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The Rapid City Thrillers (1987-95)

Rapid City Thrillers' Pearl Washington

Credit: Fotki

The Rapid City Thrillers played in the Continental Basketball Association from 1987-95. The team was initially based in Tampa Bay, but in January 1987, the team moved to Rapid City, South Dakota, as the team wasn't making enough money.

Attendance for Thrillers' games was as low as 295! To put how small that amount is in perspective, the average per game attendance in the 2019-2020 NBA season was 17,750! For some reason, then owner, John Tuschman, thought relocating to a city with a population that was almost 5.5x smaller would be a good resolution for fan attendance:

  • Tampa: 390,000

  • Rapid City: 70,000

Somehow, the move worked! The Thrillers would stay in Rapid City for eight seasons compared to their two seasons in Tampa. Even though Rapid City's population is way less, two Floridian NBA teams were on the horizon (Miami Heat and Orlando Magic), so the local competition for fans was probably going to be too much for the Thrillers.

According to Tuschman, their negative profit margins are attributed to the St. Petersburg Times newspaper. Tuschman blamed the newspaper for not featuring the Thrillers in cover stories on the sports section.

Besides low attendance and the newspaper fiasco, the team wasn't spending enough money on advertising. The advertising budget was only $30,000.

Even though they'd eventually move to a different city, in the two seasons in Tampa, the Thrillers won the Championship in both seasons! In their first season (1984-85), they went 35-13 and beat the Detroit Spirits in the Finals, 4-3. In the following season (1985-86), they went 34-14 and beat the La Crosse Catbirds, 4-1.

In their third season, while relocating to Rapid City, they also won the Championship! It seems like the Championship is more attributed towards the Tampa Bay Thrillers' legacy instead of the Rapid City Thrillers, but we'll say it's attributed to both teams, so it's less confusing.

Now that you know the Rapid City Thriller's backstory, let's focus on the 1987-95 Thrillers, starting with their front office.


Table of Contents:

The Owners

The Rapid City Thrillers' Six Coaches

The 1986-87 Tampa Bay/Rapid City Thrillers

The 1987-88 Rapid City Thrillers

The 1992-93 Rapid City Thrillers


The Owners: John Tuschman, John Samuelsen, and Pat Hall

Starting with John Tuschman, before