Being one of the most popular minor league basketball teams in CBA and all of minor league basketball history, the La Crosse Catbirds set attendance records in the CBA during their first five seasons. They were originally the Louisville Catbirds from 1983-85 but were sold and relocated to Wisconsin. Their name actually comes from combining Kentucky’s college mascots; the University of Kentucky (“Cats”) and University of Louisville (“Birds”), a name they kept in Wisconsin.
Despite going 24-24 in their first year, the city of La Crosse took to the Catbirds and broke the CBA’s single season attendance record in 1985-86. The next two seasons, they would win the division including a 40-14 campaign in 1987-88. But they wouldn’t find playoff succes, getting ousted in the first round each year. After a down 1988-89, the team stormed back for a 42-win season in 1989-90 and finally found playoff success. They beat Quad City, Albany, andRapid Cityon their way to the CBA title. They would win another title in 1992, again a 40 win season and defeating Rapid City in the Finals.
The Catbirds were very successful on the court, as the team had only one losing season out of nine years, which proves how strong this team was and a testament to their fans’ commitment. While attendance started to fade in the 1990s, the team would be sold and moved to Pittsburgh to become the Pittsburgh Piranhas, a disastrous move. The team lasted only one year in the Steel City before folding. Meanwhile, La Crosse was awarded an expansion franchise, the La Cross Bobcats.