Hoops!: Confessions Of A College Basketball Analyst, by Billy Packer with Roland Lazenby
This book is probably not as impressive as the author thinks it is. Even so, despite not being particularly interested in Billy Packer on his own merits, this book is fascinating for what it says about the world of college basketball as a whole. The book has a lot to say about the zany and wacky personalities that abound in the entertainment world of sports journalism, and the author also gives insight into the different coaching philosophies of coaches and the air of corruption that frequently covers college sports like a dark pall. Indeed, the author has a story to tell about his own college experience where he was brought in for investigation in a points shaving scandal and struggled to escape, thankfully successfully. It is unlikely that this book will be eagerly sought after by college basketball fans as its stories are quite old and stale by this point, but as a way of pointing out the human and business angles of the sports industry as it relates uncomfortably to college basketball, this book still has considerable relevance as the relationship between the media and business world and college basketball has all kinds of shadiness involved with it.
This book is between 150 and 200 pages and it begins with a foreword and acknowledgments. The author discusses his relationship with Al McGuire, a somewhat friendly rival and former co-worker (1), and then brings up his own involvement in the NCAA and federal investigations about point shaving that almost ensnared him when he met with someone who looked like someone who had operated a point-shaving scheme in many colleges (2). The author talks about the game of college basketball (3) and how he broke into the field of broadcasting through being an analyst on the regional level for an early ACC network before moving to NBC (4). After this the author shares some of his experiences at NBC and the sorts of stories he got to investigate and the relationship he had with various coaches and players (5). There is a discussion again of his experience with Al McGuire and some of the lessons that Packer learned from his not very detail-oriented coworker (6), before the author discusses the failure of NBC to maintain the Final Four, which led Packer to move to CBS (7). After that the author discusses various rivalries (8) as well as his affection for Bones, his coach at Wake Forest (9), and then some talk about life on the road (10).
If this is not a tell-all sort of book, it is at least a tell-most kind of book and is all the more entertaining for it. I got a certain amount of enjoyment out of reading about the author’s shenanigans and his relationship with coaches and other broadcasters, and also the stories that the author had that demonstrated his love for college sports as well as his homerism for big conferences (which is to be expected from a former player and broadcaster in the ACC). Indeed, we may consider this particular book as part of the way that college sports in general has struggled to fulfill its academic responsibilities to students given the large amounts of money and fame that surround the big-money revenue sports of basketball and football, in showing how it is that the goal of broadcasters for stories and ratings enable college programs and students to seek their own interests to the extent that those interests can gain money from television rights contracts. And some of that money ends up going to the broadcaster as well, as the author notes when talking about his salary negotiations and the importance of making sure one gets paid.