As a long-time Albany Patroons fan, I supported the gold and kelly green for many, many years – through two championships and five regular season titles. And in supporting the team, i also rallied against their opponents and rivals. In the early 1980’s, the Patroons’ closest rivals were teams like the Lancaster (Pa.) Lightning and the Bay State (Mass.) Bombardiers. Near the late 1980’s, it was squads like the Quad City Thunder and the Pensacola Tornados.
But there was one team that always seemed to get the Albany Patroons’ goat. Every time the Pats looked as if they would march their way to a championship, this team came out of nowhere and derailed our plans. They did it in the early 1990’s, and they did it in 2006.
They were the Yakima Sun Kings.
Let me explain.
The Yakima Sun Kings original began in Kansas City as the Sizzlers, then moved to Topeka and played as the Sizzlers for several years in that city. By the 1989-90 season, the franchise had moved to Yakima, Washington and was rebranded as the Sun Kings.
In Yakima, the Sun Kings proved to be a solid, winning franchise, claiming five CBA championships in its long history.
And they’ve always been a thorn in the side of the Patroons.
Case in point.
It’s February 25, 1992, and the Patroons are fighting for a playoff spot. They already replaced head coach Charley Rosen with Herman Kull, and were on a three-game winning streak with their new coach. A road victory against the Sun Kings would certainly help Albany’s cause.
The Sun Kings had the worst record in the CBA that season, and were already on their third head coach of the season by the time Albany arrived. And with one minute remaining in the game, the Sun Kings were down 104-110 to the Patroons. But an Albany foul that resulted in three free throw shots for Yakima’s Alex Austin – he made all three shots – and a 30-foot 3-pointer from Austin in the closing seconds – tied the game up at 110-all.
With less than two minutes remaining in OT, Albany had a 120-116 lead – until Alex Austin hit two free throws and hit an under-the-basket slam to bring the Sun Kings back to a tie game.
Eventually the contest went to a second overtime, at 134-134.
Eventually the contest went to a THIRD overtime, at 146-146.
And eventually, at the end of FOUR OVERTIMES, Yakima limped off the court with a 166-160 victory. Ugh. Albany’s 160 points were a franchise record, but Yakima’s 166 were the most points scored on any Patroons team. Twelve of the 18 men on the court that night scored in double figures, another CBA record.
The Pats could not recover from the 4OT loss. They won only two of their next ten games, finished with an anemic 24-32 record, limped into the playoffs and lost a single-elimination playoff game to finish out their season.
Now let’s move fifteen years down the calendar.
In that time, the Albany Patroons rebranded themselves as the Capital Region Pontiacs for the 1992-93 season (bad idea), they moved to Hartford and played as the Hartford Hellcats for two seasons, then as the Connecticut Pride until 2001, when the CBA folded.
The CBA reformed itself for the 2002-03 season, and the Patroons returned to Albany in the 2005-06 season. And guess who was still in the league through all those ups and downs?
You got it. The Yakima Sun Kings.
Only by 2006, they had been purchased by the Yakama Tribal Nation and rebranded as the Yakama Sun Kings.
Anyway, the Patroons were looking to get another championship under their belt, another banner into the rafters. The lineup that year was mega-strong; the team’s lineup included former NBA star Felipe Lopez and future NBA star Jamario Moon; sharpshooter TJ Thompson and defensive specialists Eric Williams and Chris Sockwell; veterans Kwan Johnson and Kareem Reid; and big man John Strickland. Plus, Micheal Ray Richardson was our head coach.
How could we go wrong?
Here’s how. The 2007 CBA Finals featured the Albany Patroons against the Yakama Sun Kings in a best-of-five. Yakama came in and shut down Albany in the first game – freakin’ Ralphy Holmes seemed to score at will, and Micheal Rya Richardson’s blood kept boiling on every blown call, travel, missed shot and turnover. Albany couldn’t get out of its own way.
But it was Game 2 of the series that completely screwed us up. We didn’t have Richardson as head coach – he was suspended for the rest of the playoffs for comments that he made to a Times Union sports reporter (let’s put it this way – the less said about those comments, the better). Despite this, assistant coach Derrick Rowland took over the team for the championship series, and he had the Pats completely motivated.
Rowland’s plan was to play garbage ball, slow down Yakama’s speedy offense, and completely befuddle them as much as possible. And it worked. Ralphy Holmes got so frustrated and discombubulated, he was heard using language that would have made Howard Stern blush.
Unfortunately, just as we started cruising toward a win … a fight broke out on the floor. Punches swinging, fists back and forth. Felipe Lopez and Carl Mitchell were at each other’s throats. Obviously, suspensions were necessary.
But what made it worse for Albany … was that Felipe Lopez and Carl Mitchell were both on the Patroons. Yikes.
So Richardson was already suspended … now we were losing one (or both) of our scoring threats. No way to recover from that. Yakama won game 2 in Albany, and then took game 3 in Washington State with ease.
Two black days in Patroons history. Oh well, I thought that once Albany returned to this North American Premier Basketball circuit, we could find new foes and new opponents and …
Just announced over the weekend. The Sun Kings are joining this league as well.
Argh. Just what I did NOT need.
Or maybe I did.
Because now Albany has at least one built-in rival for competition.
At least one.
Oh yeah, and Rochester as a travel partner and a close rival for home-and-away games.
And the Seattle Kings, and a team in Kansas City, and one in Las Vegas, and a few other squads scattered here and there.
But damn it, did one of those teams have to be the freakin’ Yakima Sun Kings? Of all the professional basketball circuits out there…
The damn Sun Kings are back?
Man oh man…
I’d better get my season tickets early for this matchup.
I suppose the only way this could be worse for Albany…
… is if I find out that they’ve hired Micheal Ray Richardson as head coach.