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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, Ohio. He was 82.
Stepien paid $2 million for 37 per cent 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.”
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.