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'Devastating' day for Thunder
By Craig DeVrieze/ QUAD-CITY TIMES

John Coker wasn’t sweating his future Thursday night after getting the official news from coach Bob Thornton that the Quad-City Thunder’s season is over.

The 7-foot-1 center already has spent a month in the NBA this season after renewing his career here. By Thursday afternoon, Coker said his agent had fielded offers from several International Basketball League teams and at least a couple of overseas clubs.

“It’s the other guys who may not have other opportunities and the people who are left out of work who I feel for,’’ Coker said Thursday night.

That includes people such as Thunder general manager Kim Evans, first-year Thunder play-by-play announcer Brian Sieman and office manager Sonya Brewer.

Thunder players, who missed last week’s paychecks, will be paid through last Saturday’s final game. That is according to Ivan Thornton, who heads the trust that Thursday ceased its attempts to sell the CBA for Isiah Thomas.

He said non-player salary issues will be determined today.

Rookie head coach Bob Thornton and his assistant Gary Kloppenburg also are owed back pay. Thornton is among several angry CBA employees who will seek legal counsel on those questions.

Thursday, though, the coach was less perturbed about the paychecks he has missed than the opportunities he and his team now will miss.

“You want to finish what you started,’’ said Thornton, an eight-year NBA player who was getting his first opportunity as a head coach. “And I find it extremely frustrating that a league that has survived for more than 50 years falls apart in 15 months.’’

The latter is the length of the tenure of another ex-NBA player as owner and operator of both the Thunder and the CBA. In October 1999, Thomas took over ownership of what started as the Eastern Basketball Association in 1946 and became the CBA in 1980.

Thursday, his reign ended when Ivan Thornton and the trust working to sell it gave up those efforts and said it would turn the teams back over to their former owners.

Former Thunder owner Jay Gellerman was among many ex-owners who said they are not interested. The CBA has suspended operations, and the Thunder are not likely to play another game.

For players such as Coker and recently named Thunder All-Stars Chris Garner and Jamel Thomas, that’s an inconvenience.

For Brewer, it is more. She must worry about paying bills, but said she believes she will find work in her field of accounting. It is the unfinished work with the Thunder she regrets.

“It is devastating because of the work we have done to promote the new and improved Thunder,’’ she said Thursday night.

Sieman, who left a radio and front-office job with the Des Moines Dragons of the International Basketball Association for what he thought was a better opportunity last summer, will be hard-pressed to find basketball play-by-play work at this juncture of the season.

Still, like Brewer, he rued the end of the Thunder, not of his job.

“It is a great league that had everything but money,’’ he said of the CBA.

He said he has no regrets.

“The work I did here was so educational,’’ Sieman said. “I don’t regret leaving a job I might have had for the rest of my life for a second. I have learned so much.’’

For point guard Garner, a job might await in his hometown of Memphis. While home during the last week’s midseason CBA break, he said he received countless calls from the Memphis Houn’Dawgs, a member of the first-year ABA.

He said he never hesitated to turn those down to return here Thursday. Somehow, he said, he thought the CBA would survive its latest crisis.

“I had established myself here, and the team believed in me,’’ said Garner, a fourth-year pro who led the CBA in steals. “I was the leader of this team, and I wasn’t going to bail on them.’’

Kipp Christianson, a backup center with fewer professional options, said he came to the Thunder thinking it offered his best chance to establish himself as a pro after a couple of bad experiences overseas.

“I came here like this was going to be my last chance,’’ he said.

Now, it might be. At 7-foot, Christianson also has had calls from IBL teams.

Instead, he said, “I’m thinking law school.”

Portions of qcthunder.com use information from the Quad-City Times that is no longer being linked to on their site.