WNBA disbands Comets because new owners couldn't be found

The Houston Comets, a franchise that won the first four WNBA championships, is disbanding.

The league-owned team will be shut down because new owners couldn't be found.

"You have to build on strength," WNBA president Donna Orender told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "My outlook is to build on the fact that the league has great momentum and in Houston we didn't have the enough runway to get a deal done in time for the 2009 season. So right now we have to move on."

The WNBA will officially announce the move on Tuesday, which will result in the loss of 37 jobs.

Houston television station KRIV was the first to report that the team was disbanding.

Orender said a dispersal draft for Houston players will be Dec. 8. Orender did not rule out a WNBA team returning to Houston.

"You can't ignore the fact this team was the engine that drove the league," Orender said. "We appreciate the fan base. With the affection the fans in the city have for the team, maybe one day the corporate and city leaders will aggregate their resources and resurrect a formidable franchise."

Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander, the original owner of the Comets, sold the team to Houston businessman Hilton Koch last year. The WNBA took over the franchise earlier this year.

The Comets won the first four WNBA titles from 1997-2000.

Orender said there is no indication that any of the league's other 13 franchises are in any trouble.

"Talent has been absolutely blooming," Orender said, referring to players like Candace Parker, Sylvia Fowles and Candice Wiggins. "There are new cities in the pipeline and prospects for continued growth are bright. The league is stronger than ever."