Since we last left the Lima Explosion, the team has undergone a Hollywood-like facelift.
The coach is gone.
The owner has moved to Columbus.
Key players have left.
And the team has even found a new place to play.
But through it all, the Explosion is back for its second year of operation in the ABA (American Basketball Association).
“We’re not the NBA, but we want to be that pro team for Lima and involved with community projects,” Explosion general manager and coach Lewis Shine said.
To start with the changes, let’s begin with the owner John Bell. He still owns the team, but has moved to Columbus for his job.
“John is still the owner, but I run the day-to-day operation,” Shine said.
As for last year’s coach, Quincey Simpson resigned before the season opened last weekend. He cited personal reasons, but it was also a salary-related decision.
“We were negotiating a contract and it wasn’t something he wanted to accept,” Shine said. “We couldn’t come to a contractual agreement.”
With that sudden move, Shine, who played at Miami, added head coach to his general manager duties. Shine had been the assistant coach for ABA’s Denver in 2004-05.
The Explosion finished 15-5 last year, but looking over the schedule/results from last year, games were canceled or postponed nearly every other week.
Some days, teams wouldn’t show up and another team would be called hours before game time to replace them. Other times, teams would roll into the Elida Fieldhouse 20 minutes after the scheduled tipoff.
Shine briefly looked into going to another league, but said playing in an upgraded league would cost the team at least a $250,000 entry fee.
Hence, the Explosion is back in the ABA.
This year Shine feels better about the ABA teams he has scheduled.
“I went to an ABA league meeting in September and the head of the league said he has a no tolerance policy on that (teams not showing up or showing up late),” Shine said. “We feel the teams we are dealing with this year are a lot more credible.”
The roster has some familiar faces, but lost several standouts from last year.
Gone from a year ago are 6-foot-7 James Hicks (Indiana Tech), 6-6 Bryant Austin (Indiana Tech) and 6-7 D’Angelo Jordan (Tiffin).
Also gone is guard Clyde McKinney (Indiana Tech), guard Adam Stolly (Captial) and Ohio State/Shawnee product Jamar Butler, who was injured most of last season.
For many of those players, financial issues played a part in them not coming back.
Austin, Butler and Hicks have all been in camp with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the Developmental League. A final Mad Ants’ roster isn’t listed on their website.
So who is back?
Veterans returning from last year include 6-5 leaping machine Greg Tyson (Heidelberg/Lima Senior), long-range shooter 5-8 Willie Tisdale (Cameron/Lima Senior), 6-7 guard Geoff Reeder (UNOH), 6-6 Kyle Meyer (Ohio Northern/Columbus Grove), 6-8 Kyle Gillette (UNOH) and 6-3 Lemar Pughsley (Tiffin/OSU-Lima/Rhodes State).
Rounding out the eight-player roster are 6-5 guard Antonio Tyree (OSU-Lima/Rhodes State) and 6-5 Justin Horne (Western Texas/Fostoria).
The Explosion (1-1) kicked off last weekend with two home games. They lost 106-99 to the Cleveland Am Pro’ers and defeated Cleveland 105-102
Meyer averaged 29 points in the two games, while Gillette averaged 26. Tisdale averaged 15.5, while Tyson scored 19 in the second game. Horne scored 17 the first night.
“We have a nice core,” Shine said.
Shine wouldn’t reveal what the players are scheduled to get paid, but said, “Guys in the ABA make about $100 a game.”
The Explosion also has a new home, as it has moved from the Elida Fieldhouse to Msgr. Herr Gymnasium at Lima Central Catholic.
Playing at LCC, the travel and the insurance adds up and Shine said he is looking for sponsors.
“The gym rental for LCC is $20,000 alone,” he said. “I’m still out there hitting the pavement (for money). Our sponsorships are ahead of last year, but we’re still looking for the support.”
Shine also wants to branch out to the community.
“We want to get out to schools,” Shine said. “We want to do clinics, talks and reading to the kids.”
The Explosion has 30 games scheduled, with 20 at home. It’ll play on every Sunday and most Saturdays through March 10.
Tickets are $5 for general admission and $10 for courtside. The Explosion is at Peoria on Saturday and will play host to the Pontiac Firebirds (Mich.) at 3 p.m. Sunday at LCC.
Last year’s big rival, the Chicago Steam, is back for two games, but won’t come to Lima until March 10.
So after steering around numerous financial craters and potholes, the Explosion is back for Year 2.