Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Last Amateurs (John Feinstein)

John Feinstein’s The Last Amateurs is a timeless look at small-time college basketball as it plays for its one shot at big-time glory. The Patriot League may not be well known to many outside of college basketball circles, but at the time of the book's release, it was one of the few leagues in the top division of college basketball where some of the teams did not have athletic scholarships and played for the love of the game.

Feinstein’s recap of the 2000 Patriot League season and conference tournament weaves through each of the seven colleges and service academies as they play for one invitation to the NCAA tournament, also profiling the coaches and players as they struggled to balance life, basketball, and school (in the case of the players). The culmination of the book is the conference tournament, where each of the schools tries to win up to three games in order to get into the NCAA tournament, and where one loss means the end of their basketball season.

The Patriot League certainly doesn’t feature the huge schools that grab your attention, but it does have kids and coaches who love the sport. The Last Amateurs is a gripping, entertaining, fun read that will remind you about the best of college sports in an era where many times its uglier side can be brought to light elsewhere.