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ABL's fall catches Pearman off guard

December 22, 1998

Belinda PearmanBy BOB PARASILITI / Staff Writer

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Belinda "Boe" Pearman had the yearnings that most people far from home have at this time of year.

The South Hagerstown graduate wanted to be home for the holidays. But Pearman's job as associate head coach of the New England Blizzard of the American Basketball League pre-empted any thoughts of fireplaces and hot toddies.

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Pearman went for the next best thing. She came home on Tuesday for an early Christmas with her family before leaving Christmas Eve for a nationally televised game. The plans changed dramatically late Tuesday afternoon.

The ABL, one of two professional women's basketball leagues in the United States, suspended operations on Tuesday and filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code. The league discontinued play during its third season because of financial losses.

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"It's funny how you wish for things," said Pearman, who had just received news of the ABL's fate. "I wanted to be home for Christmas. Now I will be, but I don't have a job."

Pearman, 35, received a call from the Blizzard's front office just moments earlier informing her of the decision. The move was announced by the league with a phone recording, faxes and over its Web site after the board of directors decided on Monday to cease operations of the nine-team league.

Without the ABL, the WNBA becomes the only U.S. women's pro basketball league. The WNBA has the strong financial backing of the National Basketball Association and has teams linked to the franchises of the men's pro league.

"This just hit out of the blue," Pearman said. "There had always skepticism of if the two leagues could exist. I have no ideas of the whys (it happened). We all wish it didn't happen at all."

The idea that the WNBA may add some of the ABL teams as expansion teams is only speculation.

"They have been saying these two leagues can't merge because the ABL teams aren't in NBA cities," Pearman said. "I don't know."

New England is stationed in Hartford, Conn., and hosts some Boston Celtics games. Chicago, Philadelphia and Seattle are ABL sites that have NBA counterparts without current WNBA franchises.

Pearman said she was instructed by New England management not to speak about specifics of the closing of the league under Chapter 11 law. But her emotions of the disbanding of the league weren't protected by law.

"It's a big disappointment for women's basketball," Pearman said. "We are all taken by surprise. Not only because we don't have a job, but because we had the feeling that women's basketball was making strides. I hope this is only temporary. It is frustrating, especially for all the young women who were establishing themselves."

Pearman graduated in 1980 after earning All-America status and was named Washington County co-Outstanding Player of the Year for scoring 24 points with 17 rebounds per game at South Hagerstown.

She spent the next 16 years - four as a player and 12 as assistant coach - at the University of Maryland under coach Chris Weller. She accepted the coaching post under former NBA star K.C. Jones in June, 1997. The Blizzard made the playoffs in her first season.

Now, Pearman needs time to reassess and start over.

"I'm not sure what's ahead ... this has caught me by surprise," Pearman said. "I hope to catch on with some opportunity. Things would come up but I was always coaching for the moment."

After Christmas, Pearman will head back to Hartford to clear out her office and tie up some loose ends. Then, she will look into her "opportunities," and maybe one will keep her in coaching.

"I'd love to stay with coaching," she said. "I love the pro game. I didn't think there would be anything better than college, but I love the pro style. But I don't know what will happen. Things always seem to happen for a reason."

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