[caption id="attachment_230626" align="aligncenter" width="1200"] The Delaware Blue Coats won their first franchise G-League title after losing in the Finals the last two seasons. | PHOTO COURTESY OF ALEX NAHORNIAK-SVENSKI / DELAWARE BLUE COATS[/caption]
WILMINGTON – The First State is once again home of a national champion after the Delaware Blue Coats claimed the NBA G-League title on Thursday night.The Philadelphia 76ers’ affiliate that is based out of the Chase Fieldhouse in Wilmington defeated the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, the affiliate of the Houston Rockets, in a 114-110 Game 2 victory in Texas. The G-League, the developmental league for the NBA, names its annual playoff champion in a best-of-three series, and the Blue Coats won their April 4 Game 1 home game 134-120.The championship marks a breakthrough for the Blue Coats, which made the G-League Finals in each of the last two seasons but came up short each time.
[caption id="attachment_230627" align="alignleft" width="300"] The Delaware Blue Coats celebrate their G-League Championship by dousing coach Coby Karl, who is a former NBA player. | PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRISTIAN INOFERIO / DELAWARE BLUE COATS[/caption]
Led by coach Coby Karl and several players who have spent time with the 76ers in the past few years, a championship title was the culmination of a season that required the Blue Coats to overcome early inconsistent play. The team sat under .500 for much of the first two months of the season and didn’t make a playoff push until well into the new year.“We've been chasing [the 2022 Champion Vipers] for three years. I think this group came together at the right time,” said Prosper Karangwa, the general manager of the Blue Coats, in accepting the league trophy. “We had an up-and-down season and to get to this point, for this team to finish the journey that started three years ago, is kind of cool.”
[caption id="attachment_230612" align="alignright" width="256"] Guard Jaden Springer led the Blue Coats to their first G-League title as the Finals MVP. | PHOTO COURTESY OF DELAWARE BLUE COATS[/caption]
Jaden Springer, a guard who has spent time with the Sixers and averaged 34 points in the G-League Finals, was named the Finals MVP.“[The Vipers] got us last year. We got them back … Now we get to go celebrate,” Springer said.The Blue Coats are the first professional league champion in the First State since the Wilmington Blue Rocks won the 2019 Carolina League Championship in Minor League Baseball’s High A level.On Friday morning, Gov. John Carney extended his congratulations to the new champs, saying, "Congratulations to the Delaware Blue Coats on their championship title! It was a historic win for the team – and a historic night for our state’s largest city."Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki added, "“The Blue Coats have brought championship basketball back to Wilmington. We are very proud of the team and the entire organization."City and state leaders plan to celebrate the team on Monday afternoon in Wilmington.Founded in 2013-14, the Blue Coats were originally known as the Delaware 87ers and played at the University of Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center. The Buccini/Pollin Group later built the Chase Fieldhouse in Wilmington and convinced the team to move to Delaware’s largest city, where the team was renamed for the 2018-19 season. Since then, the team has drawn thousands of fans to games.The Blue Coats also received some publicity this year when guard Mac McClung won the NBA All-Star Weekend dunk contest with a dizzying display that wowed the crowd. That nationally televised victory helped draw attention to the Blue Coats’ final home games of the 2022-23 season.Another crowd may be expected next fall when the Blue Coats add their first title banner to the rafters of the Chase Fieldhouse off South Market Street that currently features the Sixers 1966-67 and 1982-83 Championship banners.The championship celebrations for some of the Blue Coats players, including Springer, McClung and forward Lou King, who had a championship saving block in the final moments of Game 2, will likely be short, as they are expected to be called up to the Sixers as the professional team prepares for the NBA playoffs as a top Eastern Conference team vying for a new title of their own.