The Final Word on the Toros’ ’06-’07 Season

What can you say about the recently concluded Austin Toros season except that it was a topsy-turvy affair from the jump, punctuated by periods of inspired play, extended stretches without a win, disappointing cameos from former NBA stars, energizing performances from former unknowns, incidences of high levity and low farce (witness the crime and punishment of team mascot Da Bull), and defined by one moment of true and deep sadness?

What you can say with relative certainty is that the Toros’ second season in the NBA’s Development League was essentially over before it really began. Full of promise and potential, and coached by former NBA great Dennis Johnson, the team collapsed out of the gate, face first, with 12 straight losses. Their offense was spotty, their defense nonexistent, and their turnover rate abysmal. Maybe it was something about 2006 in particular that was dooming the team – its numerological or astrological significance, perhaps, or the fact that it was the Chinese Year of the Dog – because they followed that woeful start with a blazing 13-3 run to inaugurate 2007, the Year of the Pig. While researching this story, I tried to find some symbolic relationship between pigs, dogs, and bulls that would explain such a dramatic turnaround but ultimately came up empty. So it seems the Chinese are off the hook.

Instead, it was the inspired play of all-star guard B.J. Elder; the steadying presence of midseason acquisitions Troy Bell, Cheyne Gadson, and Loren Woods; and the rapid rise of formerly discarded rookie Justin Bowen that enabled the Toros to overcome the shame of those first four weeks, if not their statistical repercussions, and get themselves back into the good graces of the basketball gods.

Unfortunately those graces were nowhere to be found on Feb. 27, when coach Johnson suffered a fatal heart attack at age 52, a terrible blow to the young franchise, the city of Austin, and the basketball community at large. Without their captain, the Toros’ ship teetered over the last half of the season, and it was all the players and their new head coach, Dale Osbourne, could do to keep it from being dashed on the rocks and finish with a respectable, if unremarkable, 21-29 record.

So raise your glasses to the 2006-'07 season and all its ups and downs. With any luck, 2008 will be the Year of the Bull.

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