"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Monday, December 26, 2005

Book Review: "Tales from the Marquette Hardwood"

The new book Tales from the Marquette Hardwood takes fans on a journey through the highlights and lowlights of the last 40 years of Marquette basketball. The text is built on chapter-length interviews with many notable figures from the MU basketball program. The book, by MU alum Mike Neufeldt and Milwaukee television personality Tom Pipines, sticks to a simple, nearly stenographic format which allows the personality of its subjects to emerge in ways that third-party interpretation could not.

The format, which eschews analysis, works best when the authors allow for a longer discussion with the subjects, as the conversations with Jim McIlvaine, Tom Crean and Rick Majerus demonstrate. Majerus' chapter is the book's best, as he describes his affection for Marquette -- with the benefit of nearly 20 years of separation from the university. Time and distance work wonders for Majerus, as he shares vivid memories of Coach Al, thoughts on the pressure of coaching at MU, along with his assertion that the Big East was a bad move for MU.

McIlvaine is candid throughout, most notably in discussing overly involved parents as well as Kevin O'Neill's treatment of players recruited by Bob Dukiet. More impressively, McIlvaine tells the world why team managers are such fine folks (you'll have to read the book for those details). Crean reflects on the Final Four run, but also offers personal anecdotes that we'd not yet read or heard. The biggest surprise in the book? The pages dedicated to James Langenkamp, which were witty and revealing.

Given MU's colorful history, it's surely an impossible task to capture the perspectives of every memorable player or coach. The authors delivered more than a dozen chapters, though a few lacked depth, and many notable players were not included. For example, the Hank Raymonds chapter is largely a reflection on Coach Al rather than exploring questions related to his own head coaching tenure. Also, the authors curiously spend a chapter with Bill Raftery rather than Billy Packer, a more natural subject for the book. Perhaps most disappointing are the absence of chapters from either Butch Lee or Bo Ellis.

Despite these nominal shortcomings, this book is a worthwhile romp through the last four decades of MU basketball. At its best -- and there's plenty of that in this volume -- this book will ignite your passions for Marquette basketball.

You can order copies of the book here and here at Amazon.

No comments: