King, Duke's Archivist Emeritus, offered to review John Roth's new book, The
Encyclopedia of Duke Basketball, we were thrilled. We were lucky enough to
dig through the sports archives a few years ago, and Dr. King proved not only a
very gracious host, but a very engaging guy who gave us a brief tour of the
sports archive, which, we have to say, was very impressive. So a small
chance to do something with him again was a great pleasure. He's a
wonderful guy and a continuing resource for Duke.
Roth, John. THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF DUKE BASKETBALL. Duke Press, 2006. 438pp.
Why do DBR internet aficionados need THE
ENCYCLOPEDIA OF DUKE BASKETBALL? Simply because it is the best book available for Blue Devil basketball fans and sports historians. The beginning for Roth's compilation began in the 1930s when Duke University hired Ted Mann as one of the first sports information directors in the United States. Mann helped define the position and assembled what is one of the best institutional sports archives in the country. Roth was a worthy successor as director of sports information from 1986 to 1990. Steeped in Duke culture (AB 1980), Roth currently is vice president of Moore Productions, editor of Blue Devil Weekly, sports announcer for the Duke Radio Network, and a basketball columnist. I have watched him spend hours in the Duke University Archives getting leads on new stories and his facts straight in years of writing on Duke sports. Roth's historical perspective is uncommon among daily sports writers living from deadline to deadline, and he is arguably the only person from experience and training who could write such a comprehensive compilation on Duke basketball. The temptation will be to refer to this myriad of facts as trivia but make no mistake, this is serious sports history. Here are the accurate facts that separate fan's recollections from truth and the documentation that allows historians to form sound interpretations in their analysis of the past. It is most likely the first publication to include information on both men's and women's basketball. Certainly it is the most comprehensive.
Readers will find sections entitled Dateline Duke with nine chronological sections outlining Duke basketball from 1906 to 2006, Games of the Century with 101 significant games of Duke basketball and fifteen milestone games in women's basketball history, the Record Book with seventy pages of every statistical category imaginable, and a very useful Bibliography on Trinity and Duke and basketball history. However, the heart of the volume is the two hundred and eighty-eight page Encyclopedia arranged from Alaa Abdelnaby and Alana Beard to the WNBA Draft and Bill Zimmer. Here are entries on players who have earner letters, all of the coaches, customs such as FIST, crazy towel guy, growth of television, and opponents, both teams like UCLA and UNLV and performances by selected individuals like Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal. One can get the story straight on Red Auerbach's tenure as a coach at Duke, find information on coaches' contracts, shoe deals, and player's family ties. My only disappointment was not finding my favorite quote in the section of quotations from coaches. Admittedly not particularly significant nor historically relevant I, nevertheless, always liked Lefty Driesell's comment "I ain't dumb, I went to Duke."
Particularly interesting are excerpts from exclusive interviews in which standout players recount moments they will never forget. Grant Hill's favorite personal memory was a spectacular dunk against St. John's, not the one most people recall against Kansas in the opening minutes of the championship game in 1991. One hundred and thirty timely photographs add immensely to the book. One that tells a lot about the success of Duke basketball is the image of the coaching staff in 1969-Coach Bubas and assistants Hubie Brown and Chuck Daly.
The value of the volume is foremost as a reference book. However, if one wishes to "read" the encyclopedia perhaps it is best to begin with the sections, timeline and games of the century. I was gratified to discover that almost all questions that occurred to me reading those sections were answered with reference to entries in the encyclopedia section. As one becomes immersed in the book the contextual material and "inside" information becomes evident. For example, issues surrounding racial integration at Duke and of the ACC are part of the entry for C. C. Claiborne, and background of the visit of the team to Ground Zero reveals relevant information behind Jason Williams big game against Kentucky in the Meadowlands on December 18, 2001. Broadcasting and reporting the game have become such a part of the culture I was gratified to see entries on Woody Woodhouse, Add Penfield, Bob Harris and Bill Brill, all names of importance to Duke fans through the years.
The DBR audience is a prime one for THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF DUKE BASKETBALL. Such avid fans should have a copy handy as they share stories and comments about the sport they love.
William E. King
University Archivist Emeritus
November 30, 2006