Book offers a little sanity to counterbalance 'March Madness'
The Advocate Books editor

Walk by a television or computer in any public place in America this week and you’ll likely catch a glimpse of basketball being played. It’s March Madness, the annual college basketball tournament organized by the NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association).

A poll by ABC News showed that about 40 percent of Americans say they are basketball fans. Most of them haven’t ever played the game in college or even know anyone who has. Local writer and television host Lee Feinswog knows someone who has played the game: his son, Kirk.

Feinswog’s son played college ball at a tiny college in North Georgia, Berry College, that competed in the NAIA (the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics). The main difference in the NCAA, which has more than 1,250 members, and the NAIA, which has 283 members, is the size of the schools that belong to each organization. The NAIA is for the small fry, while the NCAA has both large and small schools as members.

That’s not to say that the NAIA schools don’t play at a high level. They get some good athletes. As Feinswog writes of his son: “At 6-foot-1, the smallest male on my side of the family in three generations, he could dunk with both hands, play both guard positions and small forward. He was a tremendous defensive player.” So Feinswog was happy when his son chose to play college ball and was offered a full scholarship.

It’s not all game-winning shots at the buzzer, roaring crowds and corps of lovely cheerleaders. At Berry, the younger Feinswog played before some sparse crowds. The team rode a bus to games in places like Center, S.C., and Pulaski, Tenn. And there were other hurdles. Kirk Feinswog played two years and decided to transfer to LSU and quit basketball. He stayed a year at LSU, then decided to try and return to Berry. He was welcomed back, but a snafu with his course load at LSU wound up costing him a year’s eligibility — and forcing his team to forfeit several games.

It was a bittersweet time, and Feinswog suffered through his son’s ups and downs as any parent will. The experience gave him an idea: why not write a book about the experiences of fathers who have sons (or daughters) who play, coach , broadcast or referee basketball? So Hoop Daddy — Fathers, Sons & Basketball was conceived. The book was published by Stuart Bruce Publishing for $19.95 in softcover and is available in Baton Rouge bookstores now.

Feinswog managed to get some heavy hitters to grant him interviews for the book. There’s Dave and Jeff Lebo, both coaches. Dave coached Jeff at Carlisle, Pa. High School. Then Jeff played at the University of North Carolina, graduated and became coach at Tennessee Tech, Chattanooga and, finally, Auburn. Along the way Jeff hired an assistant coach who has stayed with him through every move: Dave Lebo. It’s a heartwarming tale told in one chapter.

The book is constructed of alternate chapters about famous basketball father-sons or father-daughters and chapters that follow Kirk Feinswog through his senior season at Berry. It’s a nice way to present the information in digestible bites. Feinswog has a clear, unembellished writing style that reveals his journalism roots (he was a sports writer at The Advocate for many years). He wisely lets his sources tell their own stories, and the best wisdom comes in their quotes, like the one from NBA legend Bill Walton. Walton’s four sons all played college basketball. Here he is talking about Chris, his son who had an injury plagued career at San Diego State University:

“He’s had some health issues that he’s had to deal with. That’s always frustrating, but while the winning is where all the fun is and being on a special team is what changes your life to where you chase down that experience and try to recreate it for the rest of your life, it’s the losses, the frustrations, it’s the disappointments that really teach you the greatest lessons.

“It’s easy when every shot you’re taking is going in, the ball’s always in your hand, but what happens when you stumble and fall, when that bounce goes the other way? That’s when you really find out who you are, where you’re going and what you’re doing.”

Great wisdom to keep in mind when you’re glued to that TV watching some powerhouse pummel a 16-seed. Those guys that are out there getting killed want to be there and they are getting something out of it, something more than a bad memory.

