It’s late July and Howard Jordan is leaning forward at a conference table talking about NCAA basketball while massaging his eyelids, drawn shut from working a split shift assisting the building manager at a corporate complex center in White Plains.
As Jordan laments the countless players who fizzle out after March Madness—making subtle gestures with massive hands that caught footballs at Bronxville’s Concordia College and in the NFL—his logic chips away at an otherwise outlandish premise.After all, we’re conditioned to think that domestic players go to the NBA or overseas to play. But is there another viable option?
“[I watch and say] ‘God, that kid could have played [professionally]!” exclaims Jordan. “They may go to Europe and last two to three years, and now they’re 24, 25 years old with nowhere to go and nothing to do. Now, they have an alternative, and that’s the ABA.”
When the American Basketball Association (ABA) begins play next month, Westchester will see the debut of the County-based New York JAMM, under Jordan, its principal owner, and discover if the team will, in fact, provide a competent professional outlet for domestic players.
The ABA began as an alternative to the NBA in 1967 and continued until the leagues merged in 1976. It reemerged in 2000, suffered a hiccup—a change in management and disorganization at the hands of green business owners—that halted play for a season, and is now operating with roughly 80 teams across the country, making it the largest professional sports league in the US.
The former Rye, Mamaroneck, Byram Hills, and Blessed Sacrament High Schools coach split the $10,000 market reservation with business partner Fran McGuire, a Bronx resident, and is finalizing details to play home games at Monroe College’s athletic center at New Roc City in downtown New Rochelle.
Jordan jokes about getting gray hairs from stress, but, as his phone rings, vibrates, and appears ready to rupture even on silent during an interview, you feel the pressure that a one-man front office feels. Currently operating out of his Mamaroneck home, Jordan has been involved in area basketball for decades, but he says owning an ABA team is a “dream come true.” He started researching the league in 2011 and first made contact with CEO Joe Newman in 2011. So far, the only money the team has collected has been through advertising.
“I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for guys in New York who want to play at the professional level and get good looks to add to something in the future”—such as, potentially, NBA play—says St. John’s graduate and six-foot-four JAMM forward Anthony Glover. Glover, who spent 10 seasons abroad, details a roster that includes Bronx, New Rochelle, Yonkers, and Mamaroneck natives under one-year deals.
“The money is nice, but it’s not overwhelming,” says Jordan. “Until we continue to move forward, yeah, contracts will get that much better, and that’s the goal.”
Jordan’s recruiting pedigree from his time on the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) circuit was apparent in summer workouts as he packed gyms with prospective players. “‘JAMM’ started back in the ’90s with the AAU program,” he says. “‘JAMM’ means [my children] Jordan, Alicia, Michael, and Matthew.”
When dissecting the birth of a franchise, there’s an uncomfortable, but pertinent, aspect worth mentioning: Several media outlets have told tales of ABA teams that have faltered, becoming victims of casual operation and fighting entertainment-market battles they couldn’t win.
“There have been more newspapers that have folded in the last five years than there have been basketball teams,” notes ABA CEO Joe Newman. “There have been more car dealerships that have folded and more restaurants that have folded. It’s not because people don’t want to eat, they don’t need a car to drive, and they don’t like the newspaper. If you run a business that is not run properly, you will sooner or later not
For Jordan, a man who illustrated a published children’s book about his relationship with his grandmother and is planning another about bullying, it’s been a risk worth taking. “Only the strong will survive,” he says, “and we want to be one of the strong.”
Phil Terrigno is a former reporter with the Journal News and a current MS candidate at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. A Marist grad and New Rochelle resident, he plays rugby and runs marathons in between injuries. His work can be viewed at philipterrigno.com.