Alaska Dream season opens with nightmare

Pro team's future in doubt when opponent fails to show

December 15, 2008 

Alaska's latest shot at professional basketball likely died when the Alaska Dream's opponent decided not to show for Monday's season opener at Sullivan Arena.

The Dream were scheduled to play the Washington Raptors Monday night in their official American Basketball Association debut. The two were to meet again tonight.

The games were canceled after team owners butted heads Sunday night over the Raptors' travel arrangements. Dream owner Trey Davis bought the Raptors tickets that would have kept them in Anchorage until Thursday, saying earlier return flights were booked. Raptors owner Regina Joseph said her players needed to be back in Seattle by Thursday morning so they wouldn't miss work at their real jobs.

When the difference couldn't be resolved, Joseph said her players weren't coming.

Roughly 400 people who pre-purchased $15-$30 tickets instead were given the option of watching an intrasquad game played at Sullivan, which the Dream had already rented for the night. Davis said fans who want refunds should return to the place they bought the tickets.

The mixup left Dream owner Trey Davis embarrassed and wondering if the ABA is the right league for his team.

"I've put everything into this," said Davis, who quit his job at the Boys and Girls Club in October to run the Dream. "Everything was riding on this opening day.

"... There's no reason why they shouldn't be here. They just didn't get on the plane."

Monday's game would have marked the return of pro basketball in Anchorage. The Anchorage Northern Knights played in the Continental Basketball Association in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Now that he's been stood up, Davis said he wants to pull the Dream out of the ABA. "This is very, very unstable for an organization to run this way," he said. "You don't wait until game day to find out a team's not coming here."

In an e-mail written to ABA chief executive officer Joe Newman, Davis said he spent $10,235 on a dozen airline tickets, booked hotel rooms at the Comfort Inn and paid $12,000 to rent the Sullivan Arena for two nights. He even paid for Monday's game to be televised on GCI Channel 1, he said in the e-mail.

In a flurry of e-mail exchanges among Davis, Newman and Joseph, Davis pleaded with the Raptors to make the trip.

"We have destroyed everything we have worked so hard for by not having this game," Davis wrote in an e-mail to Newman cc'd to a number of teams in the league. "I have no way to get this money back."

Raptors president Tim Joseph, Regina Joseph's husband, said his in-box was flooded with e-mails from angry Alaskans on Monday.

"It wasn't our fault," he said by phone Monday afternoon.

The problem, he said, was the Monday-to-Thursday flight itinerary Davis selected. It didn't jibe with Washington players' work schedules.

Tim Joseph said the Thursday return would make his players late to their jobs and put them at risk of getting fired. The only days they are permitted to miss work for basketball are Monday through Wednesday, he said.

"All we wanted was to get back Wednesday," Joseph said. "(But) the answer was no."

Davis told Joseph all Wednesday flights to Seattle were overbooked. Davis also told the Daily News on Monday he gave the Josephs flight information "days and days in advance," but the Josephs waited until the last minute to tell the Dream they weren't coming.

But according to an e-mail chain provided by the Josephs, Davis didn't send an e-mail with flight and hotel details until Saturday afternoon.

Burrel Lee, owner of the Maywood Buzz of California, backed Davis. In an e-mail to the Josephs, Lee said the Raptors should make the trip because it would be good for the league.

"We are losing teams left and right ... u felt the hurt last week when (San Francisco) didn't show," Lee wrote in an e-mail to Joseph. "Be smarter then the problem, get to alaska and tell the guys to tell their jobs that u are snowed in."

Most players in the ABA make between $200 and $400 a week, Davis said, so players must work jobs to make ends meet.

The ABA is a league of 37 teams, although at least one of those teams has a note on its Web site saying it won't play this year.

It's a far different league from the one that made headlines and pleased fans in the 1960s and 1970s, when stars like Julius Erving and Connie Hawkins put the league on the map. The original ABA folded after nine seasons in 1976, with some of its teams and innovations merging with the NBA.

In 2000, Newman introduced a new ABA. Since then, the league has struggled to keep franchises alive and play games that are scheduled. Earlier this month, the Raptors were robbed of their home opener when the San Francisco Rumble didn't show up.

Similar no-shows and cancellations happened last season too.

"They assured us this year everything was different," Dream coach Al Sokaitis said.

But Sokaitis said he's lost confidence.

"I have no faith in the ABA," he said.

Davis said he wasn't required to pay for Washington's airfare. He did so because Washington didn't make any money when San Francisco ruined its season opener.

"They didn't generate any revenue, so they couldn't pay for their tickets," Davis said. "So we scrambled, put it together and paid for it.

"We're literally paying for it now."

Find Kevin Klott online at adn.com/contact/kklott or call 257-4335.

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