Phil Jackson coached against the Rochester Zeniths at the Dome Arena and left an indelible memory with the author.
By Michael Lewis
With the Rochester Lancers putting the finishing touches on their debut weekend (this Friday and Saturday) at the Dome Arena in Henrietta, N.Y., memories have been flying back to me when I covered the Rochester Zeniths way back in the day.
I was a young sportswriter on the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle and I was covering the Continental Basketball Association club. I was at a game along with George Beahon, a legendary writer in Northwestern New York who was covering the Z’s that night, sometime in the eighties.
The Zeniths were taking on the Albany Patroons, who were coached by Phil Jackson, who at that time was better known for his performance for the New York Knicks.
Also at the media table was a teenager named Josh Lewin, the nephew of legendary New York Post basketball writer, the late Leonard Lewin. Like Marv Albert and many other aspiring sports announcers back in the day, Lewin brought his tape recorder (now that was not a digital voice recorder many of us use these days, but rather a bulkier cassette tape recorder, if my memory is correct. For a young teenager, Lewin was insightful, and I thought he definitely had a future.
The game was a closely fought battle between these two upstate New York teams with only seconds remaining in the game and the Zeniths enjoying a three-point lead. The media was situated near the Patroons’ bench, so we could hear some of what was being said in the huddle and vice versa.
Lewin, doing a diligent job “announcing” the game into his tape recorder, said something about Albany’s 11th-hour strategy, about how Jackson was probably trying to concoct “a four-point play.”
A great line, really, except Jackson took exception to it. He looked up at the media table and dropped an F-bomb (“— you, kid,” he said).
Beahon and I broke up. Lewin was stunned.
And Jackson? Well, I can tell you he could not pull a four-point play out of his pocket as the Patroons went down to defeat.
I don’t think that incident scarred Lewin at all. He went on to a successful professional announcing career as he has announced games locally and on the national networks in MLB, NFL and NHL.
As for Jackson, we all know what happened in his career.