Scranton’s minor league basketball history goes back to basketball infancy. Scranton teams competed in the old Penn State League in 1919. There have been Scranton entries in The EBL and the CBA. The Scranton franchise was first known as the Miners, celebrating the mining history of the area. In the 1970’s the CBA entry was known as the Scranton Apollos and the final year of their existence the Scranton franchise was known as the Aces, celebrating the city’s love of card games and illegal joker poker machines. Scranton had many standout players over the years including Willy Somerset, Bill Spivey, Jim Boeheim and Charllie Criss.
Scranton had a part in breaking the color barrier in basketball. Bernard “Red” Sarachek coached the Scranton Miners of the American Basketball League. Red was a highly respected coach when professional basketball was in its infancy.
With Scranton in the late 40s, the Bronx-born Sarachek broke the league’s segregation rules by playing Dolly King, William “Pop” Gates, and Eddie Younger at the same time. All 3 players were members of the Harlem Rens. The Rens were one of the greatest teams of the 1940s.
Pop Gates had a stellar pro career that led to international fame with the Harlem Globetrotters and eventual enshrinement in the NBA Hall of Fame. Pop Gates also coached the Miners to back to back ABL titles in 1949 and 1950. “Pop” Gates was considered one of the nation’s finest basketball players. Always a scoring threat, Gates was a complete ballplayer on offense, a defensive specialist and a strong rebounder.