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Greater Tulsa Reporter


Minor League Basketball Plans for Area Return

By GLENN HIBDON
GTR Sports Writer

TITAN MANAGEMENT: The Tulsa Titan front office team includes, from left, Head Coach Galen Springer, General Manager Mark Creed, Director of Operations and Marketing Scott Hansen, Team Owner Michael Muhle and Director of Entertainment Jordan Bradley. The Titans plan to play their first two home games at the MVSKOKE Dome in Okmulgee with the remaining home games to be played in the brand new Titan Center located in Jenks. 


Courtesy MARK CREED


Minor league professional basketball will try to take root in the Tulsa area once more when the Tulsa Titans are born for the 2017-18 season.

 A member of the American Basketball Association, the semi-pro Titans will try and succeed where the Tulsa Fast Breakers, Zone, 66ers and Twisters failed. The brainchild of Claremore businessman Mike Muhle, the team will play in a new facility with a first-year head coach and a burning desire for a positive future.

 “I love basketball,’’ says Muhle, who owned the now defunct ABA franchise in Bartlesville. “I had heart failure two and a half years ago and I thought, why wait? It got me motivated because I didn’t know if tomorrow was coming. I thought why keep working when I can work my passion.’’

 Muhle, a concert promoter and a previous school counselor at Cooper Elementary in Tulsa, is filling the void left by the departure of the Twisters for Fort Worth this season. Gaylen Springer is the Titans’ head coach, with former Twisters staff member Mark Creed serving as general manager.

  Springer, a 60-year-old member of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe, is said to be the first full blooded Native American to reach this level in basketball coaching. He served at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, as an assistant coach for both the men’s and women’s team.     

 Since 2010, Springer had been coaching men’s independent teams and helping with high school programs.

 “I still want to coach and my goal is to win the ABA championship for the Titans and Tulsa,’’ says Springer, who lives in Stillwater. “I bring consistency, determination and overall continuity, some of the things I’ve learned. I know Bill Self and I’ve met Roy Williams and Frank Martin by doing a lot of clinics. I’ve learned a lot from different coaches about the philosophy of basketball.’’    

Although Springer has never served as a head coach before, confidence is not a problem for him entering the ABA. The Titans will play 20-22 games in the Great Plains Division, consisting of the Topeka Steel, St. Louis Spirit, St. Joseph Shield, Kansas City Soul, Colorado Kingz, Colorado Cougars and Salina Saints.

The Titans will play the Oklahoma City Outlaws, a member of another minor league, in preseason games. The ABA has more than 100 teams also playing in foreign countries and 64 qualify for postseason in the USA with 32 automatic bids. Playoffs begin in March.

Creed, a Wellington, Kansas, native, says the Titans will begin play before Thanksgiving, but the home opener may not come until January when the new Ultimate Performance Complex is completed in Jenks. Creed says the $8 million facility will contain eight basketball courts, one with grandstand seating for the Titans, indoor soccer fields and a gymnastics arena.

Creed, a former high school coach, says the team is currently holding tryout camps at the UPC facility at 56th Street and Garnett Road. Camp starts the first week in October. ABA players must be at least 18 and receive no pay for play.

“This is an opportunity for players to improve their skills and possibly get a contract in the D-League or overseas,’’ says the GM. “A lot of the players are able to go internationally. There are no salaries, but they can make money by what they bring to the team, selling t-shirts, tickets and promoting themselves. It’s a chance for them to learn the business side of the ABA.  

Both Muhle and Creed agree that the secret for the Titans to survive where other teams have failed is through community involvement. The plan calls for players to interact with kids through promotions and clinics.

 “The key is to bring in good, quality players who are doing things with their lives like working and going to school,’’ Muhle says. “A lot of our players might have lost scholarships or dropped out of college. They may not have been seen in high school, and the ABA gives them a chance to been seen all over the country.

 “They can learn how to make money and they will be running teams as we go along. They can be GMs and they can help teams grow. They take those skills back to communities. We’re (the ABA) getting a reputation about what we’re doing with our players. I talked to a player last night who had a tryout with the D-League.’’

 Muhle, a Wynoka native, said 30 percent of ABA players signed contracts last season and the league maintains a website broken down into statistical categories where higher franchises can search for help in particular areas of the game.

 After all is said and done, the Titans must obviously provide entertaining basketball on court to attract and please its prospective fans. Springer is confident he can provide what’s needed to make the franchise successful.

 “We will have a quick team, a fast team with players who are disciplined and hard workers,’’ Springer says. “We want them to play at a high level because this is a starting block, a foundation. This is the first stop for them and they will know it’s an opportunity.’’

 This is the chance not only Springer, Muhle and Creed have also been waiting for but perhaps the final go-round for professional basketball in Tulsa. The ball will soon be bouncing, but in which direction?

Updated 10-02-2017

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