Levingston Working for the PBL to Expand League in Canada

The League sent out a press release today:

PBL Announces Halifax Rainmen Owner as Director of Business Development in Canada

July 29, 2009 – Premier Basketball League (PBL)

Chicago, IL…The Premier Basketball League announced today that President and CEO of the Halifax Rainmen, Andre Levingston has been appointed Director of Business Development for the league in Canada, effective immediately.
Levingston will head up the franchise expansion and team development north of the border. “Andre knows what it takes to get a team going in Canada, his experience and knowledge gained from the Rainmen’s success makes him a natural for this position,” said Tom Doyle CEO of the PBL. “Andre’s professionalism will lend well with growing our league through-out Canada.”

Plans to expand the league in Canada will become more active now that Levingston is heading up the effort.

“I’m extremely excited the league has appointed me to this position,” said Levingston. “This gives me the opportunity to assist in growing the PBL brand in Canada while giving other cities an opportunity to have professional basketball. This also gives our college athletes the opportunity to further develop their skills after college,” added Levingston.

I am curious about whether Andre or the Rainmen will receive any financial compensation for the owner’s time, but more to the point, I think it’s a good sign that the PBL is redoubling efforts to find new franchises in Canada.  Hopefully my long standing claim that an ownership group in Moncton needs to be found for the well being of the Rainmen has not fallen on deaf ears.

Levingston is a natural salesman and his experience putting a team together from scratch makes him the ideal candidate for this kind of position, but I have to wonder how many legitimate markets there really are for minor league hoops in Canada.

  • Moncton – ideal for travel reasons, an event city, but not even close to being a basketball hotbed.
  • Montreal – dead market.  Too many failures have just wrecked that market.
  • Ottawa/Hull – Big population, popular university programs but dates for sporting events are tough to get due to the use of those spaces for conferences and the like.  The city has been pursuing a second professional team for the last few years, but they may not view the PBL as big enough for them.
  • Toronto – not buying minor league anything.
  • Burlington? Mississauga? Hamilton?  Potential markets, I suppose.
  • Winnipeg? Flights only and well outside the footprint, but who knows what US teams will appear in the west in the coming years?  There’s already rumours of a team in Vegas.
  • Saskatoon?  Regina?  There have been minor league hoops teams in Sasketchewan before, but I just don’t know enough about the place to make a call on it.
  • Calgary?  Edmonton?  Edmonton have an IBL team, but they’ve drawn about 300 a game for the last two years despite getting an impressive amount of media attention.  Who knows if winter sports will do better?  I feel like you’d need both Calgary and Edmonton on board to make any of the traveling work.
  • Vancouver?  Victoria?  Burnaby/Richmond/Coquitlim?  I can’t see the math working on flying into Vancouver for anyone unless a few teams on the pacific are added.

So as it stands I’d have to say that a Toronto suburb, Moncton and Ottawa are probably the best targets, but even then I think we’re three or more years away from seeing any real movement on this.

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Season Will Be 20 Games Next Year

The spring PBL owners meeting happened this week and the Metro interviewed Andre to get some details.
The big thing to note is the season will be 20 games again next year.  Andre and the organization are looking at adding two MetroCentre home games.

Other things that I’ve heard are that Montreal, Mid-Michigan, Chicago and Augusta are out for next year.

Rainmen Back in PBL, Looking to Hire Out of Town Sales Manager

Two stories popped up this week after a long lull in Rainmen media coverage.

First, we have confirmation that the Rainmen will be back in the PBL next year but will be paying even more of their opponents travel.  I understand the logic of the Rainmen paying a bit more for travel but I just think it’s instituted unfairly and unevenly – did Augusta or Wilmington pay extra for travel for their home and away games?  If Battle Creek are isolated in the mid-West will they be out of the travel pool?  The fairer system in my mind would be for each team to recieve a set amount of money for travel, and teams in the outskirts of the footprint subsidize the remainder of the travel costs caused by their geographic location.  Oh well, at least we know Halifax are back in the league next year.

