Thursday, February 24, 2005

They Pay 2 Play in the ABA

The Star's reporting of the Kansas City Knights economic woes fails to cover one important component of the club's financial struggles. The reported inability to compensate the most talented players available to them may be causing a major shift in the Knights 'basketball philosophy.'

Translation: Potential 'investors' can now dictate who goes on the roster, and who stays. There is no exemption involving family members in this policy.

The Knights began an interesting relationship with former William Jewell point guard Pat Khoury on January 8th when the team squared off against the Colorado Storm at Hale Arena. Khoury was not listed on the team's web site (www.knightsfans.com), nor on the game notes distributed that night. Having left William Jewell a few years ago, Khoury had a brief stint with the Kansas City Steer of the NABL (now defunct?). He then ventured overseas where, like his time at William Jewell, he was not considered an elite player by any stretch of the imagination.

As 2005 rolled around, Khoury's father was seeing to it that his son would find a way onto the Knights roster. What his son could not produce in basketball talent, the elder Khoury would make up for in contributions to the area's fledgling minor league franchise.

Pat's father, Paul, is the President and Director of PB&J Restaurants. He founded the company in 1987. Prior to PB&J, he was a manager for Gilbert Robinson, Inc., another Kansas City-based restaurant operation. Paul and PB&J co-owner Bill Crooks specialize in bringing duck breast to Kansas Citians at Grand St. Café at 47th and Grand Blvd, not something most fans attending Knights games are familiar with. His son wasn't looking to reinvent Kansas City cuisine; he wanted a way into a basketball gig so he wouldn't have to look overseas for work in the hoops industry.

Khoury proposed to the Knights' brass an idea that would make sense for them and keep his son playing in the area. In exchange for covering the costs to produce Knights merchandise and provide other revenue generating materials for the team, they would reward Khoury with a few gifts. A nearly unlimited supply of season tickets for he and his family was an easy bone to throw the restaurant owner. The other condition of their arrangement was a bit more startling: Paul Khoury's son would be joining the team on a full-time basis.

On January 8th, Pat Khoury was not only in the lineup, but he was starting the game. It was something out of a 'Seniors Night' game at KU when Roy Williams would allow bench players to bask in on court glory for a few minutes as their college careers expired. Khoury registered two points during seven minutes of play as the Knights beat the seemingly disinterested Colorado squad.

After the game, word around Hale Arena was that Khoury's appearance with the team amounted to a one-time arrangement. The team passed off the occurrence as if he was the winning recipient of some sort of unofficial contest.

A week later, fans attending the Jan. 15th game against St. Louis noticed that Khoury was still suiting up. Again, he was in the starting lineup, and this time he saw significant minutes in the second half. A week later his only second half appearance was during garbage minutes, but on this night he began the third quarter in the lineup feeding the ball to the Knight's low post scorer, and former KU forward, Jeff Graves.

By this night, Khoury was listed on the team's web site and was mentioned in the game notes distributed to fans. Word was beginning to circulate that Khoury was not a temporary addition, but rather a permanent fixture to the remainder of the Knight's 2004-2005 season. The other significant change at Hale Arena was the merchandising table. Once barely stocked with team apparel, it was now overflowing with a slew of new Knights' memorabilia.

The Knights won the game as Khoury recorded another two point performance, but increased his on court minutes to twelve. Afterwards, he sped out of the Kemper Arena parking lot afterwards in a sporty silver vehicle (not exactly the kind of transportation that ABA salaries traditionally afford players).

The relationship that exists between the Knights and the Khoury family is becoming more and more common to aficionados of the local sports scene. This same kind of arrangement kept Josh Kroenke and Spencer Laurie in Missouri basketball uniforms in recent years. The two are cousins of Paige Laurie, who's father Bill, put up $25 million big ones toward the construction of the Tiger's new basketball specific arena.

Listed as a generous 6'0"by the Knights web site, it is not known whether Khoury is drawing a salary (regarding the reports of paychecks bouncing).

*February Update -- Guards Jeff Boschee and Joe Crispin have left the team to play overseas. Meanwhile, Jon Crispin has filed a lawsuit against the team over nonpayment and wrongful termination. He was released from the team in January to make room for Khoury.


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