The back roads to March The unsung, unheralded, and unknown heroes of a college basketball season

John Feinstein

Book - 2020

"John Feinstein has already taken readers into the inner circles of top college basketball programs in The Legends Club. This time, Feinstein pulls back the curtain on college basketball's lesser-known Cinderella stories -- the smaller programs who no one expects to win, who have no chance of attracting the most coveted high school recruits, who rarely send their players on to the NBA. Feinstein follows a handful of players, coaches, and schools who dream, not of winning the NCAA tourn...ament, but of making it past their first or second round games. Every once in a while, one of these coaches or players is plucked from obscurity to continue on to lead a major team or to play professionally, cementing their status in these fiercely passionate fan bases as a legend. These are the gifted players who aren't handled with kid gloves -- they're hardworking, gritty teammates who practice and party with everyone else. With his trademark humor and invaluable connections, John Feinstein reveals the big time programs you've never heard of, the bracket busters you didn't expect to cheer for, and the coaches who inspire them to take their teams to the next level."--

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Subjects
Published
New York : Doubleday [2020]
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
xii, 416 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : color illustrations ; 25 cm
Bibliography
Includes index.
ISBN
9780385544481
0385544480
Main Author
John Feinstein (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* One of the premier events in American sports is the NCAA basketball tournament, which culminates every March with the media event known as the Final Four. But there is much more to college basketball than the premier teams, and Feinstein presents the universe of smaller schools with players who have no illusions of a professional career, coached by men who love the game. This is a book about the players and coaches from those teams, some of whom occasionally, against all odds, make the Final Four. That happened in 2018 when Loyola of Chicago, a small Catholic school cheered on by its unofficial spokesperson, a 98-year-old nun, made a magical run to the Final Four. Feinstein follows Loyola's remarkable year, along with the triumphs of other small schools, but he also shows what happens the next season. Fans expect more magic, but when it's supplanted by mediocrity, the pressure on players and coaches can be crushing. Feinstein interviews many who have been through similar situations. Given the perspective provided by the passage of time, the participants still remember the magic. Feinstein cites a small plaque at the Palestra, the legendary Philadelphia arena, that states: To win the game is great. To play the game is greater. But to love the game is the greatest of all. Perfect. A wonderful book by a wonderful sports journalist. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* One of the premier events in American sports is the NCAA basketball tournament, which culminates every March with the media event known as the Final Four. But there is much more to college basketball than the premier teams, and Feinstein presents the universe of smaller schools with players who have no illusions of a professional career, coached by men who love the game. This is a book about the players and coaches from those teams, some of whom occasionally, against all odds, make the Final Four. That happened in 2018 when Loyola of Chicago, a small Catholic school cheered on by its unofficial spokesperson, a 98-year-old nun, made a magical run to the Final Four. Feinstein follows Loyola's remarkable year, along with the triumphs of other small schools, but he also shows what happens the next season. Fans expect more magic, but when it's supplanted by mediocrity, the pressure on players and coaches can be crushing. Feinstein interviews many who have been through similar situations. Given the perspective provided by the passage of time, the participants still remember the magic. Feinstein cites a small plaque at the Palestra, the legendary Philadelphia arena, that states: To win the game is great. To play the game is greater. But to love the game is the greatest of all. Perfect. A wonderful book by a wonderful sports journalist. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

The No. 1 New York Times best-selling author of A Season on the Brink, Feinstein here revisits his beloved college basketball, focusing on the often unknown if still tough and gifted athletes of the Division-1 programs, which cannot claim the top high school athletes and won't likely be sending any stars to the NBA. Copyright 2019 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

In this fascinating history, sportswriter Feinstein (A Season on the Brink) takes a look at lesser-known college basketball teams. In order to explore the "real joys of college basketball," Feinstein eschews the big money and future NBA stars of celebrated universities to focus on the sheer love of the game that characterizes smaller schools, covering the 2018 basketball season from November to the March playoffs. He describes his travels in vivid detail, showing readers the smaller arenas and atmospheres where the schools play, as in his description of University of Maryland–Baltimore County's 90–85, double-overtime victory over Hartford in the America East tournament, a game "Very few people around the country would even notice" but that "for those who were there, it was a night to be remembered and savored for a long, long time." Most memorable, though, is Feinstein's eye and ear for the little-known coaches who aren't fending off NBA offers, such as Rick Byrd, who had coached at Tennessee's Belmont University for 33 years, but of whom Feinstein recalls, "I wanted to talk basketball, he wanted to talk golf." It's all net for Feinstein's passionate basketball history. (Mar.) Copyright 2020 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

"Sports journalist John Feinstein returns to his first love--college basketball--with a fascinating and compelling journey through a landscape of unsung, unpublicized and often unknown heroes of Division-1 college hoops"--

Review by Publisher Summary 2

The best-selling author of A Season on the Brink celebrates lesser-known Cinderella stories from college basketball, describing how a small handful of players, coaches and under-funded schools rose from obscurity to secure NCAA rankings. Illustrations.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

Thirty years ago after changing the sports book landscape with his mega-hit, A Season on the Brink, #1 New York Times bestselling author John Feinstein returns to his first love--college basketball--with a fascinating and compelling journey through a landscape of unsung, unpublicized and often unknown heroes of Division-1 college hoops.     John Feinstein has already taken readers into the inner circles of top college basketball programs in The Legends Club. This time, Feinstein pulls back the curtain on college basketball's lesser-known Cinderella stories--the smaller programs who no one expects to win, who have no chance of attracting the most coveted high school recruits, who rarely send their players on to the NBA.      Feinstein follows a handful of players, coaches, and schools who dream, not of winning the NCAA tournament, but of making it past their first or second round games. Every once in a while, one of these coaches or players is plucked from obscurity to continue on to lead a major team or to play professionally, cementing their status in these fiercely passionate fan bases as a legend. These are the gifted players who aren't handled with kid gloves--they're hardworking, gritty teammates who practice and party with everyone else.      With his trademark humor and invaluable connections, John Feinstein reveals the big time programs you've never heard of, the bracket busters you didn't expect to cheer for, and the coaches who inspire them to take their teams to the next level.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

Thirty years ago after changing the sports book landscape with his mega-hit, A Season on the Brink, #1 New York Times bestselling author John Feinstein returns to his first love--college basketball--with a fascinating and compelling journey through a landscape of unsung, unpublicized and often unknown heroes of Division-1 college hoops.     John Feinstein has already taken readers into the inner circles of top college basketball programs in The Legends Club. This time, Feinstein pulls back the curtain on college basketball's lesser-known Cinderella stories--the smaller programs who no one expects to win, who have no chance of attracting the most coveted high school recruits, who rarely send their players on to the NBA.      Feinstein follows a handful of players, coaches, and schools who dream, not of winning the NCAA tournament, but of making it past their first or second round games. Every once in a while, one of these coaches or players is plucked from obscurity to continue on to lead a major team or to play professionally, cementing their status in these fiercely passionate fan bases as a legend. These are the gifted players who aren't handled with kid gloves--they're hardworking, gritty teammates who practice and party with everyone else.      With his trademark humor and invaluable connections, John Feinstein reveals the big time programs you've never heard of, the bracket busters you didn't expect to cheer for, and the coaches who inspire them to take their teams to the next level.