time in this market.

“I try and support (buy advertising from all media outlets), but I need the media and to treat them well,” Doyle explains. “T-shirts, sweat shirts, tickets, and giveaways are a big part of getting coverage, and I found most of the media very helpful.

“I want not one, but all the radio morning guys and gals talking about the Jammers.”

They did.

Halpin says Doyle made a “great move” when he got local connections to this community.

“Mike Doyle got a coaching staff that was connected to Halifax and to this province,” Halpin says. “He had Ian Macmillan, Richie Spears and Mickey Fox as part of the coaching team. What a connection.”

If the ABA crowd wants, I can provide them numbers for Doylee American Basketball Association (ABA) today named the coaches for the ABA East and West All Star Teams for the game to be played on Sunday, January 28th in
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. According to Tom Doyle, ABA President, "The coaches were selected by the positions of their teams in the ABA Power Rankings as of Saturday night. The coaches of the three highest-ranked teams in the East and West will be honored with the top two coaches named Head Coach. They are:

ABA West All Star Coaches
Head Coach: Bob Holland, Arkansas Aeros
Asst Coach: Chris Terrell, Texas Tycoons
Asst Coach: Larry McKenzie, Minnesota Ripknees

ABA East All Star Coaches
Head Coach: Will Voigt, Vermont Frost Heaves
Asst Coach: Rod Baker, Rochester Razor Sharks
Asst Coach: Steve Turner, Jacksonville Jam

"We will begin naming the ABA All-Star teams on Tuesday," added Doyle. "The talent in the ABA is tremendous. I know that fans will be pleased with the selections and for the people of Halifax in particular, I know that you will be impressed. When Halifax begins playing in the league next November, you'll have a good idea of the level of talent in the ABA. We are looking forward to putting on a great show for you in January and hope that you will welcome the best of the ABA." For more information, visit www.abalive.com.
By CHAD LUCAS Sports Reporter

The American Basketball Association franchise slated to hit the courts in Halifax has a name: the Rainmen.

The moniker stood out from a name-the-team contest that drew about 600 entries, said franchise vice-president Jad Crnogorac.

"We wanted something really unique, something no one else has had," said Crnogorac, who played university basketball at Saint Mary’s.

"We looked at (Rainmen) and thought it fit. Halifax gets a lot of rain, and in terms of basketball it’s great to market around raining threes (three-pointers) and that sort of thing."

Krista MacDonald of Halifax nominated the winning name. She said it was raining out when she came across the contest and "Rainmen" was the first thing that popped into her head. She was shocked to hear it was chosen.

"I thought everybody would think it was stupid," she said in an e-mail interview. "I was totally amazed that my name was chosen, and still find it hard to believe. I kept thinking somebody was playing a joke on me, but I hadn’t told anybody I entered, not even my spouse. I’m still really surprised at this point."

Crnogorac said she was aware some people might associate the name with the 1988 movie Rain Man, which earned Dustin Hoffman a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of an autistic man named Raymond Babbitt.

"A few people have said, ‘You mean, Rain Man?’" Crnogorac said. "But I think, with younger people, they don’t think of it that way."

Crnogorac said about 20 per cent of contest entrants suggested "Halifax Explosion," a name the team didn’t think was in good taste.

"We didn’t want to have anything with a negative (connotation)," she said.

The team plans to have its first merchandise ready for next month when Halifax hosts the ABA All-Star weekend Jan. 26-28 at the Metro Centre.

"It’s exciting," said Crnogorac, who also recently set up a local office for the franchise at Purdy’s Wharf. "We’re getting our T-shirts made for the weekend so our logo can be prominent at the game."

Independent designer Keith Flynn of Toronto created the logo.

For winning the naming contest, MacDonald will receive an autographed team jersey and ABA ball, and a chance to sit on the bench as the team’s "13th Man" during the Rainmen’s first home game in November 2007.

The ABA has a 13th Man promotion that allows local celebrities to sit with the team during a game and even see a brief amount of time on the court.

MacDonald said she hasn’t really played basketball since junior high school but she’s looking forward to being on the team’s bench.

"I think it’s wonderful," she said.

( clucas@herald.ca)


Nov. 20, 2006

Jad has Halifax hoop dreams
By Chris Kallan
The Daily News

SPORTS Q&A - A year from now, a motley crew of hoop nomads will descend upon metro for Halifax's inaugural season in the American Basketball Association. The specific season of 2007-08 was a Daily News exclusive last August.

It's doubtful the huge afros and knee-high socks from the 1960s version will make a return, but the league with the psychedelic red, white and blue basketball still offers an assortment of off-the-wall elements.

Former NBA great Artis Gilmore, 58, made a cameo appearance yesterday with the Jacksonville JAM; Kelvin Davis, 47, equipped with a 22-inch vertical leap, is a rookie guard with the Atlanta Vision; and the logo for the Minnesota Ripknees pictures a man in a bowling pose clutching his knee. Ouch.

The 50-plus team, 36-game league - which includes clubs in Montreal and Quebec City, a Beijing entry (based in Maywood, Calif.) and three others in Mexico - has also drawn interest from Hollywood's heavy hitters. The Hollywood Reporter says comedian Will Ferrell has the role of ABA owner/coach/player Jackie Moon in Semi-Pro, which is set for the big screen this February.

Former Saint Mary's standout guard Jadranka Crnogorac of Dartmouth is the only local face attached to Halifax - one of four Canadian cities (besides Toronto, London and Calgary) out of 29 expansion entries for the 2007-08 campaign. As part owner and vice-president of corporate communications, she's one of the key figures in an effort to bring pro ball back to metro since the Windjammers of the World Basketball League/National Basketball League folded in the mid-'90s.

