Book review: Mark Montieth's "Passion Play"

Probably most Boilermaker fans who've wanted to read this book already have. For those who haven't, it's very worth reading. It's about the 1987-88 Purdue Boilermakers men's basketball squad, which had high expectations going into the year, and it chronicles all the games up to the Sweet Sixteen loss to Kansas State. It's a good read, though I found the last bit tough because I knew how it had to end. Overall, it's a really enjoyable book showing a team going through adversity, forgetting the lessons they learned, and even overcoming injury and a player or two going ineligible--much like the challenges this team faced. It seemed so smooth, watching the games or getting the scores back then. Purdue just seemed to pull out the close ones, except for at Indiana, but that was a rivalry game. It just seemed nothing could stop them, especially when they blew out Memphis in the second round. I guess when you're that young, even if you don't believe in luck or astrology, you believe your team deserves to get a little back after some bad draws--and outright misfortune (the description of the nasty '87 loss to Florida even made me smile.)

I've heard rumors Montieth is behind the bench for this season. If it's for the reason I think, I'll be putting a book on my to-buy list. But too much about me. About the book, after the jump.

It's been done many times for many teams, I'm sure, and fans of other teams may not care much about this book, just as we might not care about another Duke, Kansas or North Carolina season. That doesn't matter. If you're a Purdue fan, you'll probably be interested in this book, whether or not you saw the '87-'88 team. I only saw part of it, and it was wonderful to fill in the gaps and also bring back memories of that season. Keady's quite a figure in the book--he yells a lot at his players, and a lot of times, his assistants need to, too. It's amusing to read about Bruce Webber or Kevin Stallings saying "You have to listen to Coach," or about Keady and Knight's relationship. There are pictures in the center, too. I like the ones of the players throwing Bruce Weber in the pool after they clinched the title.

Between descriptions of practices and games, there are short segments focusing on one player. There's Jeff Arnold, who was kicked off the team after getting several chances, and about whom I frankly wasn't very aware. Also John Brugos, who maybe didn't want to be tall, but he was, so he played basketball though his heart was more with artistic stuff. The interview with Steve Scheffler is especially interesting because Scheffler was nowhere near the confident tank-in-the-middle he became a year or two later, and looking back, it is surprising he had a longer pro career than everyone else in the book combined. Coaches don't get their own section, but they don't need it, since they're ubiquitous throughout. It's well paced, and it also captures some things that Big Ten fans may've forgotten, like how bad the old Wisconsin field house was for games, or even the bad blood between Purdue and Michigan, especially after Purdue's 36 point loss in Crisler in '87.

If this book is not great, or profound, it definitely does what it sets out to do. If Keady seems imperfect at times, he comes away with a lot of credit, and about someone who did more than just yell on the sidelines. He really innovated and taught, and reading him saying "I'll get that (national) championship one day" is sad given what happened. And the book seems to have aged well--there's a lot dedicated to recruiting, and Bruce Weber juggling that with his wife having a daughter. Apparently, back then, it was still pretty hectic even though you could actually recruit seniors--and without any finger-pointing, the book underlines some negative recruiting that probably goes on everywhere.

That '92 class was supposed to be awesome, and the book mentions cause for optimism. But Loren Clyburn never had the hoped-for impact, and Keith Stewart got kicked off the team.

Of course, the biggest-impact recruit wasn't even on Purdue's radar at the time. He wouldn't sign til next year, and his full impact wasn't for >15 years down the road. In fact, he was still an Indiana fan. His name? Matt Painter, of course.

I've reread it a couple times. I may do so early in the tournament. But not the days before the third round--or if we have a chance of playing Kansas State. Superstition, you know. link

Score spoilers for the season

And look, a used copy is cheap, too.

Stuff in the FanPosts is entirely at the discretion of those that post them. They do not represent the views of Hammer & Rails, SBNation, or Purdue University in any way.

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