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Observations from "The Last Great Game"


So, I just finished the book and can say that it was an engrossing read. There is really no reason for a Kentucky fan to pass on this book, unless the memories of that game are still just too painful to bear. I would hope that 20 years is enough time to heal. Of course, I am speaking as a fan (who has since witnessed two UK championships and numerous other great seasons, including retribution of sorts against Duke in 1998), not as a player. There may never be complete healing for those Wildcats on the court that day.

With that said, it was a great story of the rise of both programs -- for Duke from the time Coach K arrived, and for UK from the depths of NCAA probation and near death penalty. Most of the story will be familiar to rabid basketball fans, albeit with many new details.

I, for one, was surprised to find out that Sean Woods had such close Kentucky connections and roots. Probably something I should have known. I didn't know that Laettner grew up in a relatively poor family; my anecdotal knowledge was limited to the private high school he attended, the rest was extrapolated. I also thought that Chris Webber had been recruited by UK and that UK was on his final list; but, the book doesn't even mention UK as being even a consideration. I had read some stories about Rock Oliver's conditioning drills, but had never known the extent of the cruelty (necessary though it may have been).

One significant, and glaring omission (in my opinion), was in the story of Aminu Timberlake incident. In the recounting of the notorious foot stomp, Wojciechowski quotes players and coaches on both sides of the game on their opinion of whether Laettner should have been thrown out (including Michigan players watching from another regional site). Curiously, while Woj gives significant text to statements and recollections of the game officials in other parts of the book, he does not include an official's after-the-fact reanalysis or perspective on that call. From a UK fan's viewpoint, I'd like to know if he should have been thrown out. Granted it doesn't change the outcome, but clearly it is an open question given the responses from the players and coaches involved. Second guessing officials is a cottage industry and it happens frequently in every sport, every season. Oddly, Woj does not address it.

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