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Father of Bucks first president reflects on his time spent in Milwaukee

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) — Everybody has to start somewhere — and one of the biggest movers and shakers in college sports started in Milwaukee.

The man in charge of the largest revenue-generating athletic department in college sports grew up in Beaver Dam.

Steve Patterson is the athletic director at Texas now — which gave him a reason to come back to the Midwest during the NCAA Tournament.

“It’s fun to come back actually. It’s a bit nostalgic. It’s a bit comfortable. It’s a bit fun. You get to walk around the streets and see what’s the same and have dinner at Mader’s and lunch at Karl Ratzch’s and get to see the things that are different and the things that are the same,” Patterson said.

One thing that is strangely the same is the plight of the city’s NBA team.

Patterson’s father Ray was an initial investor in the team and the Bucks’ first president. Then, as now, generating ticket sales wasn’t easy.

“I started in this business answering the phone when we didn’t have any furniture yet at the Bucks and the marketing campaign was to see the Bucks for a buck — so things have changed a little bit since then. I remember the newspaper print ads and posters were — this man will play his heart out for you this year. A guy named Jay Miller. He was the first guy cut in training camp, so we had to change that,” Patterson said.

Patterson became educated quickly in the business, and the Bucks got exponentially better quickly on the court.

“It was fun to have out with the older guys who had been in the league for a long time. The Guy Rodgers and Jon McGlocklin and Lenny Chappell¬†— and then it really changed when they drafted Lew Alcindor, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and you start winning 60 games every year,” Patterson said.

In 1971, the Bucks won their first and only NBA championship.

Patterson would go on to executive jobs with the Houston Rockets and Portland Trailblazers. He landed the Super Bowl for the city of Houston and he was the athletic director at Arizona State before moving to U.T.

He took a piece of that Bucks title with him on his career journey.

“For me, I was real young at the time. The championship was won on the road, so we weren’t at the game. Since then, I’ve been able to put together some championship teams and be a part of that, so those are probably a little bit more personally fulfilling for me — but you know, my father still cherished the ring, and I’m sure the community still remembers those teams, and you forget when you have the whole starting five that shoots over 50 percent and you win 60 odd games a year, that’s a heck of a lot of fun,” Patterson said.

Patterson has had a lifetime of sports success — and it all started in Milwaukee.

Patterson says Milwaukee holds a special place in his heart — but admits that since he now works in Texas, and before that, Arizona State he doesn’t miss the cold weather at all.

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