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SB Mavericks’ Tucker nears “significant milestone” in ABA record book

Kirk Copeland
(318) 525-8853 cell
kirk@abamavericks.com

Thursday, January 22nd

(Shreveport, LA.) – Steve Tucker is no stranger to milestones.

In his illustrious career, the Shreveport-Bossier Mavericks head coach has won at every stop along the way. And won big.

Over the course of his 35 years on the sidelines, Tucker has been named Coach of the Year 10 times and has won 14 league or conference championships at the college and professional levels. His 604-251 overall record speaks to his excellence as what many – including the founder of the American Basketball Association, Joe Newman, and the owner of the Mavericks, Jerry Nelson – call “the best head coach not in the NBA”.

“I don’t care if (legendary NBA coach) Phil Jackson called me up and said, ‘I’d like to coach the Mavericks’,” said Nelson. “I’d tell him to kick rocks because I’ve got the best coach in the world already.”

Sometime in February, Tucker, the all-time winningest coach in ABA history, will surpass arguably his biggest milestone so far when he picks up his 200th career victory as a head coach in the league, nearly 100 more than his closest competitor, Jacksonville’s Kevin Waters.

“It’s a significant milestone,” said Newman, the man who re-established the ABA in 2001. “To get to 200 victories in a professional league of our competitive caliber is a huge accomplishment, and Steve has done it with class. Steve Tucker is the standard by which all ABA coaches are measured.”

As much as Tucker means to the ABA, he says that the league is just that important to him as well.

“That red, white, and blue ball means an awful lot to me,” said Tucker.

The resume of the Long Beach, Mississippi, native is staggering.

Since entering the ABA in 2004 with the Texas Tycoons, Tucker has compiled a 194-26 record (88.2% winning percentage), and has led three different teams – the Tycoons, the Jacksonville Jam, and the Southeast Texas/Shreveport-Bossier Mavericks – to the league’s #1 ranking. He is the only coach to win three ABA championships, having led the Mavericks to titles in 2009-10, 2010-11, and 2013-14. His record with the Mavs is a mind-blowing 141-7, a 95.3% winning percentage.

He is the only head coach in the history of basketball to have led teams in seven different professional leagues, including the CBA and the USBL. He has been named the ABA Coach of the Year four times, and was voted ABA Coach of the Decade in 2010.

In 2009, probasketballnews.com named Tucker as the #1 head coach not in the NBA.

He is the first coach in league history to lead both the East and West teams in the ABA All-Star Game, and has coached in the contest six different times.

He is the only coach to lead a professional basketball team to an undefeated season when his 2013-14 Mavericks squad went 34-0 and swept Waters’ Jacksonville Giants in the Championship Finals.

The list goes on and on.

“The things Steve has accomplished are almost unfathomable,” said Ron Tilley, the ABA’s Chief Executive Officer. “He’s unquestionably the top coach in ABA history, and has the capacity to coach the game at any level. His presence with the Shreveport-Bossier Mavericks is very good for our league as a whole.”

Tucker broke into coaching in 1980 at tiny Phillips College as one of the youngest head men’s basketball coaches in the collegiate ranks at age 22. Since those humble beginnings, the soft-spoken but highly-competitive Tucker has steadily climbed the ranks to where he is now.

In 2008, Tucker and Nelson established the Mavericks franchise, as well as a relationship in which both men would soon call each other best friend.

“When Steve and I first got into this thing, we were both looking for something, but we didn’t quite know what it was,” said Nelson, a wildly-successful businessman and entrepreneur who has also made a name in the rodeo industry. “But Steve’s got a knack for finding talent, and he’s got a system that has been proven over the years. Along the way, he’s helped me a lot, and I’d like to think I helped him a lot as well. He’s not just my coach, he’s my best friend.”

From the start, Tucker built the Mavericks into an ABA powerhouse, using that keen eye for talent as well as his uncanny ability to get the most out of his players.

“Steve has always had an ability to find and recruit the best players available,” said Newman. “He’s a very strategic coach, but he’s also a rare teaching coach who has that unique ability to make his players better than they are.”

In 2009, Tucker led the Mavericks to the ABA’s Final Four before an upset loss in the semifinals. It was the last time he would lose in the playoffs to date.

“We took that organization and built it from a good one to the elite level,” said Tucker. “It was a combination of great ownership, coaching, and, of course, great players.”

One of those great players was current Maverick Josh Pace, who led the team to the 2010 title as the league and Finals Most Valuable Player. Pace was the only person to hold both distinctions in the same year until former Maverick Ed Horton accomplished the feat last season.

After a two-year hiatus, while Tucker and Nelson weighed many options regarding the future of the franchise – including a courtship with the NBA’s Developmental League – the Mavericks landed in Shreveport-Bossier, and Tucker would face the biggest challenge of his life.

Congestive heart failure and double pneumonia just days before the start of the 2013-14 season nearly ended not only his career, but potentially his life.

“It was a scary time,” said Tucker of the health scare. “Those were six days that changed my life. I’m blessed that God gave me the strength to not only come back from that, but to press forward and ultimately coach the first undefeated team in pro basketball history.”

Through all of the challenges he has faced since entering the ABA, Tucker points to his friendship with Nelson as a key factor in his success both on and off the court.

“Jerry is my best friend and just happens to also be the best owner in the game,” said Tucker. “He picked me up when I was unsure of my next move, and has allowed me the opportunity to live out my dream.”

The loyalty that Tucker has shown Nelson speaks to their relationship as well.

“Steve has had many offers to move on to bigger jobs, whether in college or the D-League or whatever, but he’s always told me that he’d rather stay,” said Nelson. “That means a lot to me personally, and to the Mavericks and the ABA.”

Nelson is not the only one that believes the Mavericks – and the league – are fortunate to have a coach of Tucker’s abilities.

“I’ve felt for a while that the NBA could use a coach of Steve’s talents,” said Newman. “He would be a great asset to the D-League or the NBA. Our league has sent great coaches to the next level, such as Scotty Brooks (Oklahoma City Thunder head coach) and Kevin Pritchard (Indiana Pacers general manager). If Scotty Brooks and Kevin Pritchard belong in the NBA, Steve Tucker should have been there five years before them.”

Even his closest rival, Waters, agrees.

“Coach T is what we’re all striving to be,” said Waters, who’s Giants will face the Mavericks in a championship finals rematch in Jacksonville on January 31. “He does things the right way, and he does them at an elite level. We’ve had some great battles through the years, and you can always gauge how good your team is by how they play against Coach T’s teams.

“For him to win 200 games so quickly in this league is a testament to how great a coach he is. To judge the man he is, just look at his players. The game of basketball is better off because Steve Tucker has touched it.”

Tickets for 2014-15 Shreveport-Bossier Mavericks games are on sale now at www.sbmavs.com or at Hirsch Memorial Coliseum box office, which can be reached at (318) 631-4930.

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