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Utah Starzz Moving to San Antonio

Utah Starzz Moving to San Antonio



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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The Utah Starzz are moving to San Antonio, the third WNBA franchise to either relocate or shut down this year. The Starzz are owned by the league, but run by the NBA's Utah Jazz.

Jazz owner Larry Miller said Thursday that the league had approached him about relocating the team, which struggled with attendance and financially despite increased success on the court.

"I really truly do feel appreciative to the fans and the sponsors that supported us," Miller said. "But the fact is that in this market there just weren't enough of them."

Miller said he agreed Thursday morning to let the franchise go to San Antonio, which had been approved by the WNBA in November. The Texas city had satisfied a league requirement that it obtain 6,000 season ticket deposits.

With the Starzz coming off an appearance in the Western Conference finals, the Utah franchise was a popular choice.

"The Starzz are one of the most exciting teams in the league, and we are confident they will flourish in their new home," said WNBA president Val Ackerman.

The nearly 7-year-old league is owned collectively by NBA franchises.

Earlier this year, Orlando and Miami shut down operations. If they move, it could be to cities that currently do not have an NBA team.

"We have some prospects for Miami and Orlando," league spokesman Tim Frank said. "We just don't know yet. We hopefully will know here in the very near future."

If new homes for the Sol and Miracle aren't found, a dispersal draft will be held for the remaining teams to pick from the Miami and Orlando rosters.

In October, the NBA's Board of Governors decided to allow non-NBA owners to acquire WNBA teams and to allow teams in non-NBA markets. The board decided the Charlotte Sting could remain in that city even though the NBA's Hornets moved to New Orleans.

Miller said the Starzz were losing more than $1 million a year, but would not say specifically how much. Attendance increased slightly last season as Utah went 20-12, going from an average of 7,060 to 7,790, but it was enough to sustain a profit.

"I couldn't afford the Jazz if nobody came to a game," Miller said. "It's the same situation with the Starzz. We tried everything we knew how."

Utah entered the WNBA in 1996, when it was picked as one of the league's charter franchises with Denise Taylor as the team's first coach.

The team struggled early, finishing last in its first season with a 7-21 record. The Starzz had their first winning record in 2000, going 18-14.

The team reached the Western Conference finals in 2002, losing to the Los Angeles Sparks.

The San Antonio team will play its home games in the SBC Center, where the Spurs play.

The San Antonio team will announce a new name, which has been narrowed down to two choices, probably in a month, said Jena Evans, a Spurs spokeswoman.

"It will have a Texas theme. We do want to keep the same flavor we have with the Spurs," Evans said. "We want it to involve San Antonio and Texas and the Western culture."

The team has three WNBA All-Stars, Adrienne Goodson, Marie Ferdinand and Natalie Williams. Margo Dydek, at 7-foot-2, is the tallest player in league history.

The team is coached by former Texas A&M women's head coach Candi Harvey.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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