I’ve already been asked a bunch of different questions, by a bunch of different folks about this book.
Here is my best attempt to answer them all.
If you do have any further questions though, please don’t hesitate to e-mail at UConnBook@gmail.com.
Q. Why Did You Write This Book?
A. What, you didn’t read the front? Shame on you!
In all seriousness though, I meant everything I said on the front of this website. This book isn’t about basketball, so much as it is about overcoming the odds, and believing in yourself when no one else would. To get to the 2011 championship, UConn had to overcome just about every tangible obstacle any college basketball team ever could: recruiting disappointments, doubt by the fans, the questioning of a legendary coach, a disappointing previous season, an NCAA investigation…and that was all before the 2011 regular season even started.
Even when the season did start and UConn quieted the doubters, it didn’t last long. This was still a team left for dead on multiple occasions during the year, and at one point lost four of their final five games to close out the regular season. Everyone remembers the five wins in five days at the Big East Tournament that got the ball rolling, except, well, it’s easy to forget that the only reason UConn even had to win those five games is because they finished the regular season at 9-9 in conference play.
Which of course only made their run to the title all that more improbable and exciting.
Let me go ahead and try to explain it in a different way: The 2011 UConn Huskies aren’t the best team in college basketball history. I get that.
At the same time, let’s look at one of those great teams, like say the 2009 North Carolina Tar Heels. Remember them? Well, they started the year ranked No. 1, lost four games total, won every NCAA Tournament game by double-digits and crushed Michigan State to in the title game.
Now, were they a great team? Absolutely. But is their story worth reading? I’d say not. After all, how many different ways are there to say "They beat someone by 30 points."
Make no mistake, the UConn Huskies were a great story, much more so than they were a great basketball team.
Q. Can You Give Us A Quick Explanation On How The Book Is Laid Out?
Most of the book is laid out like, well, a regular book. I went through, researched old articles, newspaper clippings, and pieced together interviews that I did on my own, to tell the story of the team and the season. Again, like any regular book.
However, throughout the book, I’ve also interspersed a handful of my columns, written over the course of the last two seasons. They were written at times of anger and frustration, happiness and all out elation. They were written from the heart of a UConn fan, and I included them because I thought it was important to capture the emotion of the past two seasons, in real-time, as it was happening. Again, that’s what makes this story so great: There was no straight line to success. It was an incredibly bumpy road along the way.
Maybe my favorite part however, is that I’ve also included biographical chapters on each of the key players, and how they ended up at UConn. The wild recruiting tales, the AAU events where they were first discovered by the staff, things like that. Believe me when I say, the biggest obstacle most of the players on this team had to overcome was just getting to UConn, beyond anything that actually happened on the court last season.
This might all sound a little confusing here on paper, just understand that it all comes together nicely in the book.
Q. Ok, So Who Exactly Did You Talk To And Interview For This Book?
Another good question.
First off, for the record, I did not speak to the coaching staff for this book. I obviously reached out to UConn, but was never able to get through to the coaching staff. It wasn’t for lack of trying, and wasn’t because the people at UConn didn't try to help. They did. But at a certain point it became clear that I wasn’t going to get much of substance from them, and that’d I’d have to move on. It sucked, but it was the hand I was dealt.
With that said though, I believe I’ve talked to enough people to fill in the gaps, and get you all the details that you need as a reader to capture the complete picture of the 2011 season.
I spoke with leading college basketball analysts like Jay Bilas. Some of the best writers in the business like Jeff Goodman, Matt Norlander and Jeff Eisenberg. I spoke with Quinnipiac coach Tom Moore who worked with Jim Calhoun for a decade and was a key in the recruitment of several of the players on the 2011 team. I spoke to other Division I coaches who recruited, and coached against the players on the 2011 roster.
Most of all, I spoke to the people who know these players the best.
I spoke with former AAU and high school coaches of guys like Kemba Walker, Alex Oriahki, Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier. I spoke with family friends. I spoke with the parents of certain players. I spoke with European scouts who gave me background information on UConn’s foreign players, and I was even put in touch through e-mail with a Nigerian coach who worked with a young Charles Okwandu.
Simply put, I have dug up stories, anecdotes and insight that you can’t find anywhere else. period.
If you’re looking for the most complete, soup-to-nuts story about this team, there is nothing that I know of which even comes close to this book.
Q. What Makes You Qualified To Write This Book?
A. What, you mean besides the fact that I’m a professional writer, who just so happens to be a Connecticut native, UConn alum and lifelong UConn fan?
Besides the fact that I can remember long-forgotten players, teams and games as easily as Bill Gates codes Microsoft computers? That I can recall off-hand the smallest of details from the “Allen vs. Allen” game in 1996, or UConn’s title run in 1999, and was even in the stands at Madison Square Garden when Gerry McNamara ripped the hearts out of the Huskies in 2006, and came back to the Garden three years later came back to see the Huskies lose to Syracuse in six overtimes? That there aren’t many writers, anywhere who know as much about the history of the program and the backstory on this team like I do?
Besides those things?
Q. So Wait, You’re A UConn Fan And Alum? Isn’t There A Conflict Of Interest There?
A. It’s a fair question, and one I’ve been asked several times throughout this process. I have a couple quick thoughts on that.
First off, I want to make one thing clear: My first and only goal in writing this book was to tell the story of one of the most incredible teams in recent sports history. I believe I’ve done that. During that process, my only allegiance was to the readers, and to giving them as much information, fact, and truth as possible. If I found something previously unreported, good or bad, I did my diligence to follow-up, and find out as much information as I could. With all due respect to everyone involved with UConn basketball, they are not my priority. My readers are.
And that’s my biggest thing. Ask anyone who has ever read my work (and many of you have), and they’ll tell you that is how I’ve always been. All I’ve ever tried to do in my writing is find the facts, look at a story from all angles, and then put it all into some context as best I can. Ask most people who’ve read my work, and they’ll tell you, “I might not always agree with what he says, but I do respect his opinion.” This book is no different.
Beyond that, remember, this is a changing media world, where the subject and writer are closer than they’ve ever been before. I see beat writers interacting with the players and coaches they cover on Twitter all the time. Are those folks 100 percent objective? I find that hard to believe. Needless to say, it’s not like I’m the first person to write a book that has close ties to the subject they’re covering, and I certainly won’t be the last.
Q. This All Sounds Good, But Why Should I Buy This Book?
Again, what it goes back to for me, is what I’ve said since the beginning: You don’t need to be a UConn fan, or even college basketball fan really to enjoy this book.
If you like a good, underdog story, you’ll love this book. If you enjoy the story of a team, a group of young men overcoming the obstacles, than this is for you. If you enjoy the idea that sports tell a bigger story in life and that these games are about more than wins or losses, than I absolutely, positively believe you’ll enjoy this book as well.
And oh by the way: If you just so happen to be a UConn or college basketball fan?
Well then I’m 100 percent certain you’ll love it too.
For further questions, please e-mail Aaron at UConnBook@gmail.com.