The second piece of news was in today’s Chronicle Herald.  Andre Levingston is recruiting a sales manager from Toronto who has worked with Maple Leaf Entertainment and the Argos, a man named Kevin Matchett.  I think this is a fantastic move, and one that is absolutely neccassary.  They need dedicated and experienced sales staff, both to make sales and to train additional sales staff.  Jad, Andre and Nancy can’t be doing group sales – they have other roles and other skills.  The Rainmen simply have sold as many group and season ticket packages as they can sell on word of mouth, now they need more a aggressive sales strategy.  My one concern is that it seems a bit odd that Matchett is mentioned by name since it’s still in negotiations.

Rochester vs. Battle Creek: Live Blog of the PBL Finals

Some formatting made me lose the whole post, so I am live blogging starting at 8:19

8:19:  Sammy Monroe of the Razor Sharks breaks the backboard on a breakaway dunk.  Same thing happend last year and it took 40 minutes to clean up.  What is up with the rims in Rochester?  The announcers have been total homers all night, calling the Rochester players by their nicknames (“Oh no, watch out!  Here comes Slamming Sammy!”)

8:26  They cut to a commercial after the break… but now they’re just running a graphic with no sound for the last six minutes.  Fantastic webcast!

8:30 Still on an empty graphic with no audio.  People are coming online trying to watch the game and are very confused since the graphic has no explanation.

8:31 The folks on the live chat are now tossing around conspiracy theories.  I don’t think I buy it, but Monroe looked DESPERATE to get to the rim with a dunk.  He got fouled on one attempt earlier and got blocked right afterwards.  It seems fishy but I am not crazy enough to suggest that this was a set up.

8:35 GOLF?!  They JUST cut to golf!   No explanation.  Great production values, PBL.  Professional!

8:38  It appears to be amateur golf players who had their buddy tape them on a hand held digital recorder… they’re terrible.

8:40 Still golf.  So bad.  At least at this rate I won’t have to choose between the PBL finals and Gossip Girl.

8:41  The show is called “Real Guys, Real Golf” which would explain why one of the dudes attempted a 60 foot put from the rough and the loudest guy is fatter than Xavier Morton.

8:44  According to someone on the live chat they’re gluing the new back board in place… by which I assume they’re collecting the shards of the shattered backboard and reassembaling it piece by piece.  That would explain the delay.

8:57 The rim broke 38 minutes ago and the webcast still has no explanation for what’s going on.  I am currently watching 6 middle aged men eat lunch after a round of golf.  They’re not kidding when they call this “real guys, real golf.”  It’s just too real for me.

8:59  40 minues… no word on the webcast.  But the PBL sure got a picture on its website in a hurry!

9:03  I think some awful MMA action is now on… but so is Gossip Girl!  Line of the night: After it’s suggested to Blair that she attend NYU: “Just because I lost out on Yale does not mean that I am settling for some non-Ivy reading Beloved six times and experimenting with lesbianism.”  It’s no “Princeton is a trade school, there is only Yale” but it’s pretty awesome. Fuck the PBL, the real action is on the A-Channel right now.

9:07 I take it back, this is actually a decent fight.  Both guys have pretty good BJJ.

9:16  Chuck Liddell is corning one of the guys in this heavy weight fight… so strange!

9:26 I checked Sherdog.com and this fight is from March, 2008… that is some impressive programming that At-sports TV has some real A-list programming.

10:09 Questionable charge call (guy was clearly still sliding to the side) on Battle Creek.  The reffing has been just terrible. 63-49 for Rochester.

9:27 ONE HOUR AND TEN MINUTES!

9:28 AND WE’RE BACK!!!!! Showing highlights from last year!

9:29 AND WE’RE BACK FOR REAL!

9:31 Since Gossip Girl is still on I am only watching the game on with the sound on when the commercials are on.

9:33 17-9 for Rochester.  Battle Creek can’t get their defense going.

9:35 BC’s getting the turnover machines going.  Big steal by Johnson.

9:38 Whatever happend to Ron Rollerson?  He just disapeared from the Rochester roster with a few weeks left in the regular season but no mention was ever made on the transactions page…. hmmm….

9:41 a Rochester player is getting blood wiped off him… and it’s taking three minutes.  The rules are that he needs to be subbed out.  The officials would never be biased in Rochester would they?

