Need a good read for the college basketball season? You're in luck. Here are some to get you through those nights when your team isn't playing.
The Miracle of St. Anthony, by Adrian Wojnarowski.
If you're not familiar with the story of coach Bob Hurley, it goes something like this. He was a parole officer who moonlighted as a basketball coach at St. Anthony's in Jersey City. The school was poor. They didn't have any basketball facilities for decades. And he constantly had to fundraise in order to keep the school open. But he built one of the great high school programs in the country, winning 25 state titles (and counting). He turned down multiple opportunities to coach in college (and the huge raise that would accompany it) and instead has stayed at the same school, trying to keep kids off the streets.
The book follows him through a season of basketball. Read it.
The Hustle, by Doug Merlino.
In 1986 a travel team in Seattle was put together of kids from a rich, white school, and a poor, black school. It turns out that one of those kids – Doug Merlino – went on to become an accomplished journalist. In this book he goes back to Seattle and tracks down all his old teammates. Or at least the ones that are still alive. A complex book that uses basketball as a base for exploring sprawling themes.
A Sense of Where You Are, by John McPhee.
Quite simply the greatest basketball book ever written. Writers with the skill of John McPhee (one of the pioneers of creative non-fiction) don't generally delve into hoops, so enjoy it. This book is a portrait of Bill Bradley as a college basketball player, the best player in the country who ended up at Princeton instead of Duke. There's even a complete analysis of Bradley's vast array of moves.
How Lucky You Can Be, by Buster Olney.
The story of head coach Don Meyer isn't one for people who like to feel sorry for themselves. Right before he passed Bob Knight as the all-time winningest college basketball coach, his car was in a head-on collision with a semi. His players were in a van right behind him, and they were the first to come to his aid. Olney tells the story of his remarkable fight for survival, and then his fight to get back into basketball. Keep your hankies handy.
Runnin' Rebel, by Jerry Tarkanian with Dan Wetzel.
To put it simply, Jerry Tarkanian was screwed by the NCAA. He doesn't harp on that in this book, but he does tell great stories about life behind the scenes in big time college basketball. He's a natural story teller, and he has a co-writer here to help him shape it into a quick reading, snappy narrative.
Big Game, Small World, by Alexander Wolff.
Traveling to 16 different countries (and 10 states in the U.S.) Wolff chronicles the game's global reach. Sometimes harrowing, sometimes comic, Wolff weaves together stories about how this sport has been picked up and dropped into far reaching cultures.