Yakima CBA team folds, despite recent success

Yakima, Washington (AP) 4-08

The Yakama Indian Nation has shut down operations of its Continental Basketball Association team, the Yakama Sun Kings.

Team officials were clearing out their offices. Head coach and general manager Paul Woolpert says they were informed of the decision during early April.

The Sun Kings have experienced great success on the court in recent years. A two-year reign as CBA champions was snapped this year when the team lost early in the playoffs, but the Sun Kings still set a league mark for winning percentage with a 43-5 record.

The league also honored Woolpert with coach of the year honors for the second consecutive season.

“This hurts. It’s pretty much an empty feeling,” Woolpert told the Yakima Herald-Republic. “Everyone I’ve talked to has expressed shock and disappointment. We have the best fans in the CBA, and they deserve better than this.”

The Yakama Nation bought the team in June 2005, but the $140,000 purchase sparked controversy among tribal members who believed the money could have been put to better use. Five Tribal Council members were ousted after approving the deal, but their replacements decided against trying to revoke the agreement because of the potential financial penalties.

But the 14-member Tribal Council decided to shut down the team because it was losing money. The decision comes with one year remaining on a three-year operating commitment.

Virgil Lewis, a former Tribal Council member who supported the purchase and was voted out as a result, also expressed his disappointment with the news.

“To have this happen is a total slap in the face to the Yakima community,” Lewis said. “It’s wrong. There was a motion passed ... for this franchise to operate for three seasons, and that isn’t being honored. It makes the tribe look bad. It puts the tribe in a very bad light.”

The Sun Kings first arrived in Yakima in 1990, and the team won its first CBA championship in 1995. The Sun Kings have since won titles in 2000, 2006 and 2007.

The team disbanded during the 2000-01 season, when the entire league was shut down. The CBA returned the next year, but the Sun Kings didn’t return until two years later.