Pioneer in Women’s Sports
Ownership of Women’s Pro Basketball team
His foray into women’s professional basketball stands as possibly the most unusual and daring step in Vince’s career. In 1979, just seven years after Title IX legislation was adopted, just two years after completing graduate school, Vince resigned his consulting role with Data Resources, Inc., raised capital, and purchased an expansion franchise in the WBL. At the time the league was beginning its second year of play.
As president and general manager of the St. Louis Streak at age 27, Vince was the youngest majority owner of a WBL team. The league’s struggles are well documented in Karra Porter’s book, Mad Seasons, with tales of teams failing to make payroll to its players and players threatening to not take the court, although the Streak always paid its players their modest salaries on time. However, a regular hardship the Streak players did endure was flying from St. Louis to a road game in San Francisco, via an inconvenient stopover Atlanta, in order to save a few thousand dollars of airfare. It seemed like half of the team’s road trips routed through Atlanta.
At one point as the league was entering its final season (St. Louis Streak’s second season) the WBL Commissioner was ousted by the owners, resulting in the league being run by a 3-person executive committee, which included Vince and two other well-respected owners of WBL teams. While mismanagement by league officials contributed to the demise of the league, the odds were already stacked against a women’s professional basketball league, in a time when women’s sports were only just emerging due to the recent passage of Title IX legislation.
The attempt to make women’s professional basketball a reality was exhilarating at times, but also stressful and daunting. In the end, only Dallas, Chicago, and St. Louis seemed to be sustainable franchises. Needless to say, three teams did not meet the threshold of a critical mass of teams to sustain the league. The WBL folded in the spring of 1981. While there were several other attempts to start a women’s pro basketball league, none lasted as long as the WBL, until the inception of the WNBA, fifteen years later.
Vince at the 1st WBL Draft, July 1979
Linnell “Magic” Jones taking flight
Vince and Larry Jones at 1979 Draft
Vince and Victor Quagliero (Asst. GM) at 1979 Draft
Jane Ellen Cook
Streak game program
Molly Bolin with Liz Silcott in background
Jeannie Loyd shooting a jumper
Vince Gennaro © 2020