Review of “Miracles on the Hardwood”

  • by

While I knew that Catholic colleges and universities have had success in basketball, I didn’t realize how much and for how long until reading this book.  It was a very good read for me as one who enjoyed the college game during the time when the Big East conference was dominant – both in the sport and for eastern Catholic schools.  Here is my review of “Miracles on the Hardwood.” 

Title/Author: “Miracles on the Hardwood: The Hope-and-a-Prayer Story of a Winning Tradition in Catholic College Basketball” by John Gasaway

Rating:  4 of 5 stars (very good)

Review:  Catholic colleges have a very important place in the history of college basketball, going all the way back to the first NCAA tournament (Villanova was one of the Final Four schools in the 1939 tourney), through the era when the National Invitational Tournament (NIT) was just as prestigious as the NCAA and into the modern era which saw a year (1985) when three of the Final Four schools – Georgetown, St. John’s (NY) and Villanova – were Catholic schools.  This deep connection between Catholic colleges and basketball is discussed in this very good book by John Gasaway.

If a reader is looking for information on the school’s theological history and how that relates to basketball, then this is not the book for them.  If, however, a reader wants to learn about the ins and outs of basketball teams that played an important part of college basketball history, then this is one to pick up.  This includes details on the seasons and games of some of the schools and certain personalities.  Probably the best chapter on this is on Marquette University in Wisconsin and their colorful coach Al McGuire when they won the championship in 1977, McGuire’s last game as coach.

Not just Marquette, but most Catholic schools that have won a championship (either NIT or NCAA) or played an important role in the sport’s history are included.  Examples are the University of San Francisco when Bill Russell was their star player, Georgetown during the John Thompson era and Villanova, both in their “perfect game” to win the 1985 NCAA championship (against Georgetown) and their recent success in 2016 and 2018.

Some of the passages about how Catholic schools have affected the history of the game are very interesting.  The best of these is during the discussion of the period in which schools could enter both the NCAA and NIT tournaments or later when a school had to decide whether to accept one or the other.  This was during the late 1940’s and early1950’s when the NIT was considered to be the more prestigious of the two tourneys.  It was also interesting in that many Catholic schools chose the NIT because it was held in New York and since most of these schools were in the East, the travel costs were much lower because the NCAA tourney was always held in Kansas City at that time. 

All in all, this was an entertaining and informative book that hard core college basketball fans will enjoy.  More casual fans may find some of the details too intense, but it’s still a fin source of information on this segment of college basketball.

I wish to thank Twelve Books for providing a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Link:  Miracles on the Hardwood: The Hope-and-a-Prayer Story of a Winning Tradition in Catholic College Basketball: Gasaway, John: 9781538717103: Books – Amazon

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.