Forgotten Franchises: The ABA’s Virginia Squires

The Virginia Squires was a regional ABA team that played from 1970 to 1976, with the franchise being terminated shortly before the ABA’s merger with the NBA.

1972-73 Topps Basketball Roland Taylor

The franchise dates back to the ABA’s first season in 1967/68.  They started out as the Oakland Oaks, and won a championship in the league’s second season.

They may have won a championship, but they shared a market with the San Francisco Warriors and were losing that battle (The Warriors would shortly afterwards move their home base to Oakland and change their name to “Golden State”) .  The Oaks moved to Washington D.C. and became the Washington Caps (I’ve also seen it as “Capitals” and “Capitols”, but the team’s logo says “Caps” so I’m sticking with that).

After one season, and under pressure from the NBA (as the Baltimore Bullets were preparing a DC move), the Caps moved to Virginia as a regional franchise.  The team was based in Norfolk, but played games in Richmond, Roanoke and nearby Hampton.  Roanoke, in the western part of the state, hosted Squires games for just the first season in Virginia.

The move to Virginia did not go over well with Rick Barry, the team’s star player, and he was featured in Sports Illustrated with a disgruntled interview and cover story (I “borrowed” this image from the web).
rick barry sports illustrated cover 8-24-1970
This may be the only place you’ll see Rick Barry in a Squires uniform.  Within a couple of weeks, Barry was traded to the New York Nets for a draft pick and cash.

Rick Barry was just the first star player traded away by the Squires, something that snowballed as they went along… Trade a player, lose fans, lose money, need money, trade a player… It seems to me that the business plan for a lot of ABA owners was “Hang on until the inevitable merger with the NBA”, which seems like a dubious strategy in hindsight, but that’s easy to say from a distance and 40 years later.  Even if the leagues did merge (and they did), and no matter how the NBA was struggling itself (it was), why would any league want to absorb a team that just barely hangs on by its fingernails?

Anyway… end of my editorial.

Among the players who were sold by the Squires were Julius “Dr. J” Erving, who was sold to the Nets, and George “Iceman” Gervin, who was sold to the San Antonio Spurs.

In January of 1974, there was a rumor of a major shakeup in the ABA, with the Squires moving to San Francisco, The Memphis Tams moving to Chicago and the San Diego Conquistadors moving to Los Angeles.  I couldn’t find anything more to this story than the initial published rumor.

1971-72 Topps Basketball Roland Taylor

All throughout the 1975/76 season, the Squires were on the verge of collapse.  In May, 1976, The league revoked the Squires’ franchise, making them the 4th ABA team to fold that year.

A month after the Squires folded, the NBA/ABA merger was completed.  The termination of the Squires franchise (on top of the other teams folding) may have been a catalyst for the merger.

Notable players:
Swen Nater, Doug Moe, Jan Van Breda Kolff, Fatty Taylor, Charlie Scott and (as already mentioned) Julius Erving, George Gervin and almost Rick Barry.

Record on the hardwood:
The Squires started out as a strong team, finishing in 1st place in the East with a 55-29 record. They’d beat the Nets in the division semis, but lost to the second-place Kentucky Colonels in 6 games.

After that season, their winning percentage and position in the standings went down every single year until the very last season, when the percentage “rebounded” from .179 to .181. The Squires went from 1st to 2nd to 3rd to 4th to 5th (last) to 9th (REALLY last), and the 9th place finish was mainly because the struggling ABA had eliminated the two divisions.

About Roland “Fatty” Taylor…
I go looking for cards I can use for these “Forgotten Franchises” posts, and I got some basketball cards at a show and I got some basketball cards from COMC and it didn’t occur to me until I started on this post that the two examples of Virginia Squires cards I bought were both the same guy.

Fatty Taylor played for the Caps, Squires and Denver Nuggets.  He’s known for being one of the better defensive players in a league based on offense.  He got the name “Fatty” as a kid, and from the research I’ve done online, it seems like Topps was the only ones calling him Roland.

I don’t know… unknowingly buying two cards of the same guy… Do you think The Powers That Be want me to start a Fatty Taylor PC?

3 thoughts on “Forgotten Franchises: The ABA’s Virginia Squires

  1. As someone who only casually follows the NBA, these Forgotten Franchises posts have been quite educational – thanks for spreading some knowledge!

    • For you and me both…. Most of the information here is stuff I learned while researching the post. About all I knew about the Squires beforehand is that Dr. J started with them and they were a really bad team when I started to become aware of pro basketball.

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