About the Book
Rick Pitino, Jim Calhoun, and Gary Williams played no small role in the making of modern college basketball. Collectively, they’ve won more than 2,300 games and six national championships and reached thirteen Final Fours. All three have been enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Pitino, Calhoun, and Williams each spent more than two decades on the national stage, becoming celebrities in their own right as college basketball and March Madness became a multi-billion-dollar industry.
Before Pitino became the face of the Providence, Kentucky, and Louisville programs, before Calhoun turned UConn into a national power, and before Williams brought Maryland to its first national championship, all three of these coaches cut their teeth in front of modest-sized crowds in the crumbling college gymnasiums of Boston during the 1970s and early 1980s.
Boston Ball charts how this trio of coaches, seemingly out of nowhere, started a basketball revolution: Pitino at Boston University, Calhoun at Northeastern University, and Williams at Boston College. Toiling in relative obscurity, they ignited a renaissance of the “city game,” a style of play built on fast-breaking up-tempo offense, pressure defense, and board crashing. Part of a fraternity of great coaches—including Mike Jarvis, Kevin Mackey, and Tom Davis—they unknowingly invented Boston Ball, a simultaneously old and new path to the top of college basketball. Pitino, Calhoun, and Williams took advantage of the ample coaching opportunities in “America’s College Town” to craft their respective blueprints for building a winning program and turn their schools into regional powers, and these early coaching years served as their respective springboards to big-time college basketball.
Boston Ball is the story of how three ambitious young coaches learned their trade in the shadow of the dynastic Celtics, as well as the story of how the young players—in their recruitment, relationships, and basketball lives—made these teams into winners.
Clayton Trutor holds a PhD in U.S. history from Boston College and teaches at Norwich University in Northfield, Vermont. He writes about college football and basketball for SB Nation and is the author of Loserville: How Professional Sports Remade Atlanta—and How Atlanta Remade Professional Sports (Nebraska, 2022). Trutor is a regular contributor to the SABR Biography Project.
“From Auerbach to Belichick, Boston has long been the home office to coaching titans in the pros. In this fascinating book, Clayton Trutor summons a time when the city was also home to three relentless college coaches whose frenetic, full-court approach mirrored the region and paved their way to the Basketball Hall of Fame. Clayton Trutor has crafted a wonderful must-read reminder that the Celtics aren’t the only ones responsible for Boston’s love affair with the city game.”—Ian O’Connor, New York Times best-selling author of Belichick: The Making of the Greatest Football Coach of All Time
“Boston Ball is a fascinating journey through an underappreciated time and place in the history of college basketball.”—Pat Williams, co-founder of the Orlando Magic and author of Who Coached the Coaches
“In the early 1980s the proverbial ‘pro sports town’ of Boston was home to three remarkable young college basketball coaches. . . . Clayton Trutor brings that era alive and reminds us of a time when these future Hall of Famers were unproven, ambitious, and hungry for more.”—John Gasaway, ESPN writer and author of Miracles on the Hardwood: The Hope-and-a-Prayer Story of a Winning Tradition in Catholic College Basketball
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
Introduction: The Forgotten Cradle of Coaches
1. Pay Cut (Calhoun)
2. You Come Highly Recommended (Pitino)
3. Once Again, Not That Much Is Expected of the Eagles (Williams)
4. Getting over a Hump (Calhoun)
5. Great Kids (Pitino)
6. Pack the Bags. We’re Off to Albuquerque (Williams)
7. Northwestern (Calhoun)
8. Like the Pacific Ocean (Pitino)
9. They Probably Achieved as Much as They Could (Williams)
10. Our Best Recruiting Year Ever (Calhoun)
11. Truly a Team of Character (Pitino)
12. I was Happy at BC (Williams)
13. Where Did You Get That Guy? (Calhoun)
14. Proper Perspective (Pitino)
15. Homecoming (Williams)
Epilogue: March 31, 1988