“Mr. Patroon” back for another head coaching stint in Albany
“Mr. Patroon” is coming back to Albany. After Will Brown stepped down as head coach last month, the Albany Patroons say Derrick Rowland is returning as head coach for the 2023 season that starts in March. Rowland has played for and coached the Albany Patroons dating back to their 1982 inception. A star player who led the Patroons to two titles, Rowland will begin his third stint as head coach for the team that plays in The Basketball League. Rowland spent last season coaching in Oklahoma. Brown, the former longtime University at Albany men’s basketball coach, stepped down after bringing the Patroons to the championship series last year to refocus on college basketball.
So how did you make the decision to come back to Albany at this point?
Well, it's just kind of divine intervention going on here. I was in Oklahoma last year, I found out that Oklahoma really wasn't for me. I was so far away from my family. My mom is getting up there in age, and I just felt it was right for me to be there all year round. So, I decided to come back home. Coming back home, I wasn't aware that the Patroon job would be open. What I was planning on doing was helping the organization with their public relations and school kids and sponsorships and stuff of that nature. That was my original plan once I returned here. And then the head coach job opened up, which was great, you know, Will Brown did a great job here. I'm just happy to be back in the saddle here with the Patroons.
When you become the head coach, especially in this league, there are so many more responsibilities. How are you getting ready for the new season?
Well, I've been doing this for a while. It's pretty much a turnkey situation for me. As far as putting the players together and just preparing all the other stuff. The travel, the players and all that. We're going to get along pretty well. I have a pretty good black book of players that have played for me in the past, that I played against, and some of the Albany former players. So, we're off to a good start as far as that. This is a new start for me, but it's not new as far as all the other stuff that comes with it.
Have you locked any players in for the new roster for the upcoming season so far?
Yes, I have. Yes, I have, and we probably have got about 150 on a waiting list.
Playing for the Patroons is an honor for players because of the history and the organization and the arena, and the fans, and all the stuff that takes place here. Players know that it's a great place for them, you know, and being my players, I promote guys trying to build up to the next level, and when you move on to the next level, money wise, that's best for them and their family. So, I try to motivate players to come in and put their best foot forward and if they get an opportunity to go overseas or to the NBA, I'm the first one to congratulate them and take them to the airport. So, we’ve got a pretty good thing going here.
I remember talking to Coach Brown last season, and he was constantly going to and from the airport, making phone calls, keeping weird hours to see where his players were coming back and forth from Europe. I mean, that in itself sounds like a full-time commitment, even before you're looking at any games.
It is. There are definitely commitments because you want to try to find the right players and the right chemistry and the character of the guys and the guys that will fit what you need to do. One of the biggest things for me is, I'm looking for obviously, talent, but players need to be able to go out into the community, and work with the kids at camps, clinics and hospitals. Anything that we can do to help our community. That's one of the big things that the Albany Patroons has always put a lot of weight in, its service in the community. So, part of my recruiting this town, is also guys that have the ability to go out and motivate the kids.
So, as a coach, do you talk about the success you had here as a player or does that kind of thing not resonate with young players today?
I definitely talk about the success and the culture that has been built here. I tell the players that when you play for the Albany Patroons, every time you take the court, you have a chance to play for history. We are a historical franchise, probably the most historical Minor League franchise of all time. As far as the number of players for the NBA. The coaches, Phil Jackson, Rick Carlisle, Scotty Books, Michael Ray Richardson. The list goes on, you know, so we have a chance to play for history. Everything is documented. The game has changed to some degree, you know, you’ve got seven footers shooting three pointers these days, but the culture and the method of approach is the same for me. I share that all the time. I go out and get all the old pictures and all the old write ups and just show them what has happened here as a tool to motivate them and let them know what kind of opportunity they really have.
When you are a player, what kind of coaching did you respond to?
Any kind of coach. I was a desperate player. I went to a division three school and you know, I was the only one, probably, on the team in the league from a division three school at the time and I was just there. I have a very high basketball IQ and my work ethic was there. It took me some time to develop. I was a practice player when I first started out with the platoons, you know, just being the practice guy because I wasn't ready to make the roster. I went to school at Potsdam State and all these other guys, Syracuse, North Carolina, Duke, you know, all of these other major colleges. So, it took me a little time to catch up to the style of play, and then I did and then the rest is history.
Let me go back to something you said a moment ago about 7-footers shooting 3-pointers. Has the three infiltrated the basketball league the way it's really changed the NBA?
Yes. Basketball has changed a lot.
What do you think of that change? Is that something you think has made the game more exciting?
I think so. I think at one point it was crossover dribble that was big, then it was the dunk, and now the three-point shot is the thing that all players would like to do.
And you have to have somebody who can make them. I mean, otherwise, the kick out doesn't work.
Yes. Well, we don't make them, we don’t take them, you know what I mean? And for me in this league, the three-point shot is a great shot, but there's formulas to win. Like for example, I think we take less three-point shots on the road. We played down, we try to get to the foul line, we try to get them in foul trouble. We try to get high percentage shots on the road. Obviously, the three-point shot is a part of that, but at home you're comfortable, the fans are going and the three-point shot is a lot easier to make. But there has to be two aspects of your team, inside and out, to be successful.
Lastly, do you feel any pressure to be successful this year? I mean, you have your own, long personal history with the franchise, but also, they're coming off barely missing a championship last year in overtime. So, how important is winning to you?
Winning is extremely important, but honestly, I don't coach to see how many games I can win. With the kids, the players, I am in a position of power. People listen to me; I have great experience and I've walked the walk. I’m the only one that’s still left from the glory days, and I'm still here on the frontline with Albany Patroons. So, coaching is obviously, I mean, I'm a winner and I put pressure on myself. But at the end of the day, it's about what you can do for others that that can determine how far you can go in your life.