Flashback to January 6, 1985. The Patroons, winners of their last six games, were on the road against the recently slumping Toronto Tornados. The game that night went into overtime, and whoever led by three points in overtime would be declared the winner.
With the Tornados ahead, 133-132, Toronto's Robert Smith, a 5'11" guard from UNLV who had recently finished a 10-day contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, charged toward the lane. The referee blew his whistle, then called Albany for a blocking foul. With a smile on his face, Smith calmly stepped to the line. Smith had a 93% success rate from the charity stripe, and Toronto needed both free throws to win the game.
Albany's coach, Phil Jackson, screamed at the officials that no foul should have been called. Instantly the referee hit him with a technical. Enraged, Jackson stomped onto the court and headed straight for the whistleblowers, continually arguing his case. In his rage, Jackson bumped into an official, who immediately issued another technical and ejected him from Varsity Arena. "I was just going over to block his path to the scorer's desk," Jackson told the Times-Union's Paul Schwartz. "It was a charging foul on him, but the league called a blocking foul on me."
Meanwhile, Robert Smith sank the first two of his four alloted shots, and Toronto took the victory.
The CBA suspended Phil Jackson for one game - January 12, 1985, the final time Albany and Toronto would face each other in the regular season. That night, the Pats were coached by Phil's assistant, Charley Rosen.
Rosen had previously substitued for one Pats game, a Christmas Eve loss in Toronto. Jackson had bypassed that contest on religious grounds. But tonight Jackson would be far away from the Armory, listening to the radio broadcast instead of roaming the sidelines.
Rosen possessed impressive credentials, both on the court and off. A member of the USA basketball team for the 1961 Maccabiah Games, Rosen later spent time in the Eastern Basketball Association (yesteryear's CBA) before finding success as a teacher and writer (his Have Jumpshot, Will Travel was a history of the early CBA). Phil Jackson picked Charley Rosen as his assistant in 1983 when Jackson was first offered the Patroons coaching job.
The interim coach's first job - beat the Toronto Tornados.
The Tornados were built for speed. They ran the ball down the court and took whatever shot was available. Thanks to Robert Smith and well-traveled forward Reggie Gaines (who was on his fifth CBA team in three years), Toronto took an early lead, 30-24, Ralph McPherson, who had been held scoreless in the first quarter, ran off 12 of his team-high 26 points, helping Albany to a 60-55 halftime lead.
Back and forth both teams went, Albany trying to slow the Tornados down, Toronto trying to zip past the defensive-minded Patroons. And in the end, both teams were knotted at 111.
Before overtime started, Rosen showed Lowes Moore a special play he designed on the spot. "Charley said if I had it when I went down the court," Moore told the Times-Union, "I should shoot the three-pointer. Otherwise the play was designed for Ralph [McPherson] to pop out and take the three-pointer."
Jump ball. Derrick Rowland got the tip, and passed it to Moore. Lowes worked his way toward the right side, made sure his feet were behind the semicircle, then fired a shot from 23 feet away.
Just like Charley Rosen designed it.
For the Pats, it was their eighth victory in their last nine games. But for Charley Rosen, it was his first professional coaching victory.
Rosen later enjoyed a fruitful CBA coaching career with Savannah, Rockford and Oklahoma City. He took Rockford to the playoffs in 1988, to the championships in 1989. And in 1991, Rosen became head coach of the Albany Patroons - the team that gave him his first CBA coaching victory.
Smith 11-21 3-4 25; L. Jackson 10-23 4-5 26, Gaines 10-22 0-1 20; Jordan 5-15 4-6 14; Hines 6-10 2-3 14; R. Jackson 2-3 0-0 4; Brozovich 4-8 0-2 8; Abrams 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 48-104 13-21 111.
Wiley 1-5 1-2 3; McPherson 8-16 10-11 26; Rowland 7-12 5-7 19; Moore 8-13 1-1 18; Wheeler 6-13 0-2 12; Sanders 9-15 3-3 21; Kuczenski 3-8 2-2 8; Elliot 0-3 0-0 0; Green 3-7 1-3 7. Totals 45-92 23-31 114.
TORONTO 30-25-25-31-0 111 2½ ALBANY 26-34-25-26-3 114 4½Three-point goals - L. Jackson 2, Moore. Rebounds - Toronto 60 (Brozovich 23); Albany 53 (McPherson 14). Assists: Toronto 17 (Smith 10); Albany 21 (Moore 6). Total fouls - Toronto 27, Albany 25. Technical fouls - Wiley (unsportsmanlike conduct). A-3,025.
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