Monday, July 13, 2009

B101's Summer Reading List

Things are pretty quiet college basketball-wise right now, but there are still a few ways for fans to get their fix while relaxing on the beach this summer. These five books, all published over the last couple years, detail everything from national championship games to mid-majors to Division II recruiting, and each will give the reader an inside look at all levels of college basketball.

We will be back this fall with our pre-season bracket (we'll have an occasional "tweet" in the meantime, too.) Until then, enjoy the list and enjoy the sun...

When March Went Mad: The Game That Transformed Basketball
By Seth Davis
In "When March Went Mad," Davis explores, in vivid detail, the 1979 national championship game between Indiana State and Michigan State - the "Bird vs. Magic" game. Aside from reliving the game itself, Davis also tells the tale of how each superstar ended up at their respective school, how the seasons unfolded for both teams en route to the championship game, how different Magic and Bird were off the court, how Indiana State fought all season to earn respect, and how Michigan State dealt with lofty expectations. Davis also discusses the cultural impact that game had on the world of college basketball which, at the time, was just beginning to grow in popularity. Twenty years later, the 1979 championship game still has the highest rating of any basketball game in history, and as you read through Davis' book, you'll know exactly why America was so excited to watch Bird and Magic square off.

Destination Basketball: A Once in a Lifetime Adventure to Meet the Best Coaches in College Hoops
By Andrew Hemminger & Dave Bensch
Hemminger and Bensch began their 15-month trek to write this book with only a Honda Civic and a dream - and when all was said and done, the two best friends and college basketball fanatics had compiled a book full of lengthy, candid interviews with 29 of the country's most accomplished coaches. Among their interviewees: John Wooden, Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Calhoun, Roy Williams, Rick Pitino, Lute Olson, Jim Boeheim, Dean Smith, Gary Williams, Tom Izzo, John Chaney, and Billy Donovan. Each coach gets their own chapter in the book, and the interviews themselves are funny, informative, thought-provoking, and enlightening and show the true personalities of some of the most important figures in the game.

Birds, Dogs, and Kangaroos: Life on the Back Road of College Basketball
By Rich Zvosec & Greg Echlin
Most fans have never heard of Rich Zvosec, and that's part of the reason why he and Echlin wrote this book. Zvosec has spent his entire coaching career at small conference schools like St. Francis, North Florida, and UMKC. "Birds, Dogs, and Kangaroos" brings the reader into the world of small conference basketball, where coaches are responsible for way more than just Xs and Os. They need to raise money to keep programs afloat, find their student-athletes housing, and do a slew of other tasks that are often reserved for the team manager at big-time college programs. Zvosec tells a ton of funny and touching stories in this book, and all of them show just what life as a coach in a one-bid league is all about.

Cinderella Ball: A Look Inside Small-College Basketball in West Virginia
By Bob Kuska
If "Birds, Dogs, and Kangaroos" is small-college enough for you, "Cinderella Ball" should do the trick. In the book, Kuska chronicles a year in the life of the Division II Alderson-Broaddus College basketball team, which plays in the West Viriginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (what? didn't know that?). Not only does Kuska point out the myriad of differences between big-time Division I basketball versus Division II ball, he captures the underdog mentality that the team, the town, and the conference all have as they battle to stay relevant in the ever-expanding world of college sports. The book certainly has a "Hoosiers"-type feel to it, and Kuska tells the inspirational story perfectly.

Cinderella: Inside the Rise of Mid-Major College Basketball
By Michael Litos
We've touted "Cinderella" before on B101, but in case you haven't read it yet, we highly recommend it (now available in paperback!). In the book, Litos gives an all-access look at the rise of the Colonial in 2005-2006, which culminated in George Mason's miracle run to the Final Four. The book gives a fantastic recap of the Patriots' rise to national fame that season, and it also details the reasons why several mid-major conferences across the country have risen to prominence over the last few seasons and gives a behind-the-scenes look at the day-to-day challenges that the player and coaches from the best teams in the conference (Old Dominion, George Mason, UNC-Wilmington, Hofstra, VCU, and Northeastern) faced that season.

Also receiving votes: Bo Ryan: Another Hill to Climb by Bo Ryan (Ryan’s autobiography details the path he took to get the Wisconsin job and the people who influenced him along the way); Rebound Rules: The Art of Success 2.0 by Rick Pitino (Pitino discusses the personal and professional challenges in his life and his strategy for dealing with them over the years); Playing For Coach Meyer by Steve Smiley (Smiley, a former player for Meyer, details his time with college basketball’s all-time winningest coach); The Gold Standard: Building a World-Class Team by Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K details his time spent building – and winning a gold medal with – Team USA); Taking The Shot: The Davidson Basketball Moment by Michael Kruse (Kruse tells the behind-the-scenes story of the Wildcats’ run to the Elite Eight in 2008)