The Potawatomi Fire is the only tribally owned basketball team in Oklahoma. This season, they proved they are the best team in The Basketball League.
Their dominance in the regular season and incredible playoff run revealed the team’s skills on the court. Behind the scenes, the team owned by the Citizen Potawatomi Nation is just as good.
Fire Coach Mark Dannhoff said the organization impressed him last season when he was coaching its rival, the Enid Outlaws.
“We played here three times last year when I was with Enid,” said Dannhoff, who was named the TBL Coach of the Year for the 2023 season. “Each time, we were treated as if we were the home team, and they took care of us for every little detail.”
Because of that, when Dannhoff was approached about taking the reins of the Fire, he was excited to pursue the possibility.
“Once I discussed the position with (General Manager) David Qualls, I told my wife it’s exactly what we thought it was going to be,” Dannhoff said. “Everything is run first class.”
It is not hard to see what Dannhoff is alluding to when it comes to the Fire organization. In addition to his own postseason accolades as Coach of the Year, the Fire also boasted the league’s Defensive Player of the Year with Chuck Guy, who also came over from Enid for the 2023 season. Guy and Deshawn Munson were named the co-MVPs for the TBL Playoffs, and the Fire Girls were named the best dance team in the TBL.
“We carry ourselves as a team,” Dannhoff said. “Image is big. Character is even bigger. And the ability to put out a great product and represent CPN and Shawnee and the Potawatomi Fire is so important.”
The top four teams in the 49-team league included the Fire but also teams from Albany, New York; Seattle, Washington; and St. Louis, Missouri. However, being the smallest city in the playoffs was not a problem for the Fire. In fact, FireLake Arena is one of the best home courts in the TBL. The differences in facilities and fans during the playoff series was important to the team and gave them an advantage.
“It’s amazing here,” Dannhoff said. “It’s actually a true pro atmosphere. We had two of the most amazing crowds in those final two games in the championship.”
The coach said the crowds that surpassed 2,500 for each of the final three playoff games at home were instrumental in the team’s success, especially against the Seattle Super Hawks in the semi-finals.
“We were down 19 in the fourth quarter and came back and won by 10. The crowd had a major impact on our team to help us overcome that deficit and continue to fight. Our fans are amazing. I don’t know if there’s another place in the TBL like it,” Dannhoff said.
Now that they have won a National Championship in only their second season, the Fire will focus on continuing that success.
“It all starts with our relationships,” Dannhoff said. “We’re very honest upfront, and we spend a lot of time in that training camp building those relationships. Everybody that I’ve talked to so far from this previous team has said they want to try to win another one. Nobody’s ever won back-to-back (national championships) in the TBL.”
No matter what the future brings, he is convinced the Potawatomi Fire will continue to be a premier organization in the TBL.
“It starts at the top with Chairman (John “Rocky”) Barrett and Vice-Chairman (Linda) Capps and everybody through the administration. And having a general manager like David Qualls, who’s not just all involved, he’s really invested in these guys and me and our staff and in producing a product that is number one in the league. Whether we win or not, we want to put forth the best product that we possibly can for everybody.”
Find the Potawatomi Fire on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and at potawatomifire.com.