As the ballboys did their best to dry the rain-soaked court, the Suns front office contemplates their options before postponing an exhibition game in 1974.
The game was delayed 12 minutes in the first quarter because of water dripping down to the hardwood, less than a foot from the baseline under the Lakers’ basket.
This got me to thinking about the Suns, who must lead the NBA in all-time weather-related incidents.
Playing in a city that boasts 300 sunny days a year and a paltry average of 7.7 inches of rain a year, the Suns sure have had their issues with Mother Nature since their inception 40 years ago.
The first incident remarkably occurred at home on Oct. 6, 1974. It started out as just another preseason game for the Suns at old Veterans Memorial Coliseum, but quickly and quite literally became a washout.
A steady rain and a constant drip from the ceiling cancelled the exhibition after a 90-minute delay and prompted an impromptu address to fans by Jerry Colangelo, telling them they could exchange their tickets for a future game and that the decision was “in the best interest of everyone that this game not be played.”
US Airways Center Vice President of Facility Management and Suns Ring of Honor member Alvan Adams wholeheartedly agrees with the decision.
“That was totally the right call,” the Oklahoma Kid said. “We cancelled that game against the Trail Blazers because of water on the floor. It was just common sense. Luckily, it was a preseason game. Portland had rookie Bill Walton, and you could only imagine what their coach was thinking, too.
Jerry Colangelo addresses the fans at “The Madhouse on McDowell,” informing them of the decision to cancel the preseason game against the Trail Blazers.
“Kids do crazy things, and most NBA players are still kids. They’ll go out a ride a motorcycle at 100 mph. So skidding around on the court could be fun, but not when you’re trying to win a game. Plus, being a preseason game, it wasn’t that important.”
It certainly wouldn’t be the last time weather would wreak havoc with the Suns. Eleven years later, storm clouds followed Phoenix to the Pacific Northwest as they took on the SuperSonics at the old Seattle Center Coliseum.
The ballboys were once again working overtime after puddles quickly formed on the floor for tip-off. By the second quarter, the NBA had its first-ever “postponement due to rain.”
“We actually had to come back the next night and finish it off,” Suns broadcasting legend Al McCoy said. “It was a little unusual, but the floor got so damp, they had to do it. Waiting that extra day was something, because the Jazz were also in town to play their game, we were there, and of course, Seattle was, too.”
Adams added, “It was a great place to have to spend an extra day in, though.”
The game was made up a day later, resulting in a 117-114 Suns win, but that proverbial dark cloud over the Suns’ schedule continued.
“It also happened in Washington when Cotton Fitzsimmons and I were doing a game,” McCoy said. “They had ice under the floor, and it was a warm day. The floor got damp, and they kept mopping and mopping, and that game got cancelled. It had to be played later in the season. Cotton and I were doing the simulcast on radio and TV. We couldn’t throw it back to the station, so for almost an hour we interviewed just about everybody but the usher.”
Last season, the Suns got hit with a bit of precipitation of the frozen variety, when their match-up against the Nuggets was postponed due to a blizzard. In addition to having to wait to extend their 15-game winning streak, the team was stuck in Colorado as the clock began ticking down for their game back in Phoenix two nights later. After bussing it to Colorado Springs, the Suns caught a flight back to the Valley, arriving two hours before tip-off of what would be a loss to the Wizards.
Thankfully, the interior of US Airways Center has stayed rain- and snow-free since its doors opened in 1992.
Getting back to Sunday’s delay in Los Angeles, everything worked out in relatively no time. And as Adams comments, that’s a credit to the NBA’s high level of commitment to players, coaches and fans through the use of first-class venues.
“That’s why the league is as great as it is,” the 13-year NBA veteran said. “They have standards in terms of their facilities. And even a great facility like Staples Center and all places have places where water can get through. It happens in the best of homes and the best public assembly buildings, as well.”
As for the Suns’ propensity for getting the short end of the weather stick over the years, McCoy has a simple suggestion.
“This team needs a weatherman,” he smiled.