DAILY NEWS: How did you get involved with the ABA?

JADRANKA CRNOGORAC: A couple of business people I knew in Toronto were talking about bringing a team to Mississauga. I got curious and suggested Halifax, because it's the best place in Canada to have a team. Some of them came here on their own a couple of times and met with the mayor. Once they saw the response, they were like 'Yeah, let's do this.'

DN: What percentage of the team do you own?

JC: I'm part owner and vice-president of corporate communications, but percentage-wise, I'd rather not say.

DN: How confident are you in your abilities to make this venture work?

JC: I'm very confident. It's the first time owning a sports team or anything like this for most of us, but corporate sponsorship is a big part of it.

DN: Forty-eight teams started last season, but only 32 finished. This year, 51 clubs are on board. Is this combined expansion/failure rate good or bad for the league?

JC: It's where they're putting the teams that they're failing. Bigger cities want the best of the best. Smaller cities can't have an NBA team, but I think the ABA is a good fit for Halifax. We're giving ourselves more than a year to bring a team here. I have a lot of faith and trust in the people of Halifax that they're going to support this team.

DN: The defunct Halifax Windjammers had a decent following over the spring and summer months of the early '90s, but were the casualty of an unstable league. There are several other examples of failed bids to bring pro sports teams to a city that lives and breathes Mooseheads over the winter period. What's your marketing strategy for the 18 home dates between November and March?

JC: We're not in competition with the Mooseheads. I'm a Moosehead fan myself. We want to have a dance team and mascot performing for us. We're going to be in the schools, and the players will be accessible before, after and in between games. We're going to be in the community all the time.

DN: The franchise fee is US $20,000 and league CEO Joe Newman previously indicated operating costs are in the $400,000 range. What kind of pay and player does the ABA product offer?

JC: Our salary cap is roughly $120,000 per year for the entire team, so this league is not about paying players huge amounts of money. Team-wise, it's more designed around the NCAA, where there are hundreds of schools. It's not a step below Europe, because there's players who have played in the NBA before like Tim Hardaway (Miami) and Charles Thomas (Detroit). But most of the players are from NCAA Division 1. They're not all going to make the NBA draft and not all of them want to go to Europe. Those are the type of players we're going to get.

DN: Jonah Taussig, Gabe Goree, Fred Perry, Dennie Oliver and Jordan Croucher are a few local names who starred in the university ranks over the last several years; six-foot-10 St. Francis Xavier centre Neil MacDonald of Sydney Mines is done with school after this season. How much emphasis is there on signing metro area residents or Nova Scotians to a roster spot and giving fans instant player recognition?

JC: I definitely want all local players who are still aspiring to play to come to the first set of tryouts, probably in the spring. We want a local face on this team.

DN: People snicker about the road trip from hell when they hear there's a team from Beijing. What's the deal?

JC: The team is owned by a Beijing businessman, but they play their games in California. He telecasts the game from the States to millions of people in Beijing. My understanding is that we'll play in the same regional conference as teams like Montreal, Quebec City, Rochester, Vermont and Cape Cod.

DN: How many spectators will you need to average to break even?

JC: We'd need about 2,500 to 3,000 people per game, but we want to get 4,000 to 5,000 people a night.

DN: The league put a lot of faith and trust in granting Halifax the 2007 all-star game (Jan. 26 to 28, 2007 at the Metro Centre). What are your plans to showcase this product?

JC:The players will probably get into town on the Thursday night and be out in the schools and the IWK Children's Hospital on the Friday. There'll be a Fanfest on the Saturday morning with kids' contests followed by a university game between St. F.X. and Dal in the afternoon (switched from Dalplex). That's almost confirmed. Then a three-point shooting competition, slam-dunk contest and three to four sets from a well-known artist provided by the ABA. The Score will televise the Sunday all-star game nationally. Tickets will be approximately $15 to $20.

DN: Earlier this year, some people slammed your organization for not having a lease agreement or local office, among other things, despite the fact the team's first game was more than a year away. How do you respond?

JC: We believe in ourselves and we don't compare ourselves to anything that's failed in the past. We realize there's always some opposition to anything new. We'd prefer to be in the Metro Centre, but a lease agreement hasn't been finalized yet. We also wanted our office to be in the Metro Centre, but they're full, so it'll probably be somewhere a few blocks away. We're working with EastLink on a televison deal, but nothing's confirmed yet. A team name and website isn't far away.

DN: The ABA has a 13th Man Celebrity Player option each game. Who do you think would be a good fit for the Halifax crowd?

JC: One of my thoughts was someone like Bubbles from Trailer Park Boys. I'm absolutely a fan. I wouldn't want him in there for the fourth quarter or anything, but I think he'd be great for everyone to have a good laugh


On August 24 2006 it was announced Halifax would receive an American Basketball Association team

The team will start play in the 2007-2008 season. The venue has not been announced but it will likely be the Halifax Metro Centre as it is the largest available arena and hosts many other basketball events. The Halifax Forum is another likely venue, as it too has a capacity enough for a team. It also hosts other basketball games.

Andre Levingston will be the team's owner.

The City of Halifax, Nova Scotia will hold the 2006-2007 all-star game 10 months before the team starts play. Joe Newman, the league's chairman, figured it would be an excellent way to promote the Canadian expansion.

Thursday November  9 2006
Wednesday October 11 2006
Saturday September 23 2006
Tuesday September 19 2006
Thursday September 14 2006
Wednesday August 30 2006
Sunday August 27 2006
Saturday August 26 2006

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