CLEVELAND (AP) -Former Cleveland Cavaliers owner Ted Stepien, whose propensity for trading away draft picks resulted in an NBA rule change, died Monday at his home in Willoughby Hills. He was 82.
Stepien paid $2 million for 37 percent of the Cavaliers in April 1980 and soon became the majority shareholder. The Cavaliers went 66-180, dropped to the bottom of the league in attendance and lost $15 million during Stepien's three years of ownership.
He went through six coaches during that span, including four during the 1981-82 season - Don Delaney, Bob Kloppenburg, Chuck Daly and Bill Musselman. The team finished 15-67.
Because of his habit of trading draft picks for mediocre players, the league passed the ``Stepien Rule,'' which restricts teams from dealing future first-round selections in consecutive years.
Stepien sold the team to George and Gordon Gund for $20 million in 1983. NBA owners awarded the Cavaliers bonus first-round picks for each year from 1983-86 to help compensate for the ones Stepien traded away.
``I don't feel I failed,'' Stepien later said. ``I rescued a bankrupt organization.''
The son of a railroad inspector, Stepien joined the Army Air Force in 1943 and was a navigator-bomber during World War II with the rank of lieutenant.
After the war, he worked as a clerk in an advertising company in Pittsburgh. He moved to Cleveland in 1947 seeking to start his own company.
With $500 borrowed from his father, Stepien launched Nationwide Advertising Service Inc., running ads from prospective employers and home-sellers in 80 Ohio weekly newspapers at $5 each. He grew Nationwide into 31 offices in three countries.
After selling the Cavaliers, Stepien owned several minor league basketball teams, including the Toronto Tornadoes and the Mississippi Coast (Biloxi) Jets.
``The Cavaliers organization extends our sympathies to the Stepien family as they deal with the passing of Ted,'' the team said in a statement.
Mahon-Murphy Funeral Home in Lyndhurst. Services will be at 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Frances of Assisi Church in Gates Mills.
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