There are more tidbits of wisdom in Hoop Daddy, from such notables as Tubby Smith, John Thompson, Ray and Joey Meyer, Dick Bennett, Eddie Sutton and more. It is interesting reading. The chapters are short enough that you can finish one between games.
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Stories to browse until next game tips off
By Carol Herwig, USA TODAY

A father first:

Like Einhorn, sportswriter Lee Feinswog talks to well-known figures of the game for HoopDaddy: Fathers, Sons & Basketball (Stuart Bruce).

Feinswog (a sometime contributor to USA TODAY) was inspired by his son, Kirk. He alternates chapters about his son's ups and downs on the basketball court with chats with better-known basketball dads: retired coach Dick Bennett and his son and daughter, who followed him in the business; play-by-play men Woody and Wes Durham; the coaching Suttons and Drews; and Bill Walton and his four hoops-playing sons.

It's a tribute to the author that his son's entries are so engaging.
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Who's your 'HoopDaddy'?
Arkansas Times

When Pat Knight played basketball for Indiana University from 1991-95, he was arrested for drunken behavior. His arrest prompted his father and coach Bob Knight to say, “Patrick Knight is the reason why some animals in the wild eat their young at birth.”

Knight and his quote are part of “HoopDaddy” by Lee Feinswog, but it’s not the book’s prevailing view of fatherhood.

“HoopDaddy” is a collection of stories of fathers and sons bound by basketball. Ex-University of Arkansas coach Eddie Sutton is part of the book, as is current Razorbacks assistant Ronny Thompson.

Sutton, who coached the Hogs from 1974-85, coached his son Sean at Kentucky and Oklahoma State. Sean most recently has been an assistant and head coach elect to his father at Oklahoma State, before a recent turn of events in which Eddie Sutton was arrested for DUI led to Sean taking over the program and Eddie taking a leave of absence.

Eddie Sutton advised his three sons against following him into coaching, telling them it was a tough road.

Thompson played for his father John Thompson at Georgetown from 1989-92. He’s now in his third year as an assistant to Stan Heath. Like Eddie Sutton, John Thompson discouraged his two basketball-playing sons from becoming coaches. Ronny sold securities on Wall Street for a year before getting into coaching. His older brother, John Thompson III, is now the head coach at Georgetown after a stint at Princeton.

“HoopDaddy” intersperses the collection of stories with the author’s own story of following his son’s senior year of basketball at Berry College in Rome, Ga. Feinswog traveled through the 2004-05 season from his home in Baton Rouge, La., where he is a sports journalist.

He chronicles the cheers, tears, hugs and groans of watching Kirk Feinswog, a 6-foot-1 dunking guard for the NAIA Berry Vikings of the Southern States Athletic Conference. Part of the elder Feinswog’s day job is covering LSU sports and the Southeastern Conference.

“HoopDaddy” splices Berry’s season with stories of basketball players such as Pete Maravich, who died before he could see his sons play college basketball.

Not all the stories are about coaches and players. John Clougherty and his son Tim are major college referees. Bill Hancock is the media coordinator for the Final Four. His son, Will Hancock, was the basketball sports information director at Oklahoma State. He was one of 10 members of the university’s basketball family who died in a 2001 plane crash on the way home after a game.

There are tales of Bill Walton’s sons pilfering his Grateful Dead T-shirts. Thompson cursed out his sons when they were boys, and now he curses out his grandsons. Both of Thompson’s sons still kiss him.

Feinswog recalls his son, as a young boy, running obliviously into a busy street near their home to chase a basketball. The author, a divorced father, writes of the challenge of traveling to be a part of his son’s life, and the accompanying joy. He also writes of his difficult relationship with his own father, who was not a hoops fan.
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Rome News-Tribune
Book Review
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Dale Brown
Comment from the Retired LSU basketball coach
"HoopDaddy is a novel idea and takes a refreshing look at sports figures as fathers and sons. A unique approach makes HoopDaddy a good read."

