October 31, 2006
The ABA rides again

Did you know that the old American Basketball Association has been reincarnated as a regional minor league, with a total of 53 franchises across the country, including a new one here in Houston? Me neither, but it sure sounds like owner Larry Leonard has got the whole loose, fun-loving thing down.

"I was on the Batman ride at Six Flags and we went over the cemetery," he said. "That's when it hit me - the Undertakers. That's who we had to be. People will remember us. Especially when we bury them."

To that end, Leonard has purchased a coffin and plans to have pallbearers on hand to carry it onto the court late in the game each time the Undertakers have wrapped up a win. Call it a ghoulish version of Red Auerbach's old victory cigar.


"We're definitely not trying to compete with the Rockets or any other sports franchise in Houston," Leonard said. "We're looking to provide an entertainment alternative and a fun, exciting kind of basketball. That's why we've gotten the legendary Jackie Carr to be our head coach. Our goal is to win games and make headlines with our style of play, which will be all about putting points on the scoreboard."

Who is Jackie Carr, you ask?

The first time they met as a team, the coach gathered his players all around and asked them a simple question.

"What wins championships?"

The hands shot up immediately, and a dozen heads nodded with confident smiles.

Easy question.

"Dee-fense!" they all shouted.

The coach threw back his head and laughed.

Trick question.

"How many of y'all ever seen them put defensive points up on a scoreboard? You win games, you win championships, by scoring more points than the other guy.

"Anybody know another way?"

Not Jackie Carr.

The Wizard of Wheatley High won four state championships, eight city crowns and 11 district titles and rolled up a 532-112 (.826) record in 17 seasons from 1969 to 1985 doing things his way.

Now, at 77, he's back out on the court in charge of a minor league team called the Houston Undertakers that will play this season in a resurrected version of the old American Basketball Association.

"I was sitting around, just playing checkers, when the young fella who owns the team came and asked me if I wanted to coach again," Carr said. "It wasn't really something I was looking for. But I thought for a minute and figured maybe it would be fun."


Carr is to fast-break basketball what a microwave oven is to rubbing two sticks together. A quantum leap.

His 1973 Wheatley team that featured Eddie Owens, Steve Jones, Michael Long, Willie Davis and Robert Jammer went 43-1 and captured the state title while averaging just over 110 points. That's in just 32 minutes on the high school clock.

Back in the day, Carr even had a rule for his Wildcats. If they failed to break the 100-point barrier in a game, they faced a five-mile run the next day at practice.

"I laugh when I hear coaches say their players won't run," Carr said. "What do you mean 'won't run?' Then get new players.

"I hear coaches talking about how they need a center or a point guard or a power forward or something. I hear kids come in now and tell me they play the 'three' or the 'four' or the 'one' position. I don't know anything about any of that. Just give me some boys with two legs, and I'll get them up and down the floor."

Somewhere, Jeff Van Gundy just lost another hair. Gotta admit, this sounds interesting. I'll have to check their schedule and see if I can catch a game.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 31, 2006 to Other sports | TrackBack