Nobody told Phil Jackson it was going to be easy.
Phil Jackson, the former New York Knick, had recently replaced Dean Meminger as coach of the 8-17 Patroons, ten men with almost no team chemistry. Not one player had gone to the NBA since joining the Patroons, and the only one offered a contract, 6-10 center Mike Davis, lost out while the NBA and CBA argued over financial compensation.
Jackson knew the Patroons' playoff hopes were minimal. But because the Patroons led the league in attendance, they were selected to host the 1983 CBA All-Star Game - ironically, the Patroons versus the rest of the league.
For ballplayers in the CBA, the All-Star game served only one function - play the game of your life and impress the NBA scouts that show up that night. But for the Patroons, the All-Star game held more importance - the possibility of beating the CBA's best.
Albany's starting five, Phil Seymore, Hollis Copeland, Frankie J. Sanders, Mike Davis and Ralph McPherson, faced an All-Star first team of heavy scorers and defensive specialists: Detroit Spirits guard Tico Brown (who would later set a record for most points scored in a CBA career), Ohio Mixers guard Kevin Figaro (who scored 48 points in his first encounter with the Patroons), Spirits forward Clarence Kea, Rochester Zeniths forward Al Smith and Wisconsin Flyers center Joe Kopicki.
That night, the Pats left the locker room and stepped onto the floor of a fan-filled Armory. And from the first play of the game, they showed their fans that the Patroons weren't rolling over for anybody.
Mike Davis and Joe Kopicki stood at center court for the jump ball. The referee tossed it up, Davis tapped it over to Sanders, who scored an easy layup. Two points in three seconds, and the Patroons were off and running.
Davis, whose first two shots missed the basket completely, came alive in the second quarter. He got the rebound on Frankie Sanders' 15-foot rim-bouncer and was fouled making the shot. Stepping to the free throw line, Davis calmly sank the charity point, putting Albany ahead 44-43.
At halftime, 2,723 fans checked their programs. One lucky fan, a tool booth collector from Glenmont named Mike Pauquette, had the lucky program and won the chance of a lifetime - make a shot from almost 70 feet away and win a million dollars. Pauquette got the ball, took a running start, and hurled it discus-style at the hoop. The million dollar shot missed the rim by ten feet, the money went back to the bank, the CBA's treasurer breathed a heavy sigh of relief, and Pauquette returned to his seat, enjoying his 15 minutes of fame.
Then the spotlight radiated on Larry Spriggs. Spriggs, the 1982 CBA Rookie of the Year, was sold to the Patroons by the financially destitute Las Vegas Silvers. Before the All-Star Game, Albany's newest acquisition paid immediate dividends, averaging 23 points and 6 rebounds in 6 games. And in the third quarter of the All-Star Game, Spriggs scored eight quick points and bounced a no-look pass to Sanders for another basket.
The All-Stars were inconsistent throughout the night, with only Clarence Kea scoring big points. Montana's John Douglas only picked up 11 points, nine in the second quarter. And high-scoring Kevin Figaro was held to only 10 points.
The Pats won the All-Star Game, 122-109, and defeated the best in the CBA. Larry Spriggs, leading all Patroons with 22 points, was named the Most Valuable Player of the game.
Neither Spriggs nor Davis had time to celebrate the victory - within days, both were signed by NBA clubs. Later on in his career, Spriggs earned an NBA Championship ring with the Los Angeles Lakers, the first former Patroon on an NBA championship team.
A side note - one player nominated to the All-Star team didn't make it to Albany that night. Lowes Moore of the Billings Volcanoes was on his second 10-day contract with the San Diego Clippers. He would finish the season in the NBA, and would not play in the Washington Avenue Armory until next season - as a member of the Albany Patroons.
Kea 10-15 7-10 27; Kopicki 7-10 3-6 17; Douglas 5-9 1-1 11; Cooper 4-5 2-2 10; Figaro 4-12 2-2 10; R. Smith 4-11 1-1 9; Thompson 2-7 4-7 8; A. Smith 3-10 2-2 8; Brown 3-7 0-0 6; J. Smith 1-1 1-1 3. Totals 43-90 23-32 109.
Spriggs 9-14 4-6 22; McPherson 10-15 0-0 20; Davis 7-14 4-6 16; Sanders 6-14 1-2 16; Copeland 6-6 1-2 13, Leonard 4-4 2-2 10; Ratiff 3-7 3-4 9; Rowland 3-8 0-0 6; Seymore 2-8 2-2 6; Worthen 0-1 4-4 4. Totals 49-91 21-28 122.
ALL-STARS 26-32-24-27 109 ALBANY 29-32-26-35 122Three-point goals - Sanders. Rebounds: All-Stars 52 (Kea 20), Albany 40 (Davis 9). Assists - All-Stars 15 (R. Smith 5), Albany 22 (Worthen 5). Total fouls - All-Stars 25, Albany 29. A- 2,723.
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