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Kentucky Mavericks to cease operations

By JOSEPH RUSSELL The Messenger-Inquirer

OWENSBORO -- The Kentucky Mavericks organization is closing its doors.

After two successful seasons in Owensboro, including a runner-up finish to the Premier Basketball League championship this past year, the former four-time national champions have ceased operations. The PBL is a men's basketball minor league.

Head coach and team president Steve Tucker met with owner Jerry Nelson for two hours Monday morning in Beaumont, Texas - where Nelson resides and owns businesses - when he received the news.

"Jerry Nelson, our owner, prayed about it and thought about it for several weeks," Tucker said. "It wasn't a rushed thing. He just made a decision that it was time. He's invested a lot of time, and he's invested a lot of money. He's done a lot for this organization and the people within it. I give him nothing but praise for the support he's given all of us and the platform he's given us."

Tucker said the decision had nothing to do with Owensboro, but that it was simply time for the franchise to come to a close after nine years of operations.

"We've been extremely pleased with the support we got there from the city, from the fans, from the sponsors and everyone," Tucker said. "We've just come to a point in our organization where we felt like it was time to move on."

Debra Green, the Mavericks' director of marketing and finance, said it was simply a cost-cutting move for Nelson. She even left the door open for a return if the right financial deals or partnerships came along.

"There's nothing negative at all from our standpoint," she said. "Mr. Nelson made a business decision, not that the decision couldn't be changed with some conversation, either with the city or people within the city. No decision is unchangeable.

"Our owner is a businessman. He's always open to business ventures of any type. He runs several other businesses. We do professional rodeo, professional bull riding, monster truck shows, concerts, basketball -- he's always open to listening."

The Mavericks relocated to Owensboro as new members of the PBL for the 2016 season after winning back-to-back ABA championships in Shreveport, Louisiana. The franchise had also captured ABA titles in 2010 and 2011 as the Southeast Texas Mavericks.

Green said the organization spent more than $100,000 in advertising to help make its mark within Owensboro, and the Mavericks attracted a number of die-hard fans at the Sportscenter along the way - but ticket sales haven't been enough to offset the expenses.

"(It's) just a wonderful town," she said. "These fans are great, my gosh. This year we've really, really gotten a following of loyal fans. Our games have been consistently attended this year. But the bottom line is, it's still a huge cost."

Tucker, who considers Nelson one of his closest friends, ultimately supports the decision but leaves behind what he called "a big part of my life."

"I'm going to hate to leave Owensboro, like all of our staff and everyone," he said, noting that he'll look for other head coaching jobs elsewhere. "We'll just have to move on.

"This is the greatest sports town, the greatest basketball town I've ever been a part of, seen or coached in. It is a tremendous sports city. A great city, a lot of great people there, and the families there are wonderful. The support we got was outstanding. I just want to thank everyone. And who knows? My path might cross with Owensboro's again some day."

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