are history, but memories won’t die
By Craig DeVrieze / QUAD-CITY TIMES
The CBA’s first family took the news of
the demise of the league and the Quad-City Thunder about like
you might expect.
The Thunder’s First Lady did, too.
“It is probably one of the saddest days of my life,” Anne
Potter DeLong said Friday. She was the Thunder’s sole owner
from the November 1987 night when the Q-C team tipped off through
“I gave everything I could. I loved the
game and I loved the Thunder.”
Mauro and Dan Panaggio coached 759 CBA victories between them,
445 of those Thunder wins. Each has about that many memories.
“I am crushed by the whole thing,” Dan
Panaggio said from Indiana University, where, sensing the trouble
lay ahead for the CBA and the Thunder, he took an assistant coaching
job last fall.
“I remember great years, exciting years, great relationships.
Now, it’s like my former high school — there are
a lot of memories there, too,” said Dan, the second-winningest
coach in CBA history.
“But guess what? It closed down and it doesn’t exist
anymore. But there are a lot of people out there whose memories
you can’t ever take away.”
Mauro, who retired in 1996 as the winningest coach in CBA history,
watched the CBA grow from a van league to a bus league to the
most competitive professional basketball league this side of
“I am very saddened,” said the senior Panaggio,
who coached the Thunder for their first four seasons before turning
over the reins to his son. “A big part of my life was devoted
to that league. I have a lot of fond memories. And some not so
Friday was a day for fond memories.
Former Thunder star Bill Jones remembered the
close crowds at Wharton Field House and the bells that greeted
former chief rival
Charley Rosen of Rockford after Rosen dubbed cozy Wharton “The
Jones joined the Thunder in 1988, but said he
was first charmed by the Field House when, as an Iowa Hawkeye
senior, he watched
ex-teammate Kevin Gamble play there for Thunder in ’87.
“People felt close to you, felt like they were part of
it,” he said.
DeLong and the Panaggios remembered others who
will forever be remembered as part of the Thunder’s lore.
Like Don Mason, a do-everything front-office asset from the
first year until
cancer claimed him in 1995. And Fred Radunzel, who joined the
staff in 1988 and was claimed by cancer last April after a difficult
year in his dream job of general manager.
“There was a character,” Dan Panaggio said of the
league and the team. “Anne Potter DeLong poured her heart
and soul into that operation. There was my father, and all the
things that he did. And when you think about it, Fred Radunzel
literally poured his life into that team.
“I remember all of that.”
Said DeLong: “There were a tremendous amount
of people who tried to make the CBA work and who put their
money and selves into it. It is just sad.”
Seconded Jay Gellerman, who bought the team from
DeLong and sold it to Isiah Thomas 15 months ago: “I
really feel bad for the community. It is losing an asset to
the quality of life
here. This is, was, good basketball. We are not going to see
that quality of basketball here again.”
Mauro Panaggio said it was a sad day for the future as well.
“Mostly, I feel badly for the players yet to come, the
ones who won’t have the opportunity the CBA provided,” he
Yes, he said, the National Basketball Developmental
League that the NBA plans to launch next fall will fill that
bill for some.
He doesn’t know, though, if it will be there for players
like former Thunder star Chris Childs, who labored in obscurity
for four years, battled off-court problems, found his stride
with Dan Panaggio’s 1993-94 CBA champions and graduated
to NBA stardom.
“The new league will give a kid a year or two and then
forget them,” the old coach said.
Said Dan Panaggio: “They can have the NBDL.
They will never have a Don Mason, a Fred Radunzel or a Crazy
I emphasize the Crazy.
“It had a lot of character to it, and it can’t be
duplicated,” he said of the CBA. “It can’t
be the same because you had an open system and you made it on
“You had great players like Anthony Bowie,
Kevin Gamble and Derek Strong. It was great basketball and
it was a challenge
“Think back to the golden years in the
early 1990s, when you had some of the best coaches in basketball,
in my opinion.
Bill Musselman, Flip Saunders, George Karl, John Treloar, Eric
Musselman, my father ... You did your job and you got what you
Said Potter DeLong: “I love my wonderful
memories and I will cherish them always.”