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Published: Saturday, 8/5/2006

Coach, players say Ice didn't pay

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Staten Staten
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Jamel Staten did all he could to help the Toledo Ice succeed in its inaugural season in the American Basketball Association.

The 6-foot-6 guard was an all-star performer. The Ice's best player averaged a team-leading 25 points per game. Over a four-day stretch in February he produced 43, 41 and 30 points in three games.

Staten gave his all when he stepped on the court each night he wore an Ice jersey.

However, Staten says he thinks the Ice dropped the ball when it came to supporting its players and coaches. He's seeking close to $10,000 the Ice still owes him.

Staten, a Minnesota native, has retained Minnesota-based attorney Benjamin Reitan to represent him in an attempt to collect the money from the Ice. Toledoan Melvin Newbern, who served as head coach/general manager for the Ice, is also among a group of players and coaches expected to join Staten in retaining Reitan for representation in an effort to receive the remainder of their salaries for the 2005-06 season.

Newbern Newbern
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"I'm trying to get their money back and it's just not coming," Reitan said. "Jamel Staten was the highest-paid player on the team and for someone that doesn't have any other income coming in, it [the money owed him] is important.

"He's hoping to play in Europe. He won't play with the Toledo Ice next [season]."

Newbern, a Scott High School standout who went on to play at the University of Minnesota before playing a season with the Detroit Pistons, opted not to disclose the amount of money he's owed other than to say it's a "substantial" figure. Like Staten, he didn't get paid over the final three months of the season, which included two playoff games.

"I was told [at the beginning] that everything was secure and it wouldn't be an issue and they had money set aside to pay the players and the coaches for the season," Newbern said.

Even though Newbern received his last paycheck from the Ice in December, he decided to stay on as coach of the team.

"I really didn't want to desert the players because a lot of the guys had aspirations of going on to play at a higher level, whether it's the NBA or playing overseas," said Newbern, who makes his home in Minnesota. "I expressed to the players: Let's play the season out."

The Ice, which played home games at SeaGate Centre and at Owens Community College, finished 16-14 in the regular season before advancing to the second round of the playoffs. However, local support for the professional minor league franchise was minimal.

Fatima Perrin, who is listed among the group of Ice officials on the Ice Web site, admits the team still owes some of the players from last season. She also said the team intends to pay everyone.

"As the team progresses and grows they will get paid," Perrin said. "We didn't get the kind of support from Toledo we thought we would. It was never the intention not to pay them."

ABA co-founder/chairman Joe Newman, who is based in Indianapolis, said the 62-team league has been notified of the situation with the Ice and expects the team to resolve the matter. Newman said the Ice's current circumstances could affect the team's standing with the league.

"The Ice told us they would take care of it," Newman said. "We've encouraged them to do this.

"It's an individual team issue and they have to resolve that problem. With the [upcoming] season still four months away, we assume they will take care of their business."

It's something Staten, Newbern and the rest of the unpaid coaches and players are counting on.

"I would hope we could get this resolved without any litigation," Reitan said. "They really have no defense to stand on for not paying the salaries."

Attempts to reach Ice CEO/co-founder Nate Hopkins and Ice director of basketball operations Mike Perdue for comments were unsuccessful.

Contact Donald Emmons at:

demmons@theblade.com

or 419-724-6302.



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