December 3, 1982 – the first home game for the Albany Patroons

If you’ve found this blog post, this means that you’ve discovered the art of blog time travel.  So hop in the way-back machine with me, to a time when the Washington Avenue Armory was the local basketball hotbed.

They could have been called the Albany Senators or Albany Leprechauns, but the fans chose “Patroons” in a name-the-team contest (patroons were Dutch landowners prevalent in Albany’s history). In 1982, the Albany Patroons were an expansion franchise in the Continental Basketball Association, a basketball circuit where ballplayers practice their skills in the hopes of being called up to the NBA.

After a two-week camp and a Patroons intrasquad scrimmage, the Patroons’ coach, Dean Meminger, made the necessary roster cuts to bring his squad down to ten men. He released such players as Norm Ancrum, a 6’11” center from the University of Alabama at Birmingham; local athlete Ron Bell, who twisted his ankle in the intrasquad scrimmage; and a former Division III star from Potsdam State, Derrick Rowland.

The ten men Meminger kept as the first Albany Patroons won their first contest, a 136-116 road victory over the Maine Lumberjacks on December 1st. Now it was time to face the home crowd.

2,632 basketball fans braved the cold weather and packed the Washington Avenue Armory that night. And after half an hour of speeches and proclamations from Governor Hugh Carey, Governor-Elect Mario Cuomo and Albany Mayor Erastus Corning, who each proclaimed December 3, 1982 as “Albany Patroons Day,” the Capital Region’s newest sports franchise took the court:

  • Ralph McPherson, a 6’9″ Texas-Arlington 9th round NBA pick.
  • Mike Davis, a 6’11” center from the University of Maryland.
  • Hollis Copeland, a former Rutgers star who spent some time with the New York Knicks.
  • DeWayne Scales, another former Knick who in 1980 was Louisiana State University’s Most Valuable Player.
  • John Leonard and Dan Terwilliger, teammates on the 1978 Niskayuna High School state championship squad.
  • Sam Worthen, an alum of both Marquette and the Chicago Bulls.

And with Riley Clarida from LIU, Barry Young from Colorado State and Craig Tucker from Illinois, these men took the court as the 1982 Albany Patroons.

Their first home opponents were the Lancaster Lightning. Lancaster, coached by former New York Knick Cazzie Russell, burst out to an early lead, winning the first quarter point, 29-25.

The Patroons scored ten quick points in the second quarter, spurred by Craig Tucker’s 16-foot shot that hit nothing but net. As the second period ended, the Patroons were ahead 49-45.

In the locker room, Meminger told his team that they needed to strengthen their defense. The Patroons listened, holding Lancaster to only seventeen third-quarter points. In fact, for almost 12 minutes in the half, the Lightning scored only eight points. In that same 12-minute span, the Patroons scored 21 points and pulled away with a 77-63 lead.

Mike Davis was the defensive star of the game, snaring 16 rebounds and blocking nearly every key Lancaster shot. “We came in a little tight at first,” Craig Tucker told the Times-Union’s Bill Heller, “I think the turnaround was the rebounding of Mike Davis. He got all the rebounds and blocked shots.”

The Lightning could not put together a solid fourth-quarter offense, and Albany held on for a 101-85 victory. The Patroons picked up six quarter points, giving them 12½ for the season. Craig Tucker led the Pats in scoring with 23 points, and Mike Davis had the most rebounds, pulling down 16 boards.

The Patroons won two of their next three games, starting out the season with a 5-1 record and first place in the Eastern Division. As the season progressed, however, the Pats were caught in a losing streak that later cost Dean Meminger his job. But that night, in front of a standing room only crowd at the Armory, the Patroons received a standing ovation as professional basketball finally retuned to the Capital District.