Written by Chuck Miller

Albany Patroons v. Bay State Bombardiers
Washington Avenue Armory, Albany, N.Y.
February 4, 1986
Gary Holle coaches one game in emergency relief role

One of the most overused plot devices in bad Hollywood musicals involves the star catching some unknown virus, knocking her out of tonight's performance. Desperate to find a replacement, the director grabs the script girl out of the wings and puts her on stage. To everyone's surprise, the script girl saves the day and becomes a star in her own right. And then Busby Berkeley and his fifty dancing girls come in for the show-stopping number, and so on and so forth.

When we last left the Albany Patroons, they were living a script written by a sadistic Hollywood writer. After Phil Jackson got in a screaming match with referee Ralph Lembo during the January 30th Pats-Bay State contest, the CBA tossed him a two-game suspension. Also suspended for one game as a result of the incident were Assistant Coach Charley Rosen, Patroons President Jim Coyne and Patroon forward David Ancrum. Somebody had to coach the game tonight, even if only to make sure a game was played and the Pats wouldn't forfeit the contest.

Enter Pats General Manager Gary Holle.

Holle had excelled in both baseball and basketball, earning inclusion in the Halls of Fame of Siena College (where his 20.6 career points per game is still a school record) and of the Albany Twilight League (where he excelled at first base for Oppenheim Post). He even made the big leagues, playing for the Phillies, Rangers and White Sox.

Gary Holle had even coached a few high school games. But this was his first ever professional contest. And he wasn't facing a team that would roll over for an interim coach.

The Patroons were hosting the Bombardiers again, and Derrick Rowland and Michael Adams were lighting up arenas with their scoring and assists. And a win would put Bay State over Albany for control of second place in the Eastern Division.

Before the game, Holle talked with Phil Jackson at Jackson's apartment. Jackson diagrammed some plays, but told Holle to just go out and be himself, coach the team and have a good time.

In the game, the Albany Patroons' guards, Kenny Natt and Clinton Wheeler, started scoring early and never looked back. Wheeler hit a personal best 39 points, and Natt swished a trio of three-pointers, including his third with two minutes left in the game to put Albany ahead for good.

"With four minutes left," Holle told the Times-Union, "I must have asked [trainer] Jack Mosher 52 times if I was screwing up. Even with 10 seconds left, I was still going crazy."

Holle seldom substituted during the game. Rather than give Natt and Wheeler some bench time in the second half, as Phil Jackson usually did, Holle noticed that Bay State kept their high-shooting guards on the court, and so he did the same. And the interim coach only called one 20-second timeout, which more resembled a conference than a play description. "During the timeout," said Chris McNealy to the Knickerbocker News, "he put his word in. When you sit there on the sidelines, you see a lot of things going on that we might not pick up on. He pointed out things to me like switching men on defense. He surprised me and did a good job."

A good job indeed. Good enough to give Albany 6 points in the standings, widening the gap between them and the Bombardiers. After Charley Rosen directed the Pats to a 118-98 win over the Baltimore Lightning on February 6. Phil Jackson returned as coach, his suspension finally over.

The Holle-managed game was the last time Derrick Rowland would play against the Pats. By the time Albany and Bay State met again (a 125-114 victory in the Armory on March 14), Rowland had finally made the NBA, as a member of the Milwaukee Bucks.

And as for Gary Holle's coaching career - he always joked about coaching another CBA game after one coach or another picked up a technical or a suspension, but followed up with the punchline, "I couldn't coach again. Why take a chance and spoil my perfect record?"

Adams 4-13 2-2 12; Rowland 16-28 2-3 34; Garris 4-10 4-4 12; J. Williams 2-5 0-0 4; Clark 5-12 12-12 22; Green 5-9 3-6 13; Young 9-18 14-16 32; Lewis 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 45-96 37-43 129.

Wheeler 17-25 5-6 39; Natt 13-22 3-4 32; Springman 5-8 1-2 11; McNealy 7-12 5-6 19; Al Matiin 6-11 3-5 15; Walker 0-1 0-0 0; Banks 8-19 2-3 18; Mitchell 1-2 1-2 3. Totals 57-100 20-28 137.

BAY STATE 29-29-40-31 129 1
ALBANY    34-30-35-38 137 6
Three-point goals - Adams 2, Natt 3. Rebounds - Bay State 52 (Clark 17), Albany 45 (Springman, McNealy, Banks 10 each). Assists: Bay State 19 (Adams 10), Albany 28 (Wheeler 13). Total fouls: Bay State 26, Albany 29. A-2,674.
Henry Kissinger turned down the Republicans' offer to run for New York State Governor.
Pope John Paul II visits Mother Theresa at her Calcutta mission.
Golfer Fuzzy Zoeller wins the 1986 PGA Pro-Am Tournament.

Write an e-mail to the author of this article
Return to Main Patroons Page
Return to homepage