From Ohio History Central
In 1961, Abe Saperstein, Paul Cohen, George Steinbrenner and others attempted to form a new professional basketball league to rival the National Basketball Association (NBA). The developers enlisted the best teams from the National Alliance of Basketball Leagues and from the Amateur Athletic Union to form the American Basketball League. Among the league's founding teams was Steinbrenner's Cleveland Pipers. The Pipers had won the Amateur Athletic Union championship in the previous season.
In the American Basketball League, the Cleveland Pipers emerged as a dominant team. John McClendon served as the squad's first coach. As coach of the Pipers, McClendon became the first African American to serve as head coach of a major professional basketball team. The squad won the league championship in its first season (1961-1962). McClendon was not the coach by season's end. According to McClendon, Steinbrenner interfered in coaching decisions. McClendon resigned in midseason.
Following the 1961-1962 season, Steinbrenner recruited basketball sensation Jerry Lucas to play for the Pipers. Steinbrenner did not want the Cleveland Pipers to continue to play in the American Basketball League. By signing a famous player, Steinbrenner hoped to move the squad to the National Basketball Association. The NBA refused to allow the team to join the league. Steinbrenner disbanded the team before the start of the ABL's second season. The American Basketball League ended before the completion of the 1962-1963 season.