The NBL's first season had been a success - however, it had not been without problems. Financial issues were the largest of these and led to a contraction in size. Several squads had sunk in red ink the previous season and were not returning, announcing as such at the league's post-season meeting. These clubs were Dayton, Columbus, Cincinnati, Buffalo, Fort Wayne and Kankakee. In most cases the players from these clubs would sink into obscurity, but a few were taking their professionalism seriously, and had suitors for the services which allowed their careers to continue in new locales in 1938-39.
There was one addition to the circuit for its second year - the Sheboygan Redskins. Sheboygan was a city in Wisconsin, located on the shores of Lake Michigan and home to about 40,000 people. Sheboygan was also only 65 miles from Oshkosh, creating an instant rivalry between these two midsize Wisconsin cities. The Sheboygan team had been around since 1933 and had originally been formed by a local florist and funeral parlor before being taken over by a local laundry cleaner and eventually a gelatin manufacturer. Ultimately the club was taken over by a local syndicate of private owners, and by that time had been a solid reputation as a competitive club on the barnstorming circuit. How they would handle the NBL's theoretically stiffer competition would be the biggest question entering the season.
In other business, the league made its divisional alignment (East and West) official - this hadn't been the case the season before, although everyone had just assumed it. The league had a balanced schedule and would follow collegiate rules with the exception of the foul out rule. And the biggest change, and a sign of stability, was that the league would now hire and manage the referees, assuring fair officiating.
THE 1938-39 SEASON
With the defending champion Electrics no longer participating in the NBL, the favorites entering the second season were the runners-up from Akron. The Non-Skids looked better - on paper - than the club that had gone to a third and deciding game with Fort Wayne the year before. They had added center Big Ed Rutkowski from the folded Buffalo club and promising rookie point guard Irv Lewis was also on board. Neither would unseat the incumbent starters, but both added depth that the team had not had in 1937-38. The other Akron team, the Goodyears, was also expected to be strong - and this time it looked like a sure bet. The Goodyears had gone the extra mile in recruiting star Joe Palladino to the squad. Palladino, a smooth guard who had been the star of the Kankakee club, gave the Goodyears a proven scorer and distributor as well as a tough defensive mind-set.
Oshkosh was again the favorites in the west with Charlie Moss and Izzy Feingold both returning. How the newcomers from Sheboygan would change the western equation was a big question. The Redskins certainly looked strong based upon their showings against top touring clubs. Guard Jim Smith looked like their best player, a flashy ballhandler who could pass and score - a good foil for Feingold.
Once things tipped off it became evident that Sheboygan was a good team and they did ultimately win the west with a record of 20-8, two games better than Oshkosh's 18-10 mark. Smith was a legitimate star and the supporting cast was solid, though not flashy. The East was a battle between the two Akron clubs, with the Non-Skids eventually opening up a lead and repeating as Eastern champs with a 20-8 mark while the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots went 17-11. Palladino blossomed for the Wingfoots, leading the league with 11.4 points per game. Charlie Moss of Oshkosh took second with 9.4. Al Ceron of the Non-Skids was the top rebounder with an even 13 per contest. Sheboygan's Smith led the league in assists by a good distance, tallying 5.7 per game - runner-up Ed Barnes of the White Horses was second at 4.3 per contest.
The postseason was anti-climactic as the Non-Skids easily handled the Redskins, sweeping three contests to earn their first NBL title and gain redemption for the disappointing end of the 1937-38 campaign.
The seasonal awards went to:
MVP: PF Al Ceron, Akron Firestone Non-Skids
Rookie of the Year: C Maynard Wilkinson, Pittsburgh Pirates
Coach of the Year: Tony Phillips, Sheboygan Redskins
All-League Team: C Charlie Moss, F Al Ceron (Firestone Non-Skids), F Arthur Miller (Firestone), G Benny Francis (Cleveland White Horses), G Alphonse Berube (Firestone)