News-Sun photo by DAN HOEHNE Wayne ÒTreeÓ Rollins was introduced as the head coach of the newly former Heartland Eagles Wednesday by American Basketball League CEO Steven Haney.
published: Friday, November 30, 2012
ABL taking smart route
By DAN HOEHNE
AVON PARK - It's OK to dream big.
But, as with most things, progress is made with baby steps.
Too often, new enterprises, leagues, dreams aim big and go big from the get-go - only to see they've tried for too much, too soon.
Steven Haney, founder and CEO of the newly formed American Basketball League, knows full well those sorts of pitfalls and has his business model set up to avoid them.
"We're going to play a regional schedule, which keeps our overhead to a minimum," he said at Wednesday's press conference at South Florida State College. "Traveling all over the country is what caused other leagues to fail, and we're starting to get a lot of attention nationally because of our business model."
That regional schedule will see the Heartland Eagles competing in the Tropics Conference, including teams in Fort Lauderdale, Davie, Palm Beach, Fort Walton Beach and Panama City.
The Lone Star Conference, spread throughout six cities in Texas, will also compete regionally.
At the end of the four-month, 24-game schedule, the top two teams in each conference will play a Final Four type playoff for the championship.
And while keeping things small in these initial stages is a key, the ideas, goals and format are big indeed.
The league is setting itself up as a minor league, along the lines of the NBA Developmental League, but to the various European leagues and thus will be competing under international rules.
"We'll teach young players how to play the international game so that we can be the developmental league to FIFA," Haney said.
And while the NBADL has a limited ceiling in players who can realistically move up, the ABL offers players, potentially, a wider array of opportunities.
"We already have relationships with a Swedish league and a league in Israel," Haney said. "And our goal is for each team to have a partner team in different European leagues."
And the local franchise also went big, both in name and stature, in introducing its' head coach, 7-foot-1, long-time NBA center Wayne "Tree" Rollins.
Born in Winter Haven, raised in Georgia, Rollins played collegially at Clemson before spending 18 years as a player with a number of NBA teams, most notably the Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons and Orlando Magic.
It was with the Magic that Rollins started to move into coaching and he is on board with the league's mission.
"It's smart to be starting with a small number of teams," he said. "Traveling is tough and playing on a regional basis is the right way to go."
Asked about his coaching philosophy, Rollins smirked and responded with "winning is my coaching philosophy," but he continued with the main purpose of the league.
"This league will help develop players with the international rules and allow them the chance to play professionally anywhere in the world," he said. "Those international teams, when they look over here for players, will be looking at the ABL."
Part of keeping things small in these early stages is also about making a mark in each teams' respective communities - primarily keeping costs low as they develop a fan-base.
"We're going to have ticket prices affordable, so that entire families can enjoy the games at a cost similar to going to a high school game," Haney said. "And we'll have some incentive type programs, like free tickets for good grades to kids in the community."
The Eagles will be playing their home games at the Panther Gym at South Florida State College, beginning in January.
For more information about the league and its' upcoming season, visit www.abl-hoops.com.
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