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Bibliography on Bob Knight, ‘The Season on the Brink’ and sportsbooks

When I heard the recent news of the passing of a former college basketball coach. Bob KnightMy first thought was about a book.

This book is “A Season on the Brink: A Year with Bob Knight and the Indiana Hoosiers” by John Feinstein. Published in 1986, Feinstein’s book offers a very inside look at the Indiana University men’s basketball team’s 1985-86 season; During this season, the team finished second in the Big 10 and placed 3rd in the NCAA tournament. Cleveland State’s first round is an outcome I greatly enjoy as an Illinois native and future University of Illinois student.

It’s considered one of the best sportsbooks of all time, and I’m not inclined to disagree. Feinstein’s insider portrayal of how a major college basketball program overseen by the mercurial and often abusive Knight operated was (and still is) utterly fascinating, even if some of the details were disturbing. My deepest memory from the book is the way Knight psychologically manipulated superstar guard Steve Alford in his attempt to push Alford to higher levels.

“A Season on the Brink” is a truly fleeting narrative, as Feinstein gains Knight’s trust and nearly unlimited access behind the scenes. Knight’s portrait is full of everything, but it’s also clear that Feinstein secretly approves of Knight’s “right” to act this way, given his status and track record of winning.

When I thought about “A Season on the Brink,” I realized we don’t see many sportsbooks like this anymore; books that give us previously hidden insights into what’s going on off the field. Whenever this kind of reflexive nostalgia kicks in, I decide to take some time to think about what’s changed, rather than lamenting, “Damn, we’re not doing things as well as we used to.”

First, following “A Season on the Brink,” the NCAA adopted a rule disallowing privileged access to individual reporters. Team events were either open to the full press or they weren’t, there were no flies on the wall anymore.

Another change has been the rise of long-form sports documentaries. “Last Dance,” The documentary, which follows the Chicago Bulls championship era and the final run to the title, can do things retrospectively that would be impossible for a book; these include two great books that came out during the Michael Jordan era: “Playing for Keeps: Michael Jordan” and the World He Made” by David Halberstam and former Bulls beat author Sam Smith’s “Jordan Rules.”

But perhaps most importantly, online media has changed the way we get sports news. The relentless demand for content and news means reporters are turning to social media whenever they have even a small morsel to share. Additionally, online media conveys a power that actors did not have before as they can deliver their own stories directly to audiences.

The balance of power has changed; especially for college athletes, through their right to use their own names, images, and likenesses. Star guard Alford was forced to live under the Knight dictatorship. Today, Caitlin Clark, the women’s great for the Iowa Hawkeyes, makes more money than her own coach.

From every perspective, I see these changes as positive. Sure, we may not get the explosive sports revelations we have in years past, but I’m a fan of a world where athletes have a say in their own lives, rather than being fodder for coaches and journalists to use them as they see fit.

John Warner is the author of “Why They Can’t Write: Killing the Five-Paragraph Essay and Other Requirements.”

Twitter @biblioracle

Book recommendations from Biblioracle

John Warner tells you what you should read, based on the last five books you’ve read.

1. “Brooklyn Golem” By Adam Mansbach

2. “Okinawa” By Susumu Higa

3. “Liar, Dreamer, Thief” By Maria Dong

4. “Master, Slave, Husband and Wife: An Epic Journey from Slavery to Freedom” By Ilyon Woo

5. “American Street” By Ibi Zoboi

— Laura F., Oak Park

This is a very interesting and challenging list. I hope my advice works. “Breasts and Eggs” by Mieko Kawakami is a novel I wouldn’t have read if someone else hadn’t insisted, and it was a strange, even unique experience. I’m passing this advice on to Laura.

1. “The Martian” By Andy Weir

2. “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley

3. “Peasant Lament” By JD Vance

4. “Oliver Twist” by Charles Dickens

5. “Hello Beautiful” By Ann Napolitano

—Larry G., Buffalo Grove

What I see here is an interest in adventure stories. “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead is a dark adventure, but it is very much an adventure novel.

1. “Belfast: The Story of a City and Its People” By Feargal Cochrane

2. “Dead Mountain” By Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

3. “American Prometheus” By Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin

4. “Boys from Biloxi” by John Grisham

5. “Ferry Man” By Justin Cronin

—John C., South Elgin

There is so much history and mystery here. Zadie Smith’s new book, “Scam,” fits both of these criteria quite well.

Get a reading from Bibliocle

Send a list of the last five books you read and your hometown to: biblioracle@gmail.com.



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