Albany Patroons 112, Ohio Cardinals 97 – and the real MVP of the game was…

I could start out this blog post by noting the scoring stars of last night’s Patroons victory … 28 points from former Siena superstar Edwin Ubiles, 18 points and 12 rebounds from Jamario Moon, 19 points from “Mr.” Torren Jones (when he plays, you call him “Mr.” and you respect his authority), and a 15-point, 10-rebound night from big center DeAndre Thomas.

No, honestly, the true MVP of last night’s Patroons win was not even wearing a gold and kelly green uniform.

He was sitting at the scoring table.

And for this, we must flashback to last week.

As many blog readers know, I am currently the Director of Statistics and Player Relations with the National Basketball League of Canada.  Although there was an offer for me to take care of league statistics with the new North American Premier Basketball League (the league in which the Patroons currently play), I had to respectfully decline the offer, in that I could not work in two separate basketball circuits simultaneously.

However, last week I received a panicked phone call from my good friend and former NBL Canada commissioner, David Magley.  Magley, a former Albany Patroon himself, was now the commissioner of the NAPB, and he asked if I could do him a personal favor.

You never refuse a personal favor from a friend.  “What can I do to help?”

“Can you come to the Patroons game a little earlier and work with their new stat guy?  I don’t think he’s used the scoring software before.”

I can do that.

So last, week, before Albany’s second home game (which they lost 103-102 to Ohio), I arrived early to the Washington Avenue Armory.  There, setting up his computer, was the team’s new statistician, a kid named Ryan.

We talked.  And the first thing you learn about Ryan is that he’s polite, he’s enthusiastic, and he’s dedicated.  He really wanted to have his job work out as best as possible.

“How often have you worked with the DakStats scoring program before?”  I asked him.

“I worked with it on the home opener,” he said.

“Okay, so you have one game under your belt.”

“I need to get this right, Mr. Miller,” Ryan said to me.  “The guy from the Times Union complained about the stats from the Rochester game, and he said to me, ‘if you can’t get these stats right, I’m never covering another Patroons game ever again.'”

Wow.  Talk about a ton of pressure.

In the hour before the doors opened to the general public, I worked with Ryan on how to use the DakStats digital scoring software.  We rustled up a wired mouse for his laptop (DakStats works well with a “two-click” method of entering statistics, and a wired mouse is necessary); we loaded in the rosters for both teams, and we went over any and all emergency issues in scoring.

After the game, I checked with Ryan.  He did very well.  A couple of stats were a little off, but given the fact that he was essentially learning on the job, I was impressed.

“Do me a favor,” I said to him.  “Take the video copies of tonight’s game, and the home opener against Rochester, and practice at home.  You can only get better when you practice.”

“I will, Mr. Miller, and thanks for your help.”

Flash forward to Monday afternoon’s Martin Luther King Day game, where Albany crushed Rochester 115-90.  Oh that was such a fun game to watch.  And Ryan was right on top of it, he kept the stats carefully and accurately.  At the end of the game, he double-checked his work, and then handed the printed box score to Tim Wilkin.

And sure enough, the stats appeared in the Times Union’s recap of the Albany win.

So now we’re up to last night’s game.  Commissioner Magley is at the Armory, and I talk to him about Ryan’s amazing progress.  Magley is impressed.  I also talk to one of the owners of the Ohio Cardinals, who was still working on getting some sort of scoring software for their team.

“You want to get DakStats for your operation,” I said.  “And if you want to, go over to the table and ask Albany’s statman Ryan about how comfortable the program will be for you.”

Then came last night’s contest.

I should note that the Patroons have struggled all year with the faulty, cheap digital scoreboards that were installed in the Armory twelve years ago when Jim Coyne was running the team on the cheap.  The scoreboards were probably built from old Radio Shack science kits, but that’s neither here nor there.

During the second quarter of last night’s game, the scoreboards started failing.  The visiting team’s score disappeared from one board, and the other scoreboard just didn’t work at all.  The team brought out small table scoreboards and used them – but after a while, the scores didn’t match.  The referees were not happy.  The fans were not happy.

But as everyone was grumbling and griping, I looked down the court at Ryan.  He was hyper-focused on keeping the stats.  The referees and the rest of the table crew worked off of his lead.  Eventually the scoreboards were re-calibrated, and they (sort of) worked throughout the rest of the game.

You know what else worked throughout the rest of the game?

How about Torren Jones with a slam off an alley-oop?

How about DeAndre Thomas just muscling his way to the hoop for two?

At the end of the game, Ryan was printing out all the box scores for the media.  And he gave me a box score as well.

In addition to his patience and diligence and enthusiasm … Ryan showed he had confidence under pressure.  That kid was so cool during that crisis – as the old Don L. Lee poem goes, he was so cool, he even stopped for green lights.

That’s gold.

The Patroons go on the road for a few games, then they come back to Albany to take on Rochester on February 4th – an afternoon tilt before the Super Bowl.

See you there.