top of page

Gary Steelheads: 2000-2006

Gary Steelheads

Credit: NWI Times, Times File Photo

The Gary Steelheads were a professional basketball team based in Gary, Indiana, playing in the CBA from 2000-06. The Steelheads joined the CBA at a horrible time. 12x All-Star and 2x Champion Isiah Thomas bought the CBA for $10,000,000 in 1999.

Thomas stated how the CBA would become the "Microsoft of basketball," however, only 18 months after purchasing the CBA, Thomas bankrupted the 55-year basketball league. Thomas had a chance to sell the league for $11,000,000 to the NBA but refused to even though just eight months later, Thomas ditched the league in a blind trust and became the head coach of the Indiana Pacers.

Thomas wasn't just the owner of the CBA, but the Gary Steelheads as well! The Steelheads were the only expansion team this season. Thomas owned 51% of the team, while former Indiana majority whip Jewell Harris Sr. owned the other 41%. As mentioned earlier, Thomas ditched the CBA and, along with it, the Steelheads, so Harris Sr. became the owner of the team for the following five seasons.

Thankfully, the International Basketball Association would merge with a couple of CBA teams (one of them being the Steelheads) and continue operations under the CBA brand. If this didn't happen, the Steelheads' would have one of the shortest stints in the CBA (24 Games).

Although the Gary Steelheads dodged a bullet with Thomas, their other owner, Harris. Sr. was just as bad as Thomas. In the same week that the Steelheads disbanded, Harris Sr. was arrested and served six years in prison for money laundering charges. He apparently double-billed (i.e., charging a customer twice) the City of Gary for a baseball stadium he built-in 2001.

Regardless of all the mess in the front office, the Steelheads still had a decent six-season stretch in the CBA. Out of the six seasons, we'll be covering the 2003-06 season because:


2003-04: First Playoff Apperance

In the 2003-04 CBA season, the Gary Steelheads went 27-21 (56.3 W/L%) and finished third in the league. Duane Ticknor coached the Steelheads. For most of Ticknor's coaching career, he's worked with minor professional basketball teams. Most recently, Ticknor was the assistant coach for the Memphis Grizzlies (2013-16) and Sacramento Kings (2016-19).

The Gary Steelheads' best player this season was Immanuel McElroy. McElroy averaged:

16.6 Points, 5.2 Rebounds, 3.0 Assists, 0.9 Steals, and 0.4 Blocks

64.6 FG%, 74.6 FT%

34 Minutes

McElroy was the CBA Rookie of the Year and was selected to the CBA All-Rookie Team in the season prior. This season, he was selected to the CBA All-Defensive Team! McElroy entered the NBA Draft in 2002 but was unfortunately not chosen by any teams. After his time with the Gary Steelheads, McElroy went to play in Germany, where he won:

  • Finals MVP (2006)

  • 5x Defensive Player of the Year (2007-11)