Editors note: Before there was the type of energy and excitement that’s scheduled to consume Cleveland starting this weekend, this Cavaliers team provided a different type of entertainment. Offered below is a brief look back at those times…the Stepien Years.
Everyone who doesn’t sleep under the West I-90 bridge knows the Cavs are running full blast toward an NBA crown in these ‘09-‘10 playoffs set to tip-off on Saturday at three. The crowds are huge, the Q is hopping and the downtown is so very thankful for LeBron – and Shaq (esp. the restaurants and pizza joints).
But there was a time – ironically – when the Cavs were actually more entertaining than they are today. This boy remembers the Ted Stepien days of lore – or at least most of them.
Those who hung around the pubs and taverns in Conneaut and Cleveland walked into the late nite diners – half-bagged up – only to find out that Teddy and Bill Musselman traded two first-round draft picks for a player by the name of Jerome Whitehead- whom no one ever heard of.
Followed by another week of making Boston’s Scott Wedman the NBA’s highest paid player. We can remember – in another life – when Stepien fired Joe Tait for making fun of him on-the-air during broadcasts. It was hilarious, and kept us entertained for hours.
Many folks from around here drove up to the old Coliseum on I-71 occasionally (they should’ve been named them the Akron Cavs) to watch this team. Mr. Whitehead, Richard Washington, head coach Bill Musselman, head coach Don Delaney (whose only qualification to coach an NBA team was that he was the girls’ head coach at nearby Dyke College). There were others, too numerous to name. The team would be lucky to win 15 games a year.
But the common denominator was screaming at Teddy as he sat in the first row. There were others yelling drunken profanities at him. But Teddy sat there – stoic as ever- usually with a couple cuties in each seat next to him. The place was empty – as in, it echoed. No lines, no one sitting nearby, parking by the front door, little traffic, making fun of Teddy and his horde….oh my it was a blast….
But the next morning, everyone in attendance (including myself) had to fight off hangovers to go to work. But Teddy – he got to sleep in till noon or so. So who really had the last word. BTW: Stepien – who set the franchise back 10 years in his two years there – actually pocketed a cool five million when he sold the Cavs and Nationwide Insurance. He still lived a pretty good life. Ours was different, and much harder.
To email David, click here. David is a sportswriter living in Conneaut, who’s spent years covering Cleveland sports as both a writer and an editor. Look for more from David here in the future.