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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, October 16, 2007

New group will take over troubled Hawaii ABA team

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

The Hawai'i Hurricanes professional basketball team has been downgraded before it even hit the Islands.

After several "shady" business deals by Hurricanes owner Andrew Moss, ownership of the Hawai'i franchise was transferred to a group of investors called Pacific Rim Inc. yesterday.

The move was announced by Joe Newman, chief executive officer of the American Basketball Association.

Hawai'i is still expected to be one of more than 30 teams participating in the ABA this season, but head coach Alika Smith said there will be "a lot of last-minute scrambling" to cover the mistakes of Moss.

Smith said the new Hawai'i franchise will be called the Pacific Rim Rockers, and he will serve as head coach and vice president of the team.

Smith and several others affiliated with the defunct Hawai'i Hurricanes said Moss failed to fulfill several financial obligations.

"I got my first two paychecks, and that's it," said Smith, who was hired in late June. "I haven't been paid for the last month and a half."

Smith added he was never enrolled in a medical insurance program, as promised by Moss.

"I have a wife and two kids," Smith said. "We were counting on the medical, but we've been paying it ourselves."

At least two prospective players are also feeling short-changed by Moss.

Former University of Hawai'i guard Jason Carter said he passed on a job opportunity in his hometown of Gary, Ind., and boarded a flight to Honolulu last month to join the Hurricanes.

"(Moss) told me to pay for the ticket myself and he would pay me back as soon as I got here," Carter said. "But I haven't even been able to reach him for the last few weeks."

Another former UH player, Deonte Tatum, also flew in from the Mainland. What's more, players like Carter and Tatum said they were promised housing by Moss, but instead have been left to find their own.

"Basically, he left me stranded out here with no money and no place to live," Carter said.

The players were not expected to receive paychecks until November, but several were asked to fly in from the Mainland to start practicing.

Moss sent out a press release last week stating that "a successful businessman" named Richard Sherman was taking over ownership of the Hurricanes from him.

However, Smith and the players said they have never met Sherman. Also, the ABA is not recognizing Sherman as the new owner.

"There are some real shady dealings that have been going on with (Moss) recently," said David Patterson, who was hired to be a public relations director for the Hurricanes.

Patterson said he is also owed "at least one month" of paychecks from Moss.

Patterson said there were also several complaints from fans that the Hurricanes' office was overcharging on ticket sales.

Moss or Sherman could not be reached for comment through the Hurricanes office yesterday. Also the Web site hawaiihurricanes.com where fans could purchase tickets has apparently been shut down.

In 2005, a franchise called the Hawai'i Mega Force played just two ABA games before being kicked out of the league. The owner of the Mega Force, Orrys Williams, also failed to meet several financial obligations.

Moss announced in June that the Hurricanes would be participating in the 2007-08 ABA season.

In any case, Smith said he is committed to getting the Pacific Rim Rockers on the court this season. The players are continuing to practice, and the season is expected to start next month.

"We're separating ourselves from everything (Moss) was doing," Smith said. "It'll be a struggle because of the situation he left us in."

Ira Harge Jr., a banker in Nevada, is the leader of the Pacific Rim Inc. group that will now run the team.

"Obviously, we're looking for private investors and businesses to help us out right now," Smith said. "So if anybody out there wants to help, we'll listen."

Carter said he will continue to practice with the team.

"I came back here to play basketball and get paid to do it," he said. "If there's still a chance, I'm going to stick with it."

Smith said he plans to collect the money owed to him by Moss, one way or another.

"If I don't see something soon, we may have to look at a lawsuit," he said.

Reach Dayton Morinaga at dmorinaga@honoluluadvertiser.com.