This Day In Sports: The Idaho Stampede clock starts ticking

March 24, 2015: The Utah Jazz and Miller Sports Properties announce the acquisition of the Idaho Stampede, ending 18 years of local ownership led by managing investor and founder Bill Ilett. The Jazz were completing their first season of a single-affiliation arrangement with the Stampede and agreed at the time to play downtown at CenturyLink Arena at least one more season. The news provided a boost to a franchise enduring its worst season ever—the Stampede finished 9-41. But indeed, the Stamps would last only one more year in Boise before the Jazz moved them to Salt Lake City.

“It was a happy day in the lives of the investors because we were receiving a very nice return on our investment and 20 years of hard work,” Ilett told me Wednesday. “However, it was like dropping your kid off at college. It was your baby and you had worked hard to make sure things had gone well. However, you were now turning your prize asset over to strangers and not sure how they would treat it. Obviously time showed that they did not have the commitment to our city that we had and things quickly changed in one year.”

The Stampede were born in 1997 as a member of the Continental Basketball Association, then the preeminent minor league in pro basketball. Ilett hired Bobby Dye, two years removed from his successful 12-season run at Boise State, to be the Stampede’s first head coach. Dye led the team to a 25-31 record that first season before retiring. The franchise, and the CBA in general, thrived until it was purchased by former NBA star Isaiah Thomas in October, 1999. A little over a year later, the CBA folded in the middle of the 2000-01 season after a series of business missteps by Thomas.

Ilett and other former CBA owners revived the league, and the Stampede returned after a one-season hiatus in 2002-03, but it wasn’t the same. The NBA had formed its Developmental League and no longer had a relationship with the CBA. The Stampede finally moved to the D-League in 2006, and in their second season there, the Stamps won the D-League championship in 2008. It was the high point of the franchise’s history. The coach was Bryan Gates, who won D-League Coach of the Year honors and went 100-50 in his three seasons with the team. (Gates, a one-time Boise State student who never played college hoops, is now an assistant with the Phoenix Suns.)

The Stampede moved to Salt Lake City for the 2016-17 season and were renamed the Salt Lake City Stars. Incidentally, former Boise State star Derrick Alston Jr. is a member of the Stars now, and he’s playing well as a rookie. Alston has started 22 of the 25 games he’s played and is the team’s second-leading scorer at 18.8 points per game.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra and anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK. He also served as color commentator on KTVB’s telecasts of Boise State football for 14 seasons.)

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