Marty Chaubert
"I finished the book in two nights. It was great, I couldn't put it down. I laughed, I cried and I felt as though I was there in many situations, you made it so real."
Book Review
Lee Feinswog has long been one of our favorites in the world of sports journalism. One reason is because his vision of athletics far exceeds the obvious parts of sports that the typical fan and writer observes. He has always had the ability to look beyond a jump shot, a touchdown pass, or ground ball double play and delve into the personalities that make the play.

He also has a great appreciation for competition. Many in Baton Rouge know Lee for his years of coverage of LSU’s major sports of football and men’s basketball. He made his mark nationally while being the beat writer during LSU’s glory days under Dale Brown. Even with his success he always admired coaches and student-athletes of all sports on all levels and has done his best through his journalistic talents to share those beliefs with his readers. He has continued that today not only through his writings but his popular weekly television show “Sports Monday.”

It has been with much anticipation that we have waited for Lee’s newest venture “Hoop Daddy: Fathers, Sons and Basketball.” It was well worth the wait. The book is extremely well written as Lee takes us through the trials and tribulations of being a parent and following his son on the holy grail of college basketball. Division II basketball does not have the limelight and wonderful amenities associated with bigtime college basketball. However, by using various stories during his son’s career he shows that the players, coaches, fans, and yes parents, have the same enthusiasm for the game at its basic level.

Lee doesn’t hold back any punches and opens up his family’s life as they go through his son Kirk’s collegiate career at Berry College. During the span of Kirk’s career he is faced with some difficult decisions, which include walking away from the game before realizing how much he needs it. What college basketball story would be complete without a controversial NCAA ruling? Lee describes the Feinswog family’s battle in restoring Kirk’s eligibility.

Particularly insightful were the many thoughts that Kirk provided throughout to give you the perspective of the student-athlete and all that goes on while they are competing in the world of college basketball.

Alone, the story of Kirk’s collegiate career, especially seen through the eyes of a very proud father, would make more than an interesting read. But Lee took the concept of father, son and basketball to an even higher level and researched some of the games most noted family ties.

A few morsels include:
Jeff and Dave Lebo: Jeff, who was a highly successful player under his dad at the high school level went on to a solid career at North Carolina University under Dean Smith. When the opportunity came for Jeff to become a head coach on the collegiate level, he hired the best teacher he had been around — his dad. They now coach together at Auburn. The interviews between the two share the special bond that basketball gave the two growing up—one they still share today.

Eddie Sutton and Tubby Smith: The two will always be known for their tenure at the University of Kentucky where they both had the opportunity to coach their son’s on one of basketball’s largest stages. Lee shares the story of how Sean Sutton (Eddie’s son) later contacted Saul Smith (Tubby’s son) to try and give him advice and support on being the coach’s son at Kentucky.

Homer, Scott and Bryce Drew: LSU fans may remember Homer Drew, who once served as an assistant to Dale Brown at LSU. Many will of course remember his son Bryce making one of the greatest shots in NCAA history. But do you know that Homer groomed his son to take over for him at Valparasio (which he later did)? Further, when shocking developments occurred at Baylor University, Scott was courted for the job but took it only after his father agreed to come out of retirement and return as the head coach at Baylor.

The Walton’s: No, not the television family from Appalachia, but Hall-of-Famer Bill Walton and his four sons, Adam, Nate, Chris and Luke. Lee spends time with the Waltons and gets some great insights and wonderful stories of growing up in a house that shared both the love of basketball as well as that of the Grateful Dead. Lee expands the topic by including an officiating father and son as well as telling the tragic story of the Oklahoma State plane crash that took the son of Bill Hancock, who coordinates the media at the men’s Final Four.

And those are just a hand full of the stories. It is about basketball as a tool that bridges and strengthens the relationships between father and son. Each story is well developed and woven into a very smooth book that is difficult to put down. It is well worth the read.

We highly recommend that you read this book. While it is not in stores yet, you can purchase a copy at It is a good site that will also give you more information about a wonderful book.

Full Review from (PDF file)

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