Book Review 2012-006
Don't Put Me In, Coach: My Incredible NCAA Journey from the End of the Bench to the End of the Bench by Mark Titus
2012 by Doubleday, 257 pages
(I purchased this book after having enjoyed Titus's postings at Grantland).
If only the cover was blue and the lettering maize and the final sentence read 'Ohio State sucks.' The author's obligatory shots at Michigan aside, this book is entertaining as hell. It helps greatly if you are a basketball fan, specficially a college basketball fan. It also helps to be a fan of your typical smart ass.
Mark Titus' career in basketball probably peaked when his AAU team (which by the way had Greg Oden--1st overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft, and Mike Conley, Jr.--4th overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft on it) won the national championship during his freshman year in high school. He was still his team's best player in high school the next three years and did score 9 career points during his four year stretch as a Buckeye and was drafted and tried out for the Harlem Globetrotters, but as an actual on-the-floor contributor to a great team it would be that AAU team.
Titus was smart enough to realize what his potential playing limitations were at the end of his sophomore year at Ohio State and he began to push the notion of what an end-of-the-bench player could be in terms of recognition. He began blogging, creating Club Trillion (On a fuly loaded score sheet, there are thirteen columns, the first being minutes played. If one got into a game and didn't do anything productive--score, rebound, assist, or detrimental--turnover, foul, their number on the stat sheet would be a trillion) and began giving his readers an insider view of being part of a Division 1, NCAA basketball team.
What most likely drove that blog, and definitely drives this book, is Titus' refusal to keep anything to himself. If there's a story about a teammate dribbling a basketball in the locker room in front of a mirror wearing nothing but shoes, male member swinging back and forth, Titus is not at all unwilling to both tell the story AND name the teammate (sorry, no spoilers here, buy the book). As the player seemingly designated to be the comic relief to help keep the team loose, there are a fairly amazing amount of incidents wherein a teammate throws punches in his direction.
Titus includes just enough self-deprication without going too far (if the guy truly sucked at basketball there's no way he'd be an 11th or 12th man on a Big Ten basketball team). While being more than willing to throw past teammates and coaches under the bus to get a laugh, he also makes sure to show explain their positive attributes (even the teammate he nicknamed The Villain). He slips in enough pop culture references to make certain middle aged men realize they still have a fair amount of immaturity within them. It's not a highly literary book (I should probably put in a mild warning--this book is most likely intended for the teen to early 30's male with the sexual and bathroom humor might one expect for such a crowd--if this really bothers you, you'll probably a) not love the book and b) question my maturity), nor one with any particular hard hitting message, but again, if you're a fan of the game, it's a well-done, extremely funny (I'm not one to slide LOL into any texting conversations but I did laugh out loud at least four times), quick and enjoyable read. If only a Wolverine walk-on had come up with the idea.