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ThunderDawgs not leaving yet

The main office is empty, but the league president said the team is staying in Tampa Bay.

By MIKE READLING

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 3, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- If you walk past their main office downtown or call for information about the Tampa Bay ThunderDawgs, it might appear as if the team left town.

The offices are cleaned out, the phone number is disconnected and the coach is gone. It seems as if Tampa Bay has lost its only professional basketball franchise.

But that's not the case, said American Basketball Association 2000 president and co-founder Joe Newman. At least not yet.

"The ThunderDawgs are still there," Newman said. "Right now Tampa Bay is staying in Tampa Bay."

Newman said a scheduled meeting between him and the team's owners, including Art Blackwell III, was postponed until May 14. At that time topics such as league expansion and relocation will be discussed and everyone will have a better idea of what next season will look like.

Blackwell could not be reached and officials at the Times Arena at Bayfront Center, where the ThunderDawgs play, did not return phone messages.

Newman said the only teams guaranteed to move before next season are Memphis, which will head to Long Island, N.Y., and San Diego, which moves up the coast to Yuma City, Calif.

He said he didn't know what Blackwell's plans are for a ThunderDawgs team that went 15-26 in its inaugural season and lost coach Gordon Gibbons to Clayton State University in Morrow, Ga., on Tuesday. The Dawgs had poor attendance, drawing about 250 per game, and fired coach Darryl Dawkins eight games into the season.

"My feeling is ... I have no feeling," Newman said. "I don't know what he's planning to do. There has been no conversation about moving the team. I told him a while ago there were a couple of people interested in having a team. I guess we'll know after the 14th."

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