Once upon a time, there was a minor league basketball team that played its games in the Washington Avenue Armory. Waay back in 1982. And from 1982 to 1993, the Albany Patroons won two CBA championships and five regular season titles. Phil Jackson and Bill Musselman both guided the Pats to CBA playoff titles. George Karl helped the team garner a 50-6 regular season record, at that time the most dominant winning percentage in pro basketball.
And the Patroons’ strongest contribution to the game? Over two dozen players and coaches for the Pats went on to play and coach in the NBA. You certainly know Phil Jackson made it to the Association, but so too did NBA head coaches Bill Musselman, George Karl, Rick Carlisle, Scott Brooks, Sidney Lowe and Michael Curry. And players? Mario Elie. Vincent Askew. Larry Spriggs. Chris McNealy. Frankie J. Sanders. Lowes Moore. Snoop Graham. Derrick Rowland. David Magley. On and on and on.
The Patroons moved to Hartford prior to the 1993-94 season, existing for two seasons as the Hartford Hellcats, then a few more years as the Connecticut Pride. The franchise won another CBA championship under that name, then folded when the CBA entered bankruptcy in 2001.
In 2005, the Patroons returned to the Washington Avenue Armory. Former NBA superstar / Albany Patroons player Micheal Ray Richardson coached the Gold and Kelly Green for two more seasons, and the Pats returned to the CBA championship finals in 2007. But the good times were short-lived. The CBA was shrinking, crippled by the rise of other minor league pro basketball circuits like the NBA D-League, the Premier Basketball League and the American Basketball Association. By 2009, the CBA had shrunk to four teams – which, essentially, isn’t a league so much as it was a tournament – and after Albany lost a hastily-constructed CBA championship final to the Lawton-Fort Sill (Okla.) Cavalry, the CBA closed up shop.
Since then, there have been several efforts to return pro basketball to the Capital District – most notly the Albany Legends, which did win a championship in the low-rung International Basketball Association, then flittered through several low-minor circuits as a fill-in or “brand” team. The less said about the Legends, the better, I suppose.
Today, at 11:00 a.m., there will be a press conference at the Washington Avenue Armory to announce the return of the Albany Patroons, this time as a member of the newly-formed North American Premier Basketball league. The NAPB currently features teams spread throughout the United States and Canada, including franchises in Seattle and Rochester, with planned franchisees in Las Vegas and Vancouver, to name a few locales.
This is exciting in and of itself. For the years that the Patroons were here, the games at the Armory – and also those played at the Knickerbocker Arena from 1990 to 1993 – brought basketball fans and sporting aficionados from all over the Capital District to our humble little town. The Patroons’ success helped spur the building of the Knickerbocker Arena as a suitable sports and entertainment venue that Albany didn’t previously have.
And someone might ask me, “Chuck, you worked with the Patroons in the past, both as a photographer and as an announcer … what position will you assume with the team this time around?”
Honestly? This is the only role I want to assume.
I want to be a fan again.
I want to go to games at the Armory and eat popcorn and drink sodas and watch the excitement. I want to cheer the Patroons to success, and I want to see how the squads do against the other teams in the NAPB.
And that’s what I want. I want to be a fan again.
Personally, my work as a statistician and front office person with the National Basketball League of Canada would prohibit my involvement with another team in another sports league. That would be a personal conflict of interest. And with the NBL’s seventh season starting in just a few months, I’m ready to focus my main attentions on the nine teams in Canada and what I can do to make the NBL’s seventh season a success.
This is important to me. Being a Patroons fan and working with the NBL allows me to have the best of both worlds. I can be a “stat rat” north of the border, and I can be a boisterous booster for my hometown team.
Let’s make this happen.
Trust me, I now have a reason to dig out my Albany Patroons T-shirts, varsity jackets and throwback gear – and a reason to wear that gear on cold nights in a warm Armory.