Fav Basketball Books on Torg Stories Pod

What are your favorite books

about basketball?

The Jordan Rules Sam Smith Pat Conroy Rick Pitino Wooden Sprawlball A Season on the Brink

Torg Fav Basketball Books

Kent Chezem and I list and discuss our favorite hoops books in this episode of the Torg Stories Podcast, March 8, 2020 edition.

In preparing for this pod, I realized that I have read a lot more basketball books than I previously thought, probably at least 100.

I came up with nineteen books I thought were worth mentioning.

First, a commercial. My book, The Coach’s Wife has a lot of basketball in it and is on sale via Amazon for less than ten bucks.

  1. Season on the Brink by John Feinstein. 1986.
  2. The Losing Season by Pat Conroy
  3. Born to Coach by Rick Pitino 
  4. The Jordan Rules by Sam Smith
  5. Sprawlball by Kirk Goldsberry
  6. Wooden, A Coach’s Life by Seth Davis
  7. The 21st Century Basketball Practice by Brian McCormick
  8. Coach Wooden and Me by Kareem  (I met Kareem in the St. John’s locker room at Madison Square Garden)  AND Becoming Kareem by Obstfeld 
  9. When the Game was Ours by Larry Bird and Magic Johnson with Jackie MacMullan (appears on ESPN’s show Around the Horn)
  10. The Legends Club by Feinstein
  11. The Last Amateurs by Feinstein
  12. My Life on a Napkin by Rick Majerus
  13. Sum it Up by Sally Jenkins 
  14. The Last Seasonby Phil Jackson
  15. I just bought Seven Seconds or Less about the Suns by Jack McCallum. 
  16. Lebron INCby Brian Windhorst. He also wrote Return of the King. 
  17. Showtime by Jeff Pearlman
  18. Basketball, A Love Story. 
  19. The Book of Basketballby Bill Simmons

In doing this work, here are the books I’m going to look into reading: 

  1. Geno: In Pursuit of Perfection
  2. Assisted by John Stockton
  3. How Lucky Can You Be (Meyer) by Buster Olney
  4. Bleed Orange about Boheim
  5. The Pistol 
  6. Fab Five 
  7. Boys Among Men by Abrams 
  8. Seven Seconds or Less Jack MaCullum 
  9. Basketball on Paper Dean Oliver 
  10. A Coach’s Life by Dean Smith with John Kilgo and Sally Jenkins

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Which of my favs overlaps with yours?
  2. How did you rank these books?
  3. What do we get out of reading these books?
  4. What are these books about that we can talk about? Three point line. 21st Century Basketball. How would we describe our college basketball practices? How have we departed?
  5. Which of these coaches have we met? How at all, have these books or the coaches influenced us?
  6. I mostly left out technical X and O books like these:
  • Knight and Newell’s pair of books, Tex Winter’s Triangle Offense, Wooten’s Coaching Basketball Successfully, Dean Smith’s Multiple Offenses and Defenses, Tim Grover’s Jump Attack

I counted 42 books on Amazon written by John Feinstein:

  • The Back Roads to March, Where Nobody Knows Your Name (baseball), The First Major, A Good Walk Spoiled, The Legends Club, Season on the Brink, Quarterback, The Last Amateurs, A Season Inside, The Last Dance, The Punch (about the Rockets), Forever’s Team about Duke 78, A March to Madness about ACC

What are your favorites? Which ones are we wrong about? We hope you’ll join the conversation!




Write With Me Wednesdays: Tell Your Readers a Story

“Write With Me Wednesdays” is a series of blog posts, YouTube videos, and iTunes podcasts that is designed to help get you writing and also thinking about the craft of writing.  Thanks to the Jeremy Vogt Band for providing this weeks music for the video and iTunes published podcast.  I’m filling this post with relevant links despite my own personal goal of trying to stay focused on what I am reading online without just mindlessly clicking around.   If you’re just getting started with us, you might consider the writing territories activity as a way to look at all the possibilities for your writing.

