If you think Phil Jackson had his hands full with Dennis Rodman, or in trying to keep the peace between Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal, you should have seen Jackson handle Frankie J. Sanders.
Frankie J. Sanders and Phil Jackson were two strong personalities in search of a battle. Sanders had already been fined twice in his Patroon career, and he visibly sulked after being taken out of a playoff game against Toronto. To Phil Jackson, that was the last straw. Even though the Patroons and the Tornados were deadlocked at one victory apiece in the best-of-five series, Jackson suspended the 6'5" Southern University veteran for two games.
But when Albany lost Game 3, 117-105, Pats President Jim Coyne talked to Jackson. Coyne convinced the coach that Frankie was repentant and wanted to rejoin the team. Besides, if one more loss would end Albany's season, Coyne could not find a good reason to leave 30 points in Albany. Jackson agreed to modify the suspension to time served, and Frankie J. Sanders and Jim Coyne were on a plane for Ontario.
On the plane, Coyne told Sanders that he should take the court like the Allies storming Normandy. Go out there, shoot baskets, and take no prisoners. Sanders listened intently.
During the pre-game introductions that night, Frankie J. Sanders was the last name announced. He bounced onto the court, screaming and hollering and pointing fingers at every member of the Toronto bench. "During the introductions I came out and I said to them, 'you better be ready, because we're taking this thing back to Albany,'" Sanders told the Schenectady Gazette's Tim Layden.
Three minutes into the game, Sanders took his first shot, a three-pointer that swished the net. That set the pace for Albany. The Patroons blazed to a 30-9 lead in the first quarter, and kept Toronto at least ten points behind for most of the game.
Sanders' new-found attitude was not lost on his mates. Center Bruce Kuczenski was little more than a telephone pole for Toronto's Greg Hines to run around. But in Game 4, Kuczenski dove for every loose ball, blocked many of Hines' shots, and limited the 6-8 Toronto center to only 12 points.
Meanwhile, Sanders and the other three Patroons scorers - Derrick Rowland, Ralph McPherson and Lowes Moore - canned shots from everywhere on the court. Under the bucket, from three-point land, monster slams - each of them had 20+ points for the night.
Albany won Game 4, 123-111, and for most fans the story ends there. But in his autobiography, Questions That Bother Him So!, Jim Coyne tells what happened after the game.
Joe Hennessey, the radio announcer for the Patroons' flagship station, WWCN, began his post-game interview show. After interviewing Gary Holle and Jim Coyne, Hennessey turned to the star of the game, Frankie J. Sanders. Frankie was still on an adrenaline high, and the radio interview he gave would make Howard Stern blush.
Hennessey: "Frankie, congratulations, great game, good job."
Sanders: "Gee, thanks, Joe. This is great, this #&@!ing thing was great."
Jim Coyne's jaw dropped. Frankie had just blurted out one of the seven dirty words live to the Albany radio audience. Quickly he signaled Frankie to watch what he said. Sanders nodded in understanding.
The interview continued for about a minute, Hennessey asking Sanders about his great performance (27 points, 3 assists). Sanders replied, "This thing is great, the team played great, I played great, I wanted to come here and prove that I could do it, we've got a great #&@!ing team!"
Hennessey, Coyne and Holle all silently signaled Sanders to stop swearing. Again Frankie nodded.
Asked for some final words on the game, Sanders cleared his throat and said, "I would like to thank our Lord Jesus Christ for whatever the #&@! he did to help us win the game."
"The third time was the killer," Hennessey recalled today, "because he wrapped God into it."
Luckily, WWCN only had a two-mile broadcast radius, so very few people heard Frankie's earthy comments. And Joe Hennessey concluded the interview as quick as he could, before anybody called the FCC. "Thank you very much, Frankie. And as always, Frankie J. Sanders, outspoken and interesting."
Wiley 3-5 0-0 6; McPherson 7-16 9-12 23; Rowland 9-17 4-6 22; Moore 8-15 9-9 25; Wheeler 0-7 4-4 4; Sanders 12-17 2-2 27; Kuczenski 2-5 2-2 6; Elliott 2-4 2-2 6; Green 2-5 0-0 4. Totals 45-91 32-37 123.
Smith 8-19 6-6 25; L. Jackson 8-14 0-0 16; Jordan 3-11 6-6 12; Gaines 8-19 5-7 21; Hines 4-11 4-6 12; Brozovich 0-1 0-0 0; R. Jackson 3-4 0-0 6; Cravier 1-1 0-0 2; Abrams 7-14 2-3 17. Totals 42-94 23-28 111.
ALBANY 40-28-28-27 123 TORONTO 27-25-30-29 111Three-point goals: Smith 3, Abrams, Sanders. Rebounds: Albany 39 (McPherson 9, Kuczenski 9, Rowland 8), Toronto 46 (Hines 12, Gaines 10). Assists: Albany 26 (Rowland 5), Toronto 15 (Smith 6). Fouls - Albany 29, Toronto 34. Technicals - Albany bench, Gaines. A-2,536.
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