9:46  Battle Creek narrowed the gap to six but Rochester are scoring inside whenever they want.

9:48 It’s the end of the first quarter and the Battle Creek Knights trail the Rochester Screw Jobs 35-26.

9:52 Morton and Reeves continue to dominate inside, lots of offensive rebounds.  Monroe threw down another dunk.  Unlike most guys he actually dunks in traffic and takes it hard to the rim.  It’s impressive.53-27 for the Screw Jobs.

9:58 Alan White got a techinical for no appearant reason… this is getting embarassing.  This is ABAish. 53-36.

10:03  Keith Friel mugs a Battle Creek player in the lane – he gets both arms on a shot attempt.  No call.  He’s the MVP.

10:15 This has been a chippy game, but you have to wonder if the fouls and injuries are going to add up in a hurry for the Knights.  The more fouls and the more physical the game is the better it is for the screw jobs.

10:19 It’s half time and it’s 71-55 for the Screw Jobs.

10:31 Interview with the owner of the PBL/Rochester… he claims that the PBL offered to buy the D-league… huh…

10:38  Rochester keep throwing a zone at the Knights, which is somehow giving them fits.  You’d think an undersized team would be better from the outside, but the Knights seem to rely on generating turnovers and just running on teams.

10:40 Another blown call.  Westby gets his fourth foul on what should have been a charge call.  It was hard to see at full speed so I won’t get too worked up about this one.

10:42  Keith Langhorne needs to heat up if Battle Creek are going to win this.

10:43  The announcers both have huge man crushes on Keith Friel. They’re drooling all over their microphones.

10:49 97-66… this is either going to be the greatest comeback ever, or a really terrible showcase for the PBL.

10:50  Battle Creek are now just out of gas.  Unless something crazy happens the Rochester Screw Jobs are just going to keep extending this lead.

10:58 How is this even fun for Rochester fans?  Your team gets a blow out win because of the screw job that the league laid on the other team.  Doesn’t that feel empty? How can you really enjoy watching this?

11:09 113-87 and Battle Creek are trying as hard as they can to get back in this.  They’re creating turnovers and playing hard.  I just don’t know if they have enough time or enough horses to make this come back.

11:13 Xavier Morton looks much better for Rochester than he ever did for Montreal.  I really think Halifax should have pursued him when Montreal went under.

11:17.  The refs are making sure that Rochester do not blow this win.  Rochester player steals the ball and slides seven feet across the floor on his back.  At the end of his long slide he calls a time out.  That should have been a travel.

11:27   God god, this game is not going to end before midnight.

11:34  30 seconds left, Rochester make a douchebag showboat dunk.  Game’s done.  What a disaster for the league.  This is just bad.

AJ Millien Named to All-PBL Second Team

Only one Rainman made an All-PBL team list this year and it was on the strength of his play for another franchise.  AJ Millien was named to the second team. I really thought that Tony Bennett was one of the best all-around guards in the league, but could you really justify putting two Halifax players in the top 11?(Why on earth is it not ten?)  I can certainly justify two Halifax players before I could justify two Detroit players.  They finished 4 games below .500 and were never even in the play-off hunt, and played in an incredibly weak division. In fact, the first team has three players whose teams won a combined 11 games!  You’d need to add Buffalo, Detroit and Quebecs total wins together just to get one game over .500 on the season.  Absurd.

The other major shocker to me is that Manchester, despite winning a tough division and playing high quality ball.  You can’t tell me that Al Stewart or Desmond Ferguson don’t at least deserve to be second team all-stars.

First Team:

Keith Friel Guard Rochester RazorSharks
Rashi Johnson Guard Battle Creek Knights
Randy Gill Guard Detroit Panthers
Cedric McGinnis Forward Wilmington Sea Dawgs
Tyrone Rayson Forward Buffalo Stampede
Jonas Pierre Center Quebec Kebs

2008-09 PBL ALL-LEAGUE SECOND TEAM

Player Position Team
Alex Harper Guard Wilmington Sea Dawgs
Benson Callier Guard Vermont Frost Heaves
James Reaves Forward Rochester RazorSharks
AJ Millien Forward Halifax Rainmen
Walt Waters Center Detroit Panthers


My picks for year end awards after the jump:

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Wilmngton Defeat Vermont, 96-90

Vermont almost made a big comeback bet fell short.  It was a very, very good game from what I saw.  This means that former Rainman Kadiri Richard will be in the semi-finals.

