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Vintage Cavs Pays Homage to Cleveland's Pro Basketball Roots

photo of Cavs first season program
The program for the Cavs first season was printed jointly with the Cleveland Barons.

Terry Pluto reflects on when the Cavs called the Richfield Coliseum home. He remembers those days fondly and writes about them in his new book ‘Vintage Cavs.’

The Cleveland Cavaliers have had their good days and their bad days. Winning the 2016 NBA championship is a highlight.

Pluto recalls the 2016 team. LeBron James had returned to Cleveland after a split from the team, coming back to help guide them to a win over the Golden State Warriors. Pluto says there was no love lost in that team, but James’ return was a business decision. A good one, it turned out.

“It was a marriage of convenience, there was not a lot of romance to it,” Pluto said. “It was pure business.”

50 years of Cavs history
Pluto’s book is a rich history of the first 50 years for the team, beginning with their start in the Cleveland Arena. He said the Arena and the Coliseum had different feels to them when the Cavs played there.

“They were almost like a neighborhood team,” Pluto said. “Let’s face it, next to the arena there was a farm – and they had sheep. And the other side of the arena was the park.”

People, Pluto included, still return to that spot, seeking out the space that once was the home of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Now, the land where the Coliseum stood is part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

“The interesting thing to me, too, along those ways is that players who played there have gone there,” Pluto said. He mentions players like World B. Free and Mark Price who've shared stories of returning to the space and staring at the field. Pluto remembers Price saying, “It’s strange. It’s like I could hear it and feel it, but it’s not there. It’s like it almost didn’t happen.”

site of old Richfield Coliseum
The site where the Richfield Coliseum once stood is now an empty field in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Summit County's team
While these players, like Free and Price, seem like larger than life characters, Pluto said they made themselves accessible. After practice, they’d get into pick-up games. But, Pluto said, it carried even further.

“There’s a playground up in Cuyahoga Falls called Valley Vista,” Pluto said. “They would get in pick-up games with just guys off the street.”

In his research for the book, Pluto said he received emails from people recalling times they’d not only met the players, but had the opportunity to play with them.

“The fact is that you don’t see that now,” he said. “You know, because there just such bigger business.”

Terry talks past owners of the Cavs

Memory lane
Pluto said he’ll go into press boxes and often be the oldest one there nowadays. But he shares his stories with younger writers, who might not otherwise know these players.

‘Vintage Cavs: A Warm Look Back at the Cavaliers of the Cleveland Arena and Richfield Coliseum Years’ is a nostalgic, wistful memory of the team’s beginnings.

“Frankly, part of sports is memory, is nostalgia, is history,” Pluto said.

Andrew Meyer is the deputy editor of news at Ideastream Public Media.