Hard work ahead for new Hurricanes boss
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Ira Harge Jr. is determined to prove Pacific Rim Basketball, Inc. is in no way akin to the troubled former ownership of the American Basketball Association's Hawaii Hurricanes.
For starters, he intends to be honest.
The new president of the professional team needs to put together investors and a game plan for transportation, player contracts, a home venue, and a brave face with the season opener set for Nov. 11, less than a month away.
"It's hard to put something together this quick, and harder still to put it together if you don't have all the funds you need to do it," Harge said. "Can it be done? Sure. We have a passionate group that have worked their tails off to get this done."
David Patterson, the team's former public relations representative, tipped off ABA chairman Joe Newman about the floundering team under Andrew Moss last week. Newman swiftly granted Harge Jr. leadership because of Moss' failure to make payments, and Patterson is back on board with coach Alika Smith and Harge now, and like Smith, is emotionally invested.
"I think (now), it could be a great rallying point," said Patterson, of the PR Store. "It might be kind of like the New Orleans Saints, the guys without a home and they get through it all -- through a Hurricane, figuratively."
He added that he doubted the ABA would ever grant Hawaii's market to another team in the future if this year's club failed to pay dividends.
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One way or another, the fate of the Hawaii Hurricanes will be decided over the next eight days.
The new owner of the team, Ira Harge Jr., of newly minted Pacific Rim Basketball, Inc., said yesterday that the American Basketball Association franchise has a self-imposed deadline of next Thursday to gather the roughly $200,000 it will need for expenses as the season looms Nov. 11.
If sponsors and investors can't be found in that time and the team remains short of its goal, Harge won't give the green light to proceed with the season.
Harge and coach Alika Smith officially assumed control of the team from businessman Andrew Moss this week, granted by ABA chairman Joe Newman in light of suspicious behavior by the former owner.
A new team name is yet to be officially announced, pending the creation of a logo, Harge said.
Moss had previously announced ties with Hawaiian Airlines for transportation and the Neal Blaisdell Arena for a home venue, but neither were actually secured, according to the new owner.
"(Air travel) absolutely has to get re-worked out," said Harge, who was originally responsible for founding the Hurricanes with Moss under Hawaii Basketball Inc., but backed out early after judging his partner unreliable. "It was never worked out to begin with. We're finding out a lot of things that were said that were done, that aren't."
Harge has the team listed with a "secondary" reservation for home dates at the Blaisdell now.
Moss' former business partners have been unable to reach him recently, but last night he issued the following comment by e-mail:
"The stories that have been reported over the past few days have contained numerous unsubstantiated allegations. I was unaware of these allegations until very recently and my attorney and I are currently investigating these accusations. When Hawaii Basketball Inc. was under my ownership, it did not default on any contractual agreements with players or individuals associated with the team. It is unfortunate that unauthorized credit card charges have occurred. It is to my understanding that Hawaii Basketball Inc.'s credit card processor is looking into any outstanding claims of unauthorized credit card charges. I hope that every issue can be resolved in a positive and timely manner for all individuals involved."
The ownership's falling out draws comparisons to the failed Hawaii Mega Force experiment in 2005, when owner Orrys Williams was banned from the league after two home games for failing to meet financial obligations.
Despite the similarities to that team -- checks bouncing or withheld, failed or non-existent marketing partnerships -- Smith remains adamant to see things through to the end under his new mantle of vice president.
Smith will continue running practices at Kaiser High School with roughly 15 players.
But does he believe the team's potential fan base (and local investors) think the project can still fly?
"Only time will tell," Smith said. "But I will tell you this: It is going to be hard. When you conquer one mountain, but you have to go over and do it all over again, it's going to be difficult. If we just get the right person to take that chance (investing), I know we can make it successful."