As the 1995 season came to an end, the Oklahoma Mavericks found themselves in a familiar place. A far cry from their early TBC dominance when the franchise was still in Austin, the Mavericks missed the playoffs once again, ultimately finding themselves with the 2nd worst record in the league. Amazingly, that finish was actually better than 1994’s dreadful season, where Oklahoma finished with an ungodly 22-66 record, worst in the league. For fans of the downtrodden Mavericks, futility has been the only thing they’ve ever known.
Befofe they were the Oklahoma Mavericks, they were the Austin Outlaws, who dominated the TBC from 1971-1976, winning 3 Classic Cups in just six years. The Outlaws were the first dynasty that the league ever saw, before ultimately being supplanted by the Pittsburgh Grinders and St. Paul Apostles. Eventually, Austin’s success ran dry, and a dispute over a new stadium emerged. When it was all said and done, GM Nigel Laverick decided to move the team east a few hundred miles, settling in the heart of southern baseball, Oklahama. Seeking a new beginning, with a new nickname, the experiment did not go according to plan. In their first season in Oklahoma, the Mavericks finished 20 games under .500. The next year, they improved ever so slightly, winning 35 games compared to the 34 victories the year prior. 1993 saw the Mavericks have their best season, to this date the only one where the team finished with a winning record, although they still failed to sniff the playoffs, finishing in 6th place in the Senior Circuit.
Then, a few days ago, it was announced that Laverick would be heading to greener pastures. Despite having built a strong farm system with some of the best prospects in the nation, he decided to hightail it out of Oklahoma, taking the job in Philadelphia instead. Managerless, and lacking nearly all components of a functioning staff, the Mavericks decided to go way off the board in their search for a new GM. Last night, the team officially announced the hiring of rookie GM Jon Hilowitz, who, despite being well known in the hockey world, has never so much as managed a Little League team. “Crazy or Brilliant?” read the headline of the Oklahoma Songsheet following the hiring. “It’s pretty unorthodox, but at tjis point it’s not like they could be too much worse” said Gus Stangley, editor at the Songsheet.
Right off the bat, Hilowitz made a splash, hiring legendary scout Fritz Miller to a 5 year deal. The new manager promised an aggressive leadership style, and guaranteed a quick turnaround to the team. “First of all, I want to thank the Mavericks for giving me this chance. I know it was a very surprising choice, and none of you have heard of me before, but I promise that I’ll have this team turned around and competitive before you know it.” Once Miller was on board, the Mavericks made their first ever draft selection under Hilowitz’s supervision, selecting shortstop Josh Miller with the #2 pick. “Miller wnbodies what we want this team to be. Hard-nosed, smart, loyal. He’s got all the tools to be a great player, and we loved his intangibles. This is a guy you build around.”
Aside from the Fritz Miller signing, Oklahoma has also been aggressive in their staffing offers, putting forth contracts to a number of highly regarded coaches. “We have the young guns in place to be good for a very long time. Now, we need to bring them along with the right coaches” Hilowitz continued at his press conference. And while success is still a long way off, for the first time in a long time, there’s optimism in Oklahoma. Brilliant or crazy? Only time will tell.
author Oklahoma Gm Jon Hilowitz