Most of the ink and airtime goes to the Rascals and the Grizzlies -- and no, we don't mean the NBA Grizzlies -- but the real minor-league success story is the St. Louis Swarm of the International Basketball League. In the Swarm's first two years, they've won the IBL championship twice; you can't do better than that. The Swarm's coach is Bernie Bickerstaff, former coach of the Seattle Supersonics of the National Basketball Association and general manager of the Denver Nuggets. This past season, Bickerstaff's team finished with a 43-7 record before beating the Grand Rapids Hoops, a fugitive team from the defunct Continental Basketball Association. The Swarm averaged 3,324 attendees this season, down from 4,515 last year. That was good enough for second in the league, but team ownership had wanted to bring in about 6,000 fans a game by the second year. So the Swarm will not play next season, though the owner says there's a better-than-50-percent chance the team will return for the 2002-03 season. One problem may be that the games are in the Family Arena in St. Charles, and though lots of folks have moved west of the Missouri River, most basketball fans are miles away and the Interstate 70 bridge bottleneck and the I-270 interchange may be disincentives. But because the NBA boneheads scuttled Bill Laurie's attempt to return NBA basketball to St. Louis by buying the Grizzlies (now the Memphis Grizzlies), the Swarm is the best we can do.
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