The Patroons started off with a 6-7 record, and desperately needed a big center, somebody who could get whatever rebounds Kevin Springman couldn't reach. Phil Jackson looked throughout the league, hoping to find a team willing to trade. One condition - Derrick Rowland was off limits.
On January 1, 1986, Jackson made a trade, picking up Chris McNealy and Tracy Mitchell from the Bay State Bombardiers. McNealy would be, in Jackson's eyes, the missing piece to the puzzle. In exchange, the Bombardiers got Curtis Green - and Derrick Rowland.
Although they welcomed Chris McNealy and Tracy Mitchell with open arms and gracious cheers, the Armory faithful waited for the day when Rowland would return, either as a Patroon or as the opposition. "It was a very sad day for me and I'm sure for many people that kept track of some of the things I tried to do here," Rowland later reminisced.
The Pats faced Bay State in Worcester on January 24, and Rowland made sure his former team remembered him. His 19 points helped the Bombardiers to a 115-108 win, ending a three-game Pats winning streak.
And on January 31, 1986, Albany would host the Bombardiers - and Derrick Rowland and Curtis Green would return to the Armory for the first time since "The Trade." Rowland had averaged 22 points per game for his new club, best on the team (which included Bombardier Michael Adams, who later became an All-Star in the NBA). He had even organized some basketball clinics in Worcester. "The crowd has really warmed to him," Bombardier General Manager Steve Warshaw told The Times-Union. "He's like the old Sara Lee commercials. Everybody doesn't like something but nobody doesn't like Derrick Rowland." And when Rowland stepped onto that Armory court for the first time in his new red-white-blue basketball uniform, the fans cheered his return.
Bay State played tough throughout the entire night, and were leading 107-103 with a minute left in the game. Albany's James Banks had the ball, and was heading toward the hoop. Rowland took off, matching Banks step for step. Banks went up for the shot, both men collided, the ball came down. Referee Ralph Lembo gave Bay State possession.
Phil Jackson couldn't believe his eyes. He thought Rowland should have been called for a foul (Rowland already had four fouls after the first half alone), and awarding Bay State the ball this late in the game on a questionable call - that was just too much. Jackson left the bench and stepped onto the court; Lembo gave him a technical. Incensed, Jackson then sprinted toward Lembo. Assistant Coach Charley Rosen ran right behind Jackson, stride for stride. The coach and the referee collided. Jackson started screaming at Lembo, and Rosen got in a few choice words of his own. Lembo assessed three more technicals - one to Jackson and two to Rosen. Bay State's Michael Adams drained three of the four technicals, while Lembo threw Jackson and Rosen out of the game. Trainer Jack Mosher coached the final minute of the loss.
After the game was over, Patroons President Jim Coyne decided he also wanted a piece of Lembo. Coyne, his fists clenched and his blood boiling, ran toward the referee. Only Patroon superfan Pat Riley could hold Coyne back, pulling Coyne away while the Albany County Executive screamed obscenities at the referee of a minor league basketball game.
The next day, the CBA handed down the fines. Phil Jackson - $200 for bumping a referee, two game suspension. Charley Rosen - $100, one game suspension. Jim Coyne - one game suspension. David Ancrum, who tried to make peace by wrapping his arms around Lembo - one game suspension. All this on a night when the Patroons were welcoming back one of their own.
After the game, Rowland told the Times-Union about his defense on James Banks. "I never touched him. I went at him like I was going for the ball and he had to alter his shot. He missed. After the play he came up to me and said, 'good defense.'"
"Deep, deep down, I hate to see something like that happen, but remember, I'm getting paid by the Bay State Bombardiers now."
Adams 8-15 11-13 27; Rowland 3-12 3-3 9; Garris 3-7 2-2 8; J. Williams 5-5 1-1 11; Clark 5-8 7-7 17; Green 9-20 3-3 21; Young 7-17 3-4 17; Ballard 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 41-87 30-33 112.
Wheeler 8-20 6-6 22; Natt 10-19 0-0 20; Springman 3-4 2-4 8; McNealy 7-13 4-9 18; Ancrum 5-14 9-10 19; Al Matiin 1-7 0-0 2; Banks 2-5 0-2 4; Mitchell 4-6 0-0 8; Levy 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 41-89 21-31 103.
BAY STATE 17-32-39-24 112-5 ALBANY 31-24-23-25 103-2Three-point goals - none. Rebounds: Bay State 54 (J. Williams 12, Garris 11); Albany 39 (Springman 10, McNealy 10). Assists: Bay State 15 (Adams 6); Albany 20 (Wheeler 10). Total fouls: Bay State 28, Albany 25. Technical fouls: Albany Coach Jackson 2 (unsportsmanlike conduct); Albany Assistant Coach Rosen 2 (unsportsmanlike conduct). Ejections: Albany Coach Jackson; Albany Assistant Coach Rosen. A-3,420.
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