Detroit Eagles, a professional basketball team based Detroit, Michigan. The team played in the National Basketball League, in the 1939-40 season and the 1940-41 season, playing respectably, but shocking the professional basketball world in 1941 to win the World Professional Basketball Tournament.
Inaugural Season, 1939-40
The Detroit Eagles made their debut in the 1939-40 season, the franchise being owned by a cigar manufacturer, who picked up the Cleveland White Horses franchise, which disbanded the previous year. The team picked up some top players from the American Basketball League on the East Coast, and was led by two standout players, Nat Frankel and Irv Torgoff. Detroit lead the Eastern Division for most of the season, but near the end faded and was overtaken by the Akron Firestone Non-Skids, finishing with a 17-10 record. In the playoffs, the Firestones eliminated Detroit 2 games to 1. Frankel was selected as second team all-league.
The 1940-41 season began with a hiccup, as the Eagles withdrew from the league, because the team could not find a venue. The venue issue was solved by November, when Detroit reentered the league. The Detroit franchise also picked up new backers and a new coach, Dutch Dehnert. Detroit also picked up two terrific rookies, Ed Sadowski of Seton Hall and Bob Calihan of Detroit University, to go with their other star players, Buddy Jeannette and Jack Ahearn
In the one-division seven-team circuit that year, Detroit finished in fourth place with a 12-13 record and a spot in the playoffs. The Eagles was eliminated in the semifinals by the Sheybogan Red Skins, 2 games to 1. Sadowski finished tied for third in the scoring lead table with 10.7 average. Both Jeannette and Sadowski made all-league first team, while Calihan made second team.
Surprise World Champions
In the World Professional Basketball Tournament Detroit shocked the field, by edging the New York Rens in the semifinals, 43-42, and surprising league champion, Oshkosh All-Stars in the championship game, 39-37. Sadowski and Calihan had hot hands in those games fueling Detroit’s unlikely world championship. Jeannette was selected as the tournament's most valuable player.
Detroit surprisingly could not find a home court for the 1941-42 season, and withdrew from the league to pursue an independent schedule.