In this weeks’ installment we’re going to look at the ways in which writers can tell a story to open a piece of writing.  I remember when I heard young adult novelist Walter Dean Myers speak at a New Jersey Council for Teachers of English Conference. I had been feeling uneasy about the way I’d been doing readings of Love on the Big Screen at conferences, book stores, and in libraries, and not liked how I’d kept my nose in a book for much of my talks.  It used to be that I’d followed a guideline I’d heard Rick Pitino share at one of his coaching clinics:  when you give a talk, don’t check your notes.  Pitino said that he’d rather look his audience in the eye and interact with them than to remember every little thing that he’d intended to say. I’d always subscribed to that philosophy, but the publication of my book led me away from eye contact and back to the pages of my notes.

When I heard Walter Dean Myers, he told us the stories of his books:  where the ideas came from, how he researched them by visiting prisons, and homes for children, and when he was finished–after not reading a page from any of his books–people were moved by the stories and went running over to the book table to purchase one of his novels.  I think he had something like three books coming out that year.

So your instruction for this week is to open a post by telling a story.  In many cases, the story might be the entire post.  The story is relevant because it is somehow connected to what you write about on your blog.  Here are some first-line examples from writers who opened their texts by beginning a story:

I think it was the penny loafers that started it all.

–appeared in article entitled “From Candy Girls to Cyber-Sista Cipher: Narrating Black Females Color,” written by Dr. Carmen Kynard and published in the Harvard Educational Review.

When I think about my writing within the context of other writers’ work, I often ask myself questions.  “When did it all get started for me?” I might ask.  And this could be connected to anything. When did I first think I might write a novel?  When did I think I wasn’t going to be a fireman (as I’d wanted to be as a kid) and when did I start thinking about being a college professor?  I also love Carmen’s text for the ways that it challenges definitions about what it means to do academic writing.  This is a text that, after all, that alludes to the 80s band New Edition.  I can hear some who’d say New Edition doesn’t belong in academic writing, but I’d say it depends on the purpose of the writing and what it is about.  Evidently, the Harvard Educational Review thought New Edition belonged in this case.

I was saved from sin when I was going on thirteen. But not really saved. It happened like this.

by Langston Hughes in “Salvation”

Notice Langston’s  fragment. Notice also the interest he creates with this idea that he was saved but not really.  What does he mean?  We have to keep reading to find out.  He’s also got that great phrase, “It happened like this.”  And as a reader we know we’re going to hear a story from when Langston was a boy.

Last week a blogging friend and I were talking about comments and community.

Deb Ng’s blog, Kommein

What Deb Ng’s sentence has me thinking about is the way in which we can give our subconscious an assignment:  find blog posts!  Or our subconscious gets used to the fact that we write blog posts, and then we’re standing on the street talking to a friend, and we realize we are in the midst of what will become a future post or text that we want to write.  Not sure that’s how it worked for Deb in this case, (maybe she’ll tell us?) but it’s often how it works for me.

A Good One: Hornby's Juliet, Naked

This way of the subconscious (or the product of habit) reminds me of a writer I like named Nick Hornby.  I recommend his High Fidelity or Juliet, Naked to you.  Not so long ago he collaborated with another favorite artist of mine:  the musician Ben Folds.  Nick wrote the lyrics and Ben did the rest.  I’ve heard Hornby talk about the subconscious (he didn’t use that word) by saying at first he had little stories he’d give to Ben, but what ended up happening was that he’d start to “see” or “find” songs.  He’d be walking down the street and think, “there’s a song for Ben.”  So once you start writing, your mind will get to working all the time on what is coming up.  Where will you put these ideas as they come?  A voice memo on your phone, a notebook, or perhaps as some sort of digital text?  As I’ve moved from being a writer’s notebook kind of guy to an iPhone user, I find myself missing a lot of ideas as they go whizzing by.  If you’ve got suggestions, I’d love you send them to me via a comment on this post.

Deb Ng knows her subject matter.  Her everyday life is full of topics for writing just like yours.   You just have to develop the habit of looking for them.  A conversation becomes a post.

If any of this prompts some thinking on your part, I’d love to hear from you via a comment.  Maybe consider leaving me and any potential readers a link to where you’ve tried to open a piece of writing by telling a story.  Thanks again to The Jeremy Vogt Band for providing the music for this weeks’ YouTube video and iTunes podcast. You can find the podcast by typing in “Digital Book Club” on iTunes.  You can listen to podcast online here.  There’s a video version also included below: