The Delaware Blue Coats are a story six years in the making. The team formerly known as the 87ers has played in Delaware since 2013 and has boasted many admirable accomplishments. What the team has never had, however is a place of its own to call home. Until Wednesday, the team has played its “home” games in either Newark, DE at the University of Delaware Bob Carpenter Center or in Philadelphia at the Wells Fargo Center. 

All of that changes Wednesday, January 23rd, 2019 when the Delaware Blue Coats finally move into their permanent home in Wilmington, Delaware. 

PFO was among a select group of media members granted access prior to the season opener. The facility on Monday afternoon was abuzz with activity of contractors, BPG construction workers, and executives.  

Having been the lead on some very high pressure construction projects that looked hopeless just days before opening day, I recognized the energy/pressure/panic. There is a palpable energy to a production prior to opening night, and it was absolutely felt during our preview. 

Alex Yoh, head of marketing and media relations, said, “It’s amazing to think that we were standing on a pile of dirt just 5 months ago.” 

And quite frankly, that is the story here. Wilmington, DE is just 20 miles south of the Philadelphia International Airport and yet seen as a world away from the Philadelphia metropolitan area.

Wilmington is a city know for many things, most of which would not be deemed positive. The Blue Coats represent the deep historic roots of the First State of the Union.

Ceasar Rodney cast the deciding vote for independence on July 4th, 1776 after riding 70 miles through a thunderstorm from Dover, Delaware to Philadelphia, PA.

Ceasar Rodney Statue in Wilmington DE.

Dela Where?

But to most Philadelphians, Delaware is not intrinsically linked to their history. Despite its relatively close vicinity, Wilmington seems, at times, a world away to Philadelphians. 

28 miles from Wilmington DE to Philadelphia PA.

Places farther from the arena than Wilmington, Delaware?

West Chester, PA

King of Prussia, PA

Newtown, PA

Willow Grove, PA

Langhorn, PA

Norristown, PA

Fascinating, right? We discussed exactly this with Blue Coats team president Larry Meli on the Buttoned Up podcast.

“There seems to be a membrane on I-95 that people assume cannot be penetrated into the state of Delaware.”

The Program

Meanwhile, the 76ers continue to benefit from the program that Head Coach Connor Johnson and GM Matt Lilly are running in Delaware. 

The Blue Coats have played an absolutely brutal road schedule so far this season but have managed to maintain a 10-14 record heading into the back half of the season that is very much home heavy. 

The team has prioritized matching the 76ers’ scheme on offense and defense. The 76ers’ style of play – pace, space, pass, defend – is paramount to the mission that HC Connor Johnson preaches. 

76ers GM Elton Brand talks in December about the program in Delaware.

The Talent Pipeline

The Blue Coats have already paid dividends for the “Big Club” in Philadelphia. Jonah Bolden, Shake Milton, and Haywood Highsmith are all examples of players who have played significant minutes for the Blue Coats and 76ers. This kind of internal development is part and parcel to the mission statement for Connor Johnson. 

When you look at a player like Shake Milton for example, you see someone who was well positioned by his experience to step in and contribute with a minimal learning curve at the NBA level. 

In fact, on January 8th, 2019, Shake Milton played in two games on the same day for a total of 58 minutes for both the Blue Coats and 76ers. He and Haywood Highsmith became just the 25th and 26th players ever to play in both a G-league and NBA game one the same day.

At the end of the day this all adds up to a program that is providing a return on investment on the part of the 76ers organization. We are talking about a civic and programatic contribution that creates ties that will bind a region to the sport. 

Wednesday is a banner day: Elton Brand and the 76ers organization will welcome the Delaware Blue Coats home. It’s been a long time coming, but they finally have a place to call their own. 

Blue Coats Details: 

OPENING NIGHT: Wednesday, Jan. 23 vs. Memphis Hustle at 7 p.m. on ESPN+

  • Exclusive T-shirt giveaway for all fans in attendance
  • Special pregame ceremony to celebrate the grand opening and the first Blue Coats tip-off
  • Appearances by new team mascot, Coaty, Sixers Dunk Squad presented by Dunkin’ Donuts, Sixers Dancers, and Sixers Stixers drumline