March Madness is upon us. With selection Sunday less than a week away, we take a look at the best college basketball books. Whether you're a die-hard fan or just looking for some leisurely reading for your spring break trip, we've got you covered.
I will admit that I'm partial to some of the coaches below, both from personal experience and being a fan of their programs. Personal bias aside, these fifteen books are all phenomenal in their own right, and you can't go wrong with any of them.
The one thing worth mentioning is with the stories below, no two are alike. You'd think that with coaching, a lot of philosophies and programs would eventually start to look the same. Far from it. It's pretty neat to see the success of so many doing it "their way." Every book on this list has elements of history, inspiration, and insight. So, while some focus more on the game itself, others are are focused on the personalities that impacted seasons and often, entire coaching careers.
With that, please enjoy the list!
College Basketball's Top 15 Books
Players First: Coaching From The Inside Out by John Calipari
Arguably, Calipari's greatest strength has always been his relationship with his players. From recruiting to his day-to-day interactions, this is a good reminder that players perform for coaches that they trust and respect.
Leading With The Heart by Mike Krzyzewski
Coach K is one of the greatest coaches, in any sport, of all time. Anyone can teach x's and o's; K's ability to create and sustain a culture is what made Duke what it is today.
Wooden by John Wooden with Steve Jamison
Is Coach Wooden the greatest of all time? His methods were simple, yet everyone who ever played for him talked about him with the utmost respect. We see why in this book.
The One-Day Contract by Rick Pitino
If Coach K and John Wooden are the poster children for ethics, Pitino may be on the other side. However, you can't argue with his success, and there are a lot of tremendous take aways in this book.
I Came As A Shadow by John Thompson
John Thompson's Georgetown teams were as tough as they came, but Thompson's purpose went beyond just coaching basketball. This is a tremendous read on the development of young men, in spite of racial injustice and long held perceptions about black men in America.
The Back Roads to March by John Feinstein
Call me a sucker for underdog stories. Feinstein follows the lesser known programs and players as they strive to maximize their potential.
The Big East by Dana O'Neil
As a fan of the conference, I loved this book. Building a conference around basketball was a risk, but in its first ten years as a conference, Big East teams played for a national championship five times!
My Life On A Napkin by Rick Majerus
I was fortunate to work for Coach Majerus, so I'm partial to this book. A phenomenal teacher and coach, Majerus loved the game and was uniquely himself. Utah's 1998 season, which ended in a national championship loss to Kentucky, was one of the finest coaching jobs I've witnessed.
Attitude by Jay Wright
Wright led Villanova to 16 NCAA tournament appearances in 21 seasons, including 2 national championships in 2016 and 2018. He was tough, fair, and offered a well-balanced perspective in this book, something difficult to achieve in the world of high pressure hoops. We list this book as one of the best basketball books overall, and you can see that list here.
The Road to Joy by Scott Drew
Drew inherited an absolute mess when he showed up at Baylor in 2003. Thoughts of a national championship were a pipe dream at the time; the school simply needed some stability. Fast forward and Drew has created a championship caliber culture at Baylor, all while staying true to himself. Drew also appeared on my good friend, Dave Cooks' podcast. You can check out the video recording here.
Dead Coach Walking by Tom Penders and Steve Richardson
Famed college coach, Tom Penders, recounts the good, bad, and the ugly during his stints at 7 universities: Tufts, Columbia, Fordham, Rhode Island, Texas, George Washington, and Houston.
Don't Put Me In, Coach by Mark Titus
Titus writes a funny and raw memoir on his time at Ohio State as a walk-on for the men's basketball team. At one point, head coach Thad Matta offers to put him in a game. Titus's response? "Nah, I'm good."
Fab Five by Mitch Albom
You can't have a college basketball list without mentioning the Fab Five. Mix that with Mitch Albom, one of my favorite writers, and you have a "must read."
Sum It Up by Pat Summitt
One of the greatest coaches of all time, you get a unique view into how Pat thought in this book. It made our list of best basketball books overall for a reason.
The Last Great Game by Gene Wojciechowski
Everyone has either seen or heard about the "shot." When Christian Laettner caught the ball, turned around, and elevated, never did he think that what would happen next would be remembered forever. Wojciechowski is a tremendous writer and takes you into the details and the lead up. This is a great book even if you hate Kentucky and Duke.
What Did I Miss?
I hope you found this list helpful and would love to hear what other college basketball books should be considered. Drop me a line in the comments or feel free to shoot me an email via the Contact section of the site.
For more basketball books, check out the Basketball section of our blog, which can be found here.
In addition, you might enjoy our recent article on NIL and how it's affecting college sports.
John Willkom is the author of Amazon best-selling basketball books: Walk-On Warrior and No Fear In The Arena. John is an avid reader, sports fan, and father to two incredible little girls.
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