Catalog Number: 2002.008.01
They were the coolest cats in town from 1996 to 2001.
Being the best basketball players in any town is always a big deal, and that is exactly what the members of the La Crosse Bobcats were
They played in the Continental Basketball Association, and their home games were in the La Crosse Center, the largest buckets arena in town. They were the best basketball talent this side of the NBA, and their uniforms featured the team colors of red, purple and white.
One of those nylon jerseys was donated to the La Crosse County Historical Society in 2002 by Kenneth Jenkerson.
The jersey features the name Gostomski in large red letters on the back, along with the number 25, which is also on the front. Local businessman Mike Gostomski was one of the team’s co-owners, along with La Crosse banker Bill Bosshard. Bill’s wife, Diane, was the team’s general manager.
Don Zierden served as the head coach of the Bobcats during their first two years of existence. He was followed as head coach by Mike Mashak, Dennis Johnson and Bill Klucas.
The Bobcats didn’t have a winning record in any of their five seasons, and the team folded about halfway through the scheduled 2000-2001 season when the Continental Basketball Association went bankrupt.
The Bobcats, who were the Chicago Rockers before moving to La Crosse, attracted decent crowds before going out of business, according to Art Fahey, director of the La Crosse Center.
“People enjoyed them,” he recalls. “They had the regulars coming in.”
The Bobcats were the second CBA team in La Crosse, as the Catbirds played in the La Crosse Center from 1985 through 1994. The Bobcats “didn’t quite catch on” like the Catbirds, Fahey notes.
The Bobcats roster include two names familiar to Wisconsin basketball fans — Sam Okey, who played for a prep school in Cassville and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Jarrod Lovette, who played for Blair-Taylor High School and Marquette University.
The city of La Crosse dedicated a time capsule in 2006, and many objects from the city’s 150-year history were placed in the capsule, which was buried under a marble slab.
Those who open that capsule during the city’s bicentennial celebration in 2056 will find a Bobcats button and program from the team’s inaugural season.
This article was originally published in the La Crosse Tribune on August 17, 2019.