Basketball

Could minor-league KC Tornadoes pave way for NBA’s return? These men think so

"The Basketball League" commissioner David Magley, from left, new KC Tornadoes head coach Eddie Corporal, team CEO Justin Pattison and chief operating officer and former KC Kings player Kevin Loder this week discussed plans for the minor-league basketball team's second season.
"The Basketball League" commissioner David Magley, from left, new KC Tornadoes head coach Eddie Corporal, team CEO Justin Pattison and chief operating officer and former KC Kings player Kevin Loder this week discussed plans for the minor-league basketball team's second season. Kansas City Tornadoes

One is a retired Kansas City Kings player, the other a former ball boy. Together, they’re taking what they hope might be a step in bringing an NBA team back to KC for the first time since the Kings left for Sacramento after the 1984-85 season.

The former King is Kevin Loder. Now 59, he was the team’s first-round pick in the 1981 NBA Draft out of Alabama State. He played three seasons in the NBA — two with the Kings, one with the San Diego Clippers. The former ball boy is Eddie Corporal, 55, who first met Loder as the kid who’d pick up opposing players’ warm-ups when they’d toss them aside before entering a game.

The two are embarking on the second season of the Kansas City Tornadoes, a minor-league basketball team that last year played in the eight-team North American Premier Basketball League — a league that has since added four teams and now dubs itself simply “The Basketball League.”

Loder is the Tornadoes’ chief operating officer, Corporal its new head coach. This week, they were among a small group that unveiled new players, new leadership and a new logo, and spoke of promoting a fan environment that positions Kansas City as an NBA expansion or relocation destination.

“Back then, I wouldn’t have guessed we were going to work together,” Corporal said. “We always talked, but but I didn’t think we would be a part of a professional organization together. ... I’m glad it happened, though.”

A stroke survivor, Corporal has coached basketball for 31 years, most recently with the Arkansas RiverCatz of the American Basketball Association. He was an assistant last year to Calvin Thompson, who coached the Tornadoes, then known as the Tornados, to a 15-15 record at Municipal Auditorium and Avila University.

“He (Corporal) actually has a great story of being a stroke survivor,” Loder said. “He is still coaching and encouraging people in those spaces. Just yesterday he was in Lawrence at a hospital speaking to stroke survivors. … We are grateful to have him in this place. He has assembled a great team.”

Working the bench for visiting teams when they played the Kings, Corporal said he drew inspiration from some iconic figures.

“The funny thing is, I never thought I would be a coach,” Corporal said. “I like to think I’m a players’ coach. You can never coach all of the players the same way. I learned that the most from Pat Riley. … I remember watching him talk to the players and call the plays. I’d watch him draw the plays and just be a sponge of everything he was doing.”

The Tornadoes have yet to announce their new home venue but appear to have their eye on a place that would be familiar to both Corporal and Loder, not to mention fans of the old KC Kings: Kemper Arena, now known as Hy-Vee Arena. The Basketball League’s next season is slated to start sometime in January.

For now, Corporal and Loder concern themselves with building interest in the community.

“Our biggest goal is to solidify the family-friendly community brand of professional basketball in Kansas City and to connect through the community,” Loder said. “We are serving in the community.”

“We obviously want to build a fan base,” Corporal said. “We want people to be involved in the community and be excited to come out to the Tornadoes’ games.

“But at the same time, we want the NBA to look at us and say, ‘Hey, look at how Kansas City is treating the Tornadoes. … I wonder how they would treat a (NBA) team out there?’ ”

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