During the bulk of the 1941 calendar year, the U.S. had, by initiating the Lend-Lease program with Great Britain, more involved in the war and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 would officially drive the nation into World War II. By December 7, the NBL season had been underway for around a month, but the impact of the nation's preparation for war had already made an impact and entry into the war would only accelerate the effects.
Many NBL players had joined reserve units and some had enlisted in one of the active duty branches of the armed forces. But it was not only players that were effected. The Detroit Eagles were forced to drop out of the league when their home court, the Naval Armory, was closed to them so it could be used for its intended military purposes. With no home court available, the team was forced to leave the NBL. Also dropping out were the Hammond Ciesars. but the biggest surprise was the loss of the powerhouse Akron Firestone Non-Skids when the Firestone Company decided to no longer sponsor a club. Many of Akron's top-flight players would quickly land with other teams.
Returning to the NBL was the Indianapolis Kautsky club after a one-year stint as a touring team. Two other clubs would sign on as well - the Toledo Jim White Chevrolets came on board as well as the Fort Wayne Zollner Pistons. Fred Zollner, who had founded a team the year before, had first wanted to schedule some exhibitions against the NBL clubs, but league president Jim Fischer traveled to Fort Wayne and convinced Zollner to join the league as a full-fledged member. Of course the Pistons would go on to become a cornerstone of what would eventually evolve into the National Basketball Association and are still playing today.
Larry Gladstone landed with the Jim White Chevrolets as did Alphonse Berube, giving the new Toledo entry some much-needed proven talent. Fred Zollner quickly moved to ink Al Ceron, the three-time MVP, to be the cornerstone of his team and added Joe Novak, the former Hammond star as well. The Kautskys brought a handful of the players they had when they last played in the NBL back with them (Larry Ratliff, Basil Norman, Jimmy O'Bannon and most importantly Carl Brown) and bolstered them with fresh finds from their touring days as well as a few warm bodies from now defunct teams.
THE 1941-42 SEASON
The Zollner Pistons proved to be a good addition to the NBL. Led by forward Joe Novak (who came over after the Hammond Ciesar All-Americans hung it up) and his 17.5 points per game and featuring a defense anchored by three-time MVP Al Ceron (who finished .1 behind Charlie Moss' league-leading 15.0 rebounds per game), Fort Wayne finished with a 15-9 mark. That record tied them with the resurgent Akron Goodyear club. The Wingfoots hadn't added much in the way of extra firepower, but the players they had strung it all together - they had Palladino who while failing to lead the league in scoring for the first time in three seasons, still led the team with a 17.9 mark (good for third place) and a big man tandem of Lon Sweet (12.8 rpg) and Pat Grogan (11.9) a pair of veterans in the middle. Point guard Elmer Williams and forward Michael Townsend completed the starting five for the Wingfoots.
Finishing third was the ever-powerful Oshkosh squad (featuring MVP Charlie Moss and Rookie of the Year Theo Bastian) with Sheboygan filling out the fourth playoff seed. And it would be Sheboygan who would ultimately claim the title, easily dispatching the Wingfoots in two games and then taking down the Zollner Pistons in three games.
The seasonal awards went to:
MVP: C Charlie Moss (Oshkosh)
Rookie of the Year: F Theo Bastian (Oshkosh)
Coach of the Year: Ken White (Fort Wayne)
All-League Team: C Charlie Moss, F Al Ceron (Fort Wayne), F Larry Ratliff (Indianapolis), G Jim Smith (Sheboygan), G Elmer Williams (Akron Goodyear)