La Crosse, WISCONSIN (WXOW) It's been 26 years since the La Crosse Catbirds arrived in La Crosse 16 since they left town.
For 9 seasons they were "the" game in town, uniting college stars and workaholic coaches, both hoping to strike it big in the NBA.
This past weekend, members of the Catbirds organization held a reunion in La Crosse.
"The year we won it in 1990, we had a great bunch of guys. The community just took us in as a family member. A lot of people I knew then are still around," said Carlos Clark, a member of the 1990 championship team.
Some hoping La Crosse would be a pit stop on a journey to NBA dreams.
"A Lot of people left year and got very good jobs down the road. Jim Labombard with Toronto. Ron (Mineagar) is now out with the NFL team in Phoenix. There were a lot of successful people here that went on to some pretty big time careers after we all moved on from the Catbirds," said former assistant coach Trey Schwab.
"This is where I met my wife and married, settled down and had a family. It's a great atmosphere to raise a kid in. It's a lot better than where I grew up. I wanted to give my kids the best chance to survive and be able to continue on for education," said former player Richie Johnson.
"We've just been telling old stories and stuff kind of comes back to you. When I played here the experience was great. At the same time you were trying to accomplish a bigger goal. In the long run, I think all the guys would say their experience was great here," said Clark.
But for all who were a part of those glorious 9 years when the Catbirds were called the model franchise of the CBA and when they won two league titles in three years, the memories remain fresh.
For some, when career opportunities on the court ended, the city and the area had become too much a part of them to leave.
They came from all parts of the country.
"It was a great time. You had great owners in Norm Gillette and D.B. Reinhart. The things they ask us to do is be true to the community. Don't slander the teams name or your name and try to live a good life," Said Johnson.
"Guys weren't living in Rapid City in the off season and things like that. But you see a lot of guys who are still back around here. So that speaks about the town and the way the town really adopted the team. I'm not a La Crosse historian but I have to think those two championships that we won here in three years have to be pretty high on the list for a lot of people that were here for a long time," said Schwab.
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