The Owensboro Thoroughbreds are coming back.
The TBL franchise, which has undergone a tumultuous first two seasons, is set for a return to the Sportscenter hardwood later this month — with a new front office and owner intent on proving they can make it work.
It didn’t take long for Chris Allison, the new Thoroughbreds’ market owner, to see Owensboro’s potential, despite some early concerns.
“I came to Owensboro in December and fell in love with the city,” said Allison, 30, a Columbus, Ohio, native. “I’ve met a lot of people already, so I’m hearing the history and stories of the teams in Owensboro. I was kind of apprehensive at first, because people are hesitant — the city’s already gone through the Bisons, the Mavericks and the Thoroughbreds in different capacities.”
However, Allison added, he’s up for the challenge.
In Columbus, Allison oversees a number of recreational and community sports leagues that cater to people with disabilities. Looking to grow that outreach, Allison jumped at the chance to get into professional sports.
The Thoroughbreds will be Allison’s third team in the TBL, joining the ranks of the Columbus Condors and Indy Express, but he sees a unique opportunity in Owensboro.
“I love the city, and I love the history of the Sportscenter,” he said. “I’m excited to be able to add something to that.
“Initially, the biggest thing is I’m not looking to just pull from the city. These teams in the past have asked the community to support them, but I don’t expect anything. I want to put a competitive team together, and if we do what we’re supposed to do, the city will wrap its arms around us.”
Paul Kreisle, the Thoroughbreds’ director of operations, has no doubts that the franchise will ultimately be a success.
“We’ve got to prove to Owensboro that we’re not a fly-by-night basketball team,” said Kreisle, 61, who grew up in Hancock County and has been the Thoroughbreds’ public address announcer for two years. “We’re not going anywhere. We’re gonna win some championships and make Owensboro a dynasty for professional basketball.”
Kreisle’s plan for prosperity includes a “grassroots effort” of getting involved with as many schools as possible in the area, attracting younger fans who will grow up as the team evolves.
“We’re gonna do the things a basketball team should be doing, like getting out into the community,” he said. “We need to rebrand ourselves.”
The Thoroughbreds have also brought in a first-year general manager in Cody Ballard, who previously played for the franchise, as well as head coach Mark Anderson, who enters with more than 30 years of coaching experience.
Training camp to determine a full roster begins Jan. 20. Already guaranteed to compete for playing time will be former Mavericks and Thoroughbreds standout Corey Wilford, along with draft selections Filip Serwatka and Joel Anderson.
The season begins Jan. 30 and concludes in mid-April, but Allison wants to be around for much longer than that.
“We’re not just asking the city to get behind us for three months and that’s it,” Allison said. “We want to be a year-round presence in the community.”