I passed in the final draft of my honours thesis yesterday so I’ll start up all the season wrap up posts starting tomorrow.

Millien Clinches PBL Scoring Title

Congratulations are in order for AJ “Slim” Millien after he clinched the PBL scoring title tonight.  Tyronne Rayson of the Buffalo Stampede could have caught him in the scoring race and tried his best by putting up 37 points against Battle Creek, but Millien just pulled it out.  His scoring numbers (along with his minutes and shots) plummetted after joining the Rainmen from Augusta but a couple of high scoring affairs against Montreal kept him from losing too much ground.

He also finished 7th in rebounds (9.5 per game) and fourth in blocks (1.4 per game).  Millien is a great power forward and I hope Halifax can bring him back next year.  However, the only way that that will happen is if the new coach commits to getting him more touches and minutes and makes him the centre (or at least second option) in the offense.  And it’s important that the coach, not the owner, makes that commitment.

Vermont Clinch Wildcard, Halifax Almost Certainly Out of Play Offs

Vermont, unsurprisingly, thrashed the Buffalo Stampede today in Barre, VT.  As a result Halifax are almost certainly out of the play offs.  This means that Halifax cannot overtake Vermont for one of the wildcard spots, but there is a very, very slim chance that Halifax could finish with a better record than one of the Eastern conference teams:

  • If Halifax win all their remaining games they will finish 13-7
  • If Rochester (11-3) lose at least four of their five last games (3 against Buffalo, one against Wilmington, one against Chicago) they would finish 12-7, and Halifax would win.  If Rochester lose three games and finish 13-6, Rochester technically win the tie break by virtue of having a higher win percentage, but that would be pure chaos since they’re playing one less game due to a rival folding.
  • If Wilmington (12-4) lose their last 4 games (3 to Detroit, one to Rochester) they would finish 12-8, and Halifax would make the play offs.  If they lose 3 games, including one to Rochester Halifax are still out of the play offs since the Sea Dawgs have a better record against Divisional opponents at 8-1.  (The tie break system is a bit complicated)

So Halifax fans are either relying on Buffalo to suddenly turn it around in a huge way, or else we’re sitting around hoping that our favourite player, Randy “White Chocolate” Gill, has three insane games in a row against Wilmington.

Things aren’t looking good but the Rainmen have only themselves to blame.  They lost two games that they had no business losing at the MetroCentre against Quebec and Montreal, and had a good opportunity to defeat Vermont in Nova Scotia.   The MetroCentre should be a fortess for the Rainmen, but that really hasn’t been ths case this year.

The Play Off Picture

Manchester just clinched the divisional title which means if Halifax or Vermont want to get into the play offs it will be a fight for one of the wild card spots.

So here is basically how things need to break down for Halifax to get the wild card spot to play a one game play off to make the post season (most likely against Rochester or Wilmington):

Halifax need to win TWO more of the remain games than Vermont do since Vermont hold the tie breaker. Remaining games:
Vermont: Quebec, Montreal, Quebec, Buffalo (Best possible record: 14-6)
Halifax: Buffalo, Manchester, Montreal and Montreal again (assuming that game that was postponed gets played) (Best possible record: 13-7)

So basically Vermont need to lose two games that on paper they should win and Halifax need to win a game that on paper they should lose.  I just don’t see it likely happening.  Halifax did win their last home game against the Millrats (an absolutely thrilling Thursday night game) and the roster changes that the two teams have undergone since then actually make me think that Halifax have gotten better while Manchester have maybe slightly regressed – so I see Halifax as actually having a better than 50% chance of pulling that one out.  But I don’t know which two of those games I can see Vermont losing: Montreal’s new roster is an absolute disaster, and Buffalo have the worst record in the PBL (with a chance to finish with the worst record in league history).  Quebec might be able to win one of those games if they’re firing on all cylinders, but two?  I just don’t know.

There is another, very unlikely scenario which is Halifax and Vermont both making the wildcard game by virtue of one of the two contending Eastern Conference teams (Wilmington and Rochester) having a melt down.

