Ted Stepien, 82; owned Cavaliers
CLEVELAND - Ted Stepien, the former owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers whose propensity for trading away draft picks resulted in an NBA rule change, died yesterday at his home in Willoughby Hills. He was 82.
Mr. Stepien paid $2 million for 37 percent of the Cavaliers in 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 Mr. Stepien's three years of ownership.
He went through six coaches during that span, including four during the 1981-82 season.
Because of his habit of trading high draft picks for mediocre players, the league passed the so-called Stepien Rule, which restricts teams from dealing future first-round selections in consecutive years.
Mr. Stepien sold the team for $20 million in 1983. NBA owners awarded the Cavaliers bonus first-round picks for each year from 1983 to 1986 to help compensate for the ones Mr. Stepien traded away.
"I don't feel I failed," Mr. Stepien later said. "I rescued a bankrupt organization."
The son of a railroad inspector, Mr. Stepien was a navigator-bomber during World War II with the rank of lieutenant.
After the war, he settled in Cleveland. With $500 borrowed from his father, Mr. Stepien launched Nationwide Advertising Service Inc., running ads from employers and home-sellers in 80 Ohio weekly newspapers at $5 each. He grew Nationwide into 31 offices in three countries.