Dalla Costa: Owner bolts NBL because ‘big issues’ not addressed

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The owner of the defunct Orangeville A’s has always been a league-first kind of guy.

He’s earned the right to speak his mind about the National Basketball League of Canada.

But in keeping with how he’s acted in the four years the A’s were in the NBL, first in Brampton and the last two years in Orangeville, James Tipping was as gentle as he could be talking about the NBL.

“I warned them,” he said. “I warned them there were some big issues. I don’t want to hurt the league but I was dissatisfied with how certain teams ran their organizations.”

Tipping announced last week that his club was no longer going to play in the NBL. While the A’s always had trouble drawing fans, they were in a much stronger financial situation once they moved from Brampton to their own facility, the Athletes Institute in Orangeville.

Tipping said his team might still be playing if he thought the league was going to sort out those “big issues,” but in the end he didn’t think it would happen and opted to pack it in.

The issues he talked about were salary cap and refereeing.

He said there are salary cap deals with teams paying players more money than they actually claim on the official salary reports.

“I talked to them every year about it and last year I said if it continues, I’m not going to stick around,” Tipping said. “It continued all through last year so I said ‘yup, that’s it.’ ”

League president Vito Frijia said Tipping did bring up the issue of teams paying their players more than what the salary cap allowed.

“The league can only work with what they have and all the contracts go through the league,” Frijia said. “But I think that every owner thinks every other owner is doing that.”

Frijia, who is also London Lightning owner, said he talked to Tipping numerous times prior to the A’s announcing they would no longer continue in the NBL.

“I think the biggest thing is he just wanted to move on to something else in his life,” Frijia said.

Tipping said he was also disappointed at the lack of improvement in the officiating. His son Jamieson, a former Division 1 U.S. college player, felt targeted and simply didn’t want to play in the league any longer.

Tipping was an owner who was one of the first to step up when the league needed help financially; the kind of solid owner the league needs. “We decided it wasn’t going to work out for us any longer,” he said.

It isn’t as if Tipping is done with basketball. He operates a terrific prep league organization that develops high-end players. His is the only high-school league to have two players selected in the first round of the NBA last year.

“It’s not like (the NBL) is my only basketball enterprise. We just want to concentrate what we do and that’s develop players at a younger level,” Tipping said. “This has been a hard grind in the last 20 years bringing basketball into this country. It’s starting to get there now. Things are great at our centre; we like everything we’re doing, I’ll just keep on doing what I’m doing and go on with the rest of my life.”

Tipping also said the league also needs to focus more of its energy into developing younger players.

“That’s what I said to these guys — I’m the only one in here that’s actually in the basketball business full-time,” he said. “We changed the lives of young kids all over the world, all over the country. Just because you have a lot of money doesn’t mean you know how to develop this sport in this country.”

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