Andrew Trzaska | September 25, 2013
A new startup American Basketball Association team will play part of its first season in Muskegon beginning in November.
The West Michigan Lake Hawks have formed and is currently finalizing their roster, according to Harold Whaley, CEO of the team and an executive with the ABA. The team will call Muskegon its home base, though it plans to play a portion of its 15 home games in venues across the region, including Grand Rapids, Holland and Lansing.
The Lake Hawks will play in the North Central Division of the ABA, which bills itself as the largest professional sports organization in the United States. Over 100 teams play across the country in the league, which formed in 2000 and is not affiliated with the earlier league of the same name that merged with the NBA in 1976.
Whaley introduced the chief leadership of the organization at the County Commission meeting, which includes several local names.
The team’s General Manager will be Richard Love, a longtime radio personality and Jeffrey Burris will serve as the Assistant General Manager.
The team’s Coach, Larry Lessett, has coached in the ABA, at Georgia College and NBA development camps in his career. His assistant coach will Ronald Jenkins, who currently serves as Assistant to Muskegon Catholic’s Athletic Director and formerly served as a board of education member for Muskegon Heights Public Schools.
The Vice President of Player Personnel for the Lake Hawks will be Lee Gilbert, 2011 Muskegon Sports Hall of Fame inductee and most successful high school coach in the history of Muskegon Heights Public Schools
Where the team will play in the city is still in question. Whaley stated at Tuesday’s County Commission meeting that it is in talks with Muskegon Public Schools and Muskegon Catholic Central to play in either high school’s gymnasium.
Whaley stated at Tuesday’s meeting that players will be “contractually obligated to spend a portion of time giving back to the community.” A program called Lake Hawks Flight will provide “edutainment” programs that include sports, acting, music and life skills.
Whaley also noted on Tuesday that the team is backed by private funding, but is looking for community investment as well. The team is advertising season passes on their website for $50 until October 31.
After Whaley’s presentation at Tuesday’s County Commission meeting, commissioners passed a motion of support for the team; the measure was symbolic, with no budgetary action taken.