Nick Mileti was born in 1931 and raised in Cleveland. He went to John Adams High School and graduated in 1949 and attended Bowling Green University and received his law degree. While he was at Bowling Green there was a coach there by the name of Bill Fitch. He practiced law until he found himself in the fast paced world of sports and promotions. He bought the old Cleveland Arena and the American Hockey League Barons in 1968.
In 1970 the NBA franchise was planning to expand. Nick had the upper hand in bringing a team to Cleveland because he owned the Cleveland Arena and therefore was in control of the dates. They needed to guarantee 41 dates plus playoffs. At the same time Buffalo, Portland and Houston entered the league. Buffalo’s team went to San Diego and Houston fell off for financial reasons.
He was awarded the franchise and Cleveland had an NBA team. Mileti held a contest to name the team. Over fourteen thousand entries came in. It was narrowed down to five by a vote of the people. Then Nick selected the name, Cavaliers, from those five “It was my team after all, but it was the people’s team too. This way we were all part of it.”
The Cavaliers colors of wine and gold were Mileti’s tribute to John Adams High School – they too had wine and gold. “But we changed the wine to be “Cavaliers Wine” a very special color.” The team played at the Cleveland Arena, (which Mileti owned) and averaged a paultry 6,000 fans a game.
In 1974 Nick built what was to be the new home of the Cavaliers, the Richfield Coliseum. Regionalism was a concept that had not yet come into its own, but Nick was always ahead of his time. He chose Richfield for the Coliseum because he thought with the Turnpike, I 271 and Rt. 303 the area had the ability to turn into something really big.
Things started to turn around.
The Miracle at Richfield put the Cleveland Cavaliers as a real force in the NBA landscape and was a very special time for Mileti and Cleveland. It was the 1975-76 season and the Cavaliers were in the playoffs! They sold out all seven games of the play off series. Their roster included Austin Carr, Bingo Smith, Campy Russell, Nate Thurmond, Jim Chones, and Foots Walker. The great Joe
Just prior to the start of the 1980/81 season he sold the Cavaliers to Ted Stepien.
He also owned the Cleveland Indians. Mileti said: “I had no choice but to buy them. They were going to be moved to New Orleans. They’re a Cleveland team; they needed to stay in Cleveland!”
The owner at the time was Vernon Stouffer who had already turned down an offer from George Steinbrenner to buy the team. He and manager Gabe Paul had made a deal to play 30 games in New Orleans but promised “not to move the team.”
Mileti wasn’t buying that. Thankfully for Cleveland Indians fans Stouffer accepted the offer led by Mileti and a group of investors and the Indians have stayed home every since. In 1978 Steve O’Neill became the principal owner of the team.