The Sea Dawgs (12-4) have three games remaining and could possibly finish 12-7 if they lose to Rochester (possible) and then drop both games to Detroit (not so likely but not impossible).

Rochester have a whopping 7 games left and could theoretically finish 9-10 if they lost every single game… more plausible would be losses to Augusta and Buffalo (plus a win vs. Augusta, a win against Chicago, one against Wilmington and two wins against Buffalo) which would leave them at 13-6.

Flip that game between the two teams and you can switch their records around.  Materially it’s the same thing in terms of its affect on Halifax and Vermont.

This would put Rochester or Wilmington in the play offs and the other team on the outside looking in with Halifax and Vermont playing in Vermont for the wildcard spot by virtue of having higher win percentages.  The major problem with this scenario is that both Rochester and Wilmington have only 19 games on their schedules by virtue of other teams running poorly.  Rochester have a game that was supposed to be played against the now defunct Mid-Michigan Destroyers, and Wilmington have a game which may or may not be re-played against Montreal.  Both games were easy wins for the Eastern Division team. It would be an absolute disaster for the league to have a team not make the play offs because they couldn’t finish their schedule due to no fault of their own.

Solution:  Wilmington should play Rochester.  That way each team plays a full 20 game schedule and whether they make the play offs or not is in their own hands.

So the reader’s digest version of this post:  Halifax need to win every game and at least one of its rivals needs to lose multiple games that they should win.  As fans all we can do is go out to games and cheer them on, hoping for wins.  It doesn’t look good on paper but fortunately for the Rainmen, basketball isn’t played on paper.

Rainmen May Get Booted From PBL?

Wow.  This is a bit of a surprise:

“It might look nice and good up there in Halifax but our marketing people gave us reasons why we shouldn’t keep (the Rainmen),” said Severko Hrywnak, chairman of the board. “Halifax isn’t around the corner. You could take two steps back and look at it as a business model …nobody would have Halifax in. You’re too far away. The costs are astronomical.”

This kind of comes out of the blue and Levingston seems equally shocked by it.  He indicates in the article that this is the first he’s hear about it which is worrisome.  That shows a strange lack of communication on the part of the league.  Andre is likley not in a good mood today.

That said I do understand where the other owners are coming from to a degree – Halifax ain’t cheap and the only way to make minor league hoops work at this level is to cluster teams.  But Halifax isn’t the only team posing travel problems.  Wilmington is also pretty far out of the way:

  • Wilmington to Burlington VT: 15 .5 Hours
  • Wilmington to Rochester NY: 13 hours

Halifax is 13.5 hours away from Burlington, Vermont.  So it is not the absolute longest trip in the PBL. (or at least is not by a huge amount).  In addition, it’s not the greatest cost.  Propping up teams like Montreal, Augusta and the mid-west teams when they can’t make ends meet is the greatest cost to this league both in terms of finances and in terms of PR capital.  Halifax pay for their own webcasts which increases brand value for the whole league.  Combined with Rochester the Rainmen boost average attendance in the league to a semi-respectable level and the Halifax media account for at least 50% of the total media the league and its teams earn.  I can’t imagine that teams/the league pay more for less in Halifax than they do in Augusta (another place which is not physically close to anyone but Wilmington).  If it’s about slicing up the pie when it comes to national ad revenue it is awfully hard to generate revenue when you lose 50% of your “televised games,” 50% of your earned media, have a reduced average attendance, and are likely to only get six to nine solid teams in the league next year (Wilmington, Vermont, Manchester, Quebec, Rochester and possibly Battle Creek, Buffalo and a team like Nashville or Albany from another league).

So what are the solutions?  Halifax should make every effort to stay in the PBL: it’s the right level of league cost wise for them and the continuity of staying in one place for more than a year is imporant.  It may be too late for another D-league push, and travel may be an issue for them but Levngston at least needs to make a phone call.  The CBA is going to be desperate for teams but Halifax will be even further out of their footprint if they can even get it off the ground.  I still think that Moncton helps alleviate many of the travel costs if they can convince someone to put a team there and it almost seems like they need to get a regional partner no matter what league they join.

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