DRUM ROLL, please. My annual summer must-read of sports books:
The One & Only
By Emily Giffin
419 pages, $28.00
Giffin’s latest novel centers around a subject she knows a lot about, the author drawing on her days as a team manager for the Wake Forest basketball team during the Tim Duncan and Dave Odom years.
Giffin’s story is about 33-year-old Shea Rigsby and her life in the football-crazed town of Walker, Texas. Giffin provides a behind-the-scenes look at a college football program led by legendary coach Clive Carr.
As you read the book, you cannot help but wonder how much Giffin used her experiences under Odom to shape Carr’s character.
“Clive Carr and Coach Odom are very different, but they certainly share some traits,” Giffin wrote this week via email. “They both have tremendous compassion for others – and go far beyond the coaching duties to really care for their players and everyone involved in their program. They are both quite intelligent and great, natural leaders. They both have the ability to focus on details while still seeing the big picture which can be a difficult balance.”
“The One & Only” is a fast, easy, enjoyable read, the rare novel that gives insight into an NCAA program and how its coach operates.
Where Nobody Knows Your Name
By John Feinstein
370 pages, $31.00
Feinstein’s latest book is sub-titled “Life in the minor leagues of baseball,” when the reality is the well-researched and reported account is much more about life only at the Triple-A level of the minor leagues.
The author takes the reader to outposts in Indianapolis, Pawtucket, Norfolk, Durham, Syracuse and others, giving us a glimpse of what every aspect of the game played one step from the big leagues.
The central theme throughout is that no one wants to be at the Triple-A level. It is the purgatory of baseball. Durham manager Charlie Montoyo tells Feinstein that “just about everyone” does not want to be at that level of the minor leagues.
“ ‘Everyone’ isn’t just the players, or even the managers and coaches in Triple-A,” Feinstein writes. “It is everyone: umpires, broadcasters, beat writers, groundskeepers.”
Throughout, Feinstein tells the tales of those who are either on their way up to the big show or coming down from the major leagues – and having to deal with being somewhere they do not want to be.
The ACC Basketball Book Of Fame
By Dan Collins
John F. Blair, Publisher
320 pages, $26.95
If you have loved ACC basketball at any time during the league’s existence, then you will be enthralled by this book.
Collins spent two years devising a system to select a Hall of Fame for ACC basketball. What makes the book special is that not only did Collins figure out which 79 players should be members of that fictitious Hall of Fame, but also profiled every member.
Clemson fans will certainly dispute the formula – one in which Collins admits is not perfect – because not a single Tigers player gained admission to this Hall of Fame. South Carolina’s two representatives are no surprise, John Roche and Tom Owens.
Collins’ look at Roche delves into the hatred by ACC fans toward USC’s all-time best player. The profile of Owens allows his former teammate, Bobby Cremins, to weigh in on why Owens has been such an enigma since he left USC.
Argue with the formula if you want, but you should also recognize that Collins does a masterful job of telling and re-telling behind-the-scenes stories of each member of his Hall of Fame.
Bones Mckinney: Basketball’s Unforgettable Showman
By Bethany Bradsher
278 pages, $21.95
There arguably has never been a more colorful character in ACC basketball history than Bones McKinney, who attended Durham High in North Carolina, not far from the Duke campus. He later played at N.C. State and North Carolina then coached at Wake Forest.
He was born Horace Albert McKinney on New Year’s Day in 1919 and bragged most of his life about his HAM initials. He wore red socks on the sideline when he coached and kept a dipper and bucket of water under his seat. He once wore a seatbelt to keep him from patrolling the sideline and arguing with officials.
Bradsher traces McKinney’s story with exceptional detail. It is a story clearly worth the author re-telling for those who saw him as a player or coach, or even those who never got to experience that treat for themselves.