Premiere night of The Minor League Mecca, the Albany Patroons documentary

Several years ago, Brendan Casey and I met for dinner at Brown’s Brewing in Troy.  He told me about this idea he had – he wanted to put together some sort of movie about the history of the Albany Patroons basketball team, and he asked if I had any stories about the team.

He might as well have asked me if I can count to ten.  The short meal turned into a two and a half hour reminiscing session.  We laughed, we smiled, he took lots of notes, and then he said, “We’re actually going to do this.”

This sounded exciting.

Some time later, Brendan asked if I could visit his downtown production company, Upside Collective, and sit for a short interview.  I agreed.

Over time, he would keep me updated on the progress of the documentary.  He told me he had actually flown to various cities to interview Patroons players and owners of the past.  And he wasn’t talking about the second stringer off the bench that played three minutes of mop-up time.

No.  He interviewed the big guns.  He interviewed Phil Jackson.  He interviewed George Karl.  He talked to Mario Elie and Derrick Rowland and Lowes Moore and Ralph McPherson and everyone in between.  This is big.

Last night, The Minor League Mecca, a two-hour documentary about the Patroons’ glory years – the 1982-1993 iteration of the squad that won two two CBA championships, five regular season division titles, and pounded out two dominating seasons of 48-6 and 50-6 in the win-loss column – premiered at the Palace Theater.

And what a magical night it was at the Palace Theater.

It’s like you turn around and there’s Tony Campbell, the superstar from the Patroons’ 48-6 scoring squad of 1987-88, who eventually went to the NBA and starred for the Los Angeles Lakers and the Minnesota Timberwolves.  And here I am in a picture with him and with Derrick Rowland, the Patroons’ all-time leading scorer and current Pats head coach.

A few minutes later, I’m chatting with two stars from the 1983-84 CBA championship, Ralph McPherson and Lowes Moore – Lowes hit that monster walk-off 3-pointer in the playoffs against Bay State that gave Albany a clear path to the CBA championship, and Ralph McPherson dominated the floor with his “elbows of steel,” keeping any and all opposing threats away.

And over here – as God is my witness, that’s former CBA commissioner James Drucker.  It was Jim Drucker, along with Albany County Executive Jim Coyne, that helped Albany get a CBA franchise in 1982.  And Albany – a team that played its games in an armory, rather than in a high school gymnasium – helped the CBA expand into larger and stronger markets over time.

And here’s a merging of two distant but successful eras – I’m standing here with George Karl.  George freakin’ Karl.  Two Patroons coaching seasons, and dozens of years as an NBA head coach.  And next to me is Lloyd Johnson – the man who set a Patroons single-game scoring record just last season, when he drained 53 points in a Pats victory.

If you hadn’t noticed by now, I’m nerding out.  Nerding out something fierce.

Then came the documentary.  And I need to say this loud and clear.  Brendan Casey and his Upside Collective team did an incredible job with this documentary.  This is the kind of retrospective you would see from ESPN or something close to that.  The interviews were on point.  The video clips were tight.  You could almost smell the popcorn and Freihofer’s cookies every time the classic Armory video footage appeared on the screen.  There were even shots of Albany’s #1 superfan, Fritz Walker (God rest his soul).

If you didn’t see The Minor League Mecca last night at the Palace Theater, you need to find out when it’s being shown next.  Because this documentary was amazing.  You could tell that this was on point.  On freakin’ point.

And you know what else?  It makes me so excited for the Patroons’ upcoming season at the Armory.  New teams in the league, including a couple of New York State-based squads that we should have no trouble tearing apart. 😀

Gold and kelly green, baybee…

That’s how we roll.