Whenever I’m doing a coaches clinic, I recommend the book, Forever’s Team by John Feinstein. The book is an extraordinary chronicle about Duke men’s basketball during the 1978-1979 seasons (before Coach K arrived). The book tracks the Duke team as they went to the 1978 national championship game, only to lose to Kentucky. A majority of the book, however, focuses on the following year. The entire team returned, and there were visions of an undefeated season, along with guaranteed Atlantic Coast Conference and NCAA championships. Unfortunately, everything that could go wrong went wrong. Most veteran coaches have been down this road. There were injured players, academic ineligibility, disgruntled bench players, family turmoil, a testy fan base, players eyeing the NBA, etc., resulting in a 7-7 ACC record and an early exit from the NCAA tournament.
Why do I consider this such a great coaching book? During this time, the poor coach, Bill Foster, was in the middle of this whirlwind of events, wondering what he was doing wrong. The simple answer is he wasn’t doing anything wrong. It was just bad luck. Or, perhaps better put, sh*t happens! Coaches would like to think they control all matters impacting their troops. The reality is, coaches are generally doing their best to hang on. The saga of a season gone wrong is a testament to how much a coach does not control but is held responsible for.