Houston Mavericks Fan Memories

MEMORIES OF LEE MEADE: "People didn't go to Houston Maverick games unless they liked to be alone. The crowds generally were about 200-250. Of course, back then, the Chicago Bulls were only drawing 800 per game in Chicago."

MEMORIES OF KEITH MILLER: "My dad was Slater Martin's physician during the short tenure of our Houston franchise... I have an ABA basketball signed by that maiden Mavericks team some 33 years ago. The great old Coliseum is gone now and only a memory. But those were great days!"

MEMORIES OF BOB STEVENSON: "When the Mavericks came to town, there were a bunch of us surfers called the "Almeda Gang" who surfed at Freeport, Texas and hung out at the Blaker Surfboard Shop in Houston. Most of us went to the University of Houston and loved Cougar basketball, which at the time had some pretty good teams that were nationally ranked under coach Guy Lewis (Elvin Hayes, Don Chaney era).

About ten of us started going to Maverick games and paying, I think, about $2.00 for the cheap seats in the upper rafters. We got hooked right away, although we noticed that the Sam Houston Coliseum where the Mavs played was practically empty. As the season went along, we got more and more of our surfing buddies to attend the games and by the end of the season we were about 80-100 strong. I think we were probably two-thirds of the attendance at those games. We were a very boisterous bunch and enjoyed getting on the opposing players and coaches. The Mavericks front office recognized us as die-hard fans and we became known as the unofficial Maverick Fan Club. We continued paying the cheap seat price, but we were allowed to move down to courtside during the game, usually right behind the opponents bench. Boy, we really got into it then. We would verbally abuse the coaches and players (nothing dirty or derogatory), so much so, that I believe it affected their game.

Our favorite Maverick players were Stew Johnson, Art Becker and Tony Jackson. We loved to razz opposing players such as Bob Netolicky, Larry Bunce, and Red Robbins. Our favorite coach to infuriate was Bill Sharman of the L.A. Stars, who once had to be held back by his players from climbing into the stands to confront us. All in all it was a memorable time."

MEMORIES OF DEWITT MENYARD (Mavericks player, 1967-68): "Houston was a nice place and I enjoyed playing there. I had a OK season. Slater Martin was a hot headed coach, but he knew the game and I really enjoyed playing for him. In January 1968 I was named to the first ABA All-Star team. That was a big honor because the game was going to be played in Indiana, and that's where I was from. In fact, I was the only player in the All-Star game who had played high school ball in Indiana. For me coming back to Indiana to play in the very first ABA All-Star game, well, I was excited. Playing on the same court with Doug Moe, Connie Hawkins and Larry Brown all at the same time, and holding my own. I was young at that time and I learned a lot from the older players. I played that entire first year and three months of the second year. Then my knee went out and I went over to France. I ended up staying over there as a player and a coach for over 19 years."

MEMORIES OF MICHAEL MURPHY: "Early in the 1968-69 season, the ABA took over operation of the Houston franchise. But get this -- it seems that the league was determined to get the Mavs out of Houston, and that they were going to do that by making sure the team lost, hence the incredible roster turnover. However, it seems Commissioner Mikan and Co. made a mistake by sending Levern Tart to the Mavs. It seems that Tart sparked a mini-win streak -- three straight and four out of six, including back-to-back wins at Oakland (which would win the title that year) on Feb. 9 and 11 (129-123 and 101-100). Guess who was traded after six games? That's right -- Tart. Anyway, most of the Mavs were moved to other teams, and Mikan stocked the roster with as many guys with North Carolina roots as possible (Bob Verga from Duke, Willis Bennett from Winston-Salem, and Willie Porter, a native of Winston-Salem), to make it more attractive to the Carolina bunch that was considering buying the franchise. Amazing how things worked back then, isn't it?"

MEMORIES OF MICHAEL FOULARD: "Believe it or not my friend Ron Lagrone and I were there at the very last Mavericks game in Sam Houston Coliseum. We even got a discount on the cheapest seats as we where students. Not sure but it might have cost us 3 bucks. Although the announced crowd was in the eighties we counted only 39 not counting ushers and police officers. This proved to be a difficulty for us as we where trying to drink some beer, and we were only about 17 years old. We sat in the front row and begged players for their uniforms as the game ended. I remember that the Coliseum was a real dump with rats and roaches all around."

MEMORIES OF WADE PORTER: "I saw about a dozen Maverick games. The best thing about them was that the crowds were so small that each player could hear exactly what you said to him and knew exactly who said it. The first year of the franchise I took the bus over to the Sam Houston Coliseum for a game against Dallas and their player-coach, former NBA all-star Cliff Hagan. I don't know how old Hagan was by then, but he looked about 50 to me. At any rate, I was all over him the whole game with the "old man" stuff and felt pretty good about myself until the fourth quarter. At that point, he started hitting those hook shots, one after another. After a tough Mavs loss I was sitting at the Coliseum bus stop when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I looked up, and it was Hagan glaring at me. "What have you got you say now, son?" he asked. I was petrified. But then he broke out laughing, patted my on the shoulder and went over to catch the Dallas team bus."

MEMORIES OF PAT COSGROVE: "I got to see the Mavericks a couple times when they came to Teaneck to play the New Jersey Americans They actually became a pretty decent team during the second half of the 1967-68 season. The key was Willie Somerset finally getting into good shape. Somerset was a scorer who, despite his size, really took the ball to the hole. Art Becker was a very good forward and the combination of Wilbert Frazier, Leary Lentz and Dewitt Menyard gave the Mavericks a competitive frontcourt. While it is true that Houston generally drew poorly, a little research revealed that the Mavericks averaged almost 1500 fans per game in late February and early March 1968. I even read in a old Cage Magazine that a Houston Maverick fan club was going to travel to New Orleans in March of 1968 to provide the Mavericks some support on the road. It would be neat to hear from someone who went on that trip.

The Mavericks improved, late-season play got them a first round series with a very good Dallas Chaparrals squad. The Mavs were swept in three including a one point loss in Game 1 with Somerset having a monster game. The best-attended game in the series? Over 3000 in Houston for Game 3.

After this playoff loss, Slater Martin still tried hard to put a good team together. Despite very little help from ownership, which backtracked once they couldn't sign Elvin Hayes, Martin pieced together a slightly-improved team going into 1968-69. Keith Swaggerty was a solid rebounder. Ex-Rice star Kendall Rhine was acquired from Kentucky and turned in a pretty good season. Tony Jackson and a rapidly developing Stew Johnson came from New Jersey. Plus Somerset and Becker were back. Attendance once again was very poor at the start of the year. However the numbers gradually picked up. The Mavs drew 1,700 against Rick Barry and the Oaks in November, and then actually attracted over 3,000 for a December game against New Orleans. Unfortunately ownership threw in the white towel around that time. Shortly after, George Mikan and the league came in and tore the team apart. From there on the fan support ended. Could Houston have made it? Probably not. But Slater Martin would have fought to the end. One thing is for sure. With better ownership, the Mavs would be remembered more for what they did on the court rather than for their lack of attendance."

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