HISTORY OF THE WESTERN BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION
Contributed by Robert Bradley, Steven Brainerd and Chris Anderson
Organized by former NBA and ABA assistant coach Larry Cregar and real estate developer Neil Christianson, the WBA attempted to lure the Anchorage Northern Knights away form the CBA but failed.
The league signed a few coaches who had been (or would become) players or coaches in the NBA or ABA, including Bucky Buckwalter (Fresno), John Wetzel (Washington), Bill Musselman (Reno), Cazzie Russell (Montana) and Larry Jones (Las Vegas). Among the better-known players were Jeff Cook, Major Jones, Mel Bennett, Brad Davis, Bill Willoughby and Mike Evans. Team rosters were limited to 11 players with a nine-man travel squad and a $10,000 minimum salary.
The league's January 18 All-Star Game in Salt Lake City was canceled, and operation of the Las Vegas franchise was taken by the league four months into the season. Financial problems continued into the playoffs as Reno's players nearly boycotted game 6 of the WBA Championship Series over playoff pay. The league held talks with the CBA over the two league merging as the United Basketball League, but the WBA folded before a merger could be agreed upon.
WBA MEMBERSHIP CHRONOLOGY 1978-79
1978-79 In- Fresno Stars 1978-79 [charter franchise] Great Falls Sky 1978-79 [charter franchise] Las Vegas Dealers 1978-79 [charter franchise] Reno Bighorns 1978-79 [charter franchise] Salt Lake City Prospectors 1978-79 [charter franchise] Tucson Gunners 1978-79 [charter franchise] Washington Lumberjacks 1978-79 [charter franchise]
WBA FRANCHISES BY SEASON 1978-79
FRE - Fresno Stars [Fresno, CA] 1978-79 GFS - Great Falls Sky [Great Falls, MT] 1978-79 LVD - Las Vegas Dealers [Las Vegas, NV] 1978-79 REN - Reno Bighorns [Reno, NV] 1978-79 SLC - Salt Lake City Prospectors [Salt Lake City, UT] 1978-79 TUC - Tucson Gunners [Tucson, AZ] 1978-79 WAS - Washington Lumberjacks [Kennewick, WA] 1978-79
1978-79 - FRE GFS LVD REN SLC TUC WAS
WBA YEARLY STANDINGS 1978-79
1978-79 WBA W L Pct. GB Tucson Gunners 32 16 .667 .. Washington Lumberjacks 29 19 .604 3 Reno Bighorns 28 20 .583 4 Fresno Stars 25 23 .521 7 Las Vegas Dealers 24 24 .500 8 Salt Lake City Prospectors 19 29 .396 13 Great Falls Sky 11 37 .229 21
WBA CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES Tucson defeated Reno 4 games to 3
WBA YEARLY AWARD WINNERS 1978-79
WBA MOST VALUABLE PLAYER 1978-79 - Jeff Cook, WAS
WBA COACH OF THE YEAR 1978-79 - Herb Brown, TUC
WBA ALL-STAR TEAM
First Team Al Smith, TUC Walt Jordon, WAS Jeff Cook, WAS Del Beshore, FRE Willie Smith, LVD
Second Team Randy Ayers, REN Jackie Robinson, LVD Major Jones, FRE Brad Davis, GFS Jim Boylan, TUC
Third Team Greg Bunch, LVD Bob Carrington, TUC Roger Brown, TUC Louie Nelson, WAS Gus Bailey, REN Sam Smith, SLC