Forgotten Franchises: The ABA’s San Diego Conquistadors / Sails

Going into the 1972-73 season the ABA had two teams fold, so to keep the league with 10 teams the league expanded for the first and only time.  The expansion team was granted to San Diego (which had lost the Rockets to Houston), and that team was called the Conquistadors, or “Q’s” for short.

For the first season the team was coached by K.C. Jones, who would go on to lead the Celtics to two championships and also make the Hall Of Fame as a player.  The team was expected to be horrible, but surprised by being on the low side of mediocre, finishing with a 30-54 record and squeaking into the playoffs.  They got swept by the Utah Stars in the first round.

For their second season, the ownership made a big splash by signing Wilt “The Stilt” Chamberlain to be their player/coach.  However, a Lakers lawsuit prevented Chamberlain from suiting up, so he remained solely the coach of the Q’s.

1974-75 Topps - [Base] #250 - Wilt Chamberlain - Courtesy of COMC.com

1974-75 Topps – [Base] #250 – Wilt Chamberlain – Courtesy of COMC.com

Wilt’s heart didn’t seem to be in it as solely a coach, so he was one-and-done with the Q’s.  The team did make their second and final playoff appearance, and once again lost to Utah in the first round, but this time they took it to 6 games.

The third season saw two new coaches come and go and ended with a 31-53 record.

After the third season, the team was sold and the name was changed to the San Diego Sails, complete with new colors, new uniforms and mostly new players.

The team made a go of it, but struggled out of the gate, and it also became apparent that the team would never be allowed to join the NBA to compete against the Lakers in southern California.  On 11/12/75 the plug was pulled and the San Diego Sails folded, the second of three ABA teams to fold during that final ABA season.

Post-Mortem
The NBA’s Buffalo Braves moved to San Diego in 1978 and became the San Diego Clippers. That Clippers team lasted just six seasons before moving north in 1984 to become the Los Angeles Clippers. San Diego has not had an NBA team since.

Featured Cards

Red Robbins was a career ABA guy, having played in 8 seasons with 5 teams, being named All-ABA twice, and winning a league championship with the 1970-71 Utah Stars.

Travis Grant was a 1st round (13th overall) draft pick of the Lakers in 1972.  Early in his second season he was dropped by the Lakers and jumped over to the Q’s.  He’d also play in the ABA for the Kentucky Colonels and Indiana Pacers.

George Adams played in all three seasons that the team was the Conquistadors, but despite what the card says, he didn’t play for the San Diego Sails.

Other notable players
Billy Shepherd – dangerous 3-point shot guy
Chuck Williams – 2nd in the ABA in 1972/73 in Assists
Caldwell Jones – 3rd in the ABA in 1973/74 in Rebounds
Dwight “Bo” Lamar – All-Rookie for the Q’s in 1973/74, would play a season with the Lakers

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