BOZICH | Pitino, Calipari, more hoops as ESPN's Bob Ryan discuss - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Pitino, Calipari, more hoops as ESPN's Bob Ryan discusses his book: Scribe

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Bob Ryan made his name covering the NBA and the Celtics, but he's visited 181 college arenas. Bob Ryan made his name covering the NBA and the Celtics, but he's visited 181 college arenas.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Other than appearing on Around the Horn, Pardon the Interruption and The Sports Reporters, writing a monthly column for Basketball Times and handling other media endeavors, Bob Ryan is retired from his Hall of Fame career with the Boston Globe.

But Ryan still has things to say – and he said them in his 306-page book – Scribe: My Life in Sports, which was published this month by Bloomsbury. I spoke with Ryan, 68, this week about the book and his basketball connections to this area:

BOZICH: You wrote Larry Bird's biography. You wrote the retirement announcement of former Celtics' great Dave Cowens and rented the car he drove back to Newport, Ky. Your book actually opens in Terre Haute, Ind. You have a number of ties to the Kentuckiana area.

RYAN: "Starting with Fort Knox. That was the first time I was in Kentucky. Army Reserves. Spent four months at Fort Knox November, December, January, February of 1968-69.

"I had a friend, a red-headed guy, Wildcat fanatic, basketball fanatic. We had breakfast every morning. We pored over the newspaper, and we pored over the college basketball stories. It was almost the one thing that made the whole thing palatable.

"Had a three-day pass once and I went to see the Cats. I didn't have a ticket. They were playing Mississippi State. They told me there would be turn back tickets, just get in line at the window. And there were turn back tickets. I got a ticket, saw (Mike) Casey, (Mike) Pratt, (Dan) Issel at Memorial Coliseum. That was my first exposure to the fine Commonwealth of Kentucky.

"Later on I got to know Larry when he joined the Celtics. I learned that it was easier to get to French Lick (Indiana) flying into Louisville than flying into Indianapolis. I know that now. When I first went, I didn't know that. You just take (Highway) 150 West."

BOZICH: I started following your writing in the Globe when you covered the Celtics. But most people don't realize you're also a king-sized college basketball fan. We talked on a press bus one night about all the arenas you have visited. What is the count today?

RYAN: "At 181. We had a slow year last year. I don't know if I had any last year. I made my first trip to Rupp in 1978 to do a story on that (Kentucky) national championship team. It snowed 13 inches and I didn't think I was ever going to get out of town. There wasn't a plow in the city.

"Three years ago I had never been to Allen Fieldhouse. I finally I said, 'I'm going to Allen.' The next year I went to somewhere else I had never been. I also went to LSU football a couple of years ago.

"I finally got to Bloomington for a game (at Indiana) two years ago. Last year my wife (Elaine) and I came to Louisville and Kentucky for a Thursday-Saturday doubleheader. (Louisville athletic director) Tom Jurich could not have been nicer. He invited us to his box at halftime.

"This year we're going to switch it up a little bit. Love Williams Arena in Minneapolis. It's great with the raised floor. I wouldn't want to play on it or coach on it. But it's sure as hell nice to sit in it and watch [a] game. We're going to go to a hockey/basketball doubleheader, see the Gophers' hockey and basketball teams.

"You want to talk about underrated arenas that nobody talks about, Cassell Coliseum at Virginia Tech. One of the five best places in America to see a game or play in a game. Oh my God, what a wonderful place that nobody ever, ever talks about! It's a great place. They're right on your neck. It's a gym, Rick. It's not a stadium. It's a gym. It's a big, nice gym."

BOZICH: What big-time arena is missing from your list?

RYAN: "My Number One place I want to go to is Gallagher-Iba (at Oklahoma State), although I'm told it's not as good as it was before it expanded. There's a lot of places I haven't been to, but in terms of celebrated ones that are really famous with a great atmosphere that's the one I want to see. It's a tough one. I don't know if I'll ever get there."

BOZICH: More than 300 pages – and not a word on Rick Pitino, who coached the Celtics for 3 ½ seasons?

RYAN: "What happened was space number one and I didn't cover him as the beat guy. I was the columnist. I had an association. I made a road trip. I came away thinking this would be fine. I wouldn't mind hanging around more.

"Didn't mention him at all. It is an omission. I should [have] fought a little bit just to get something in there. And I kind of just let it slide.

"What I would have said is basically, 'If only he didn't have that lousy general manager … wait a minute. He was the general manager. Because the coaching was fine but his talent selection was atrocious. He hamstrung his coach with terrible decisions. Then he had to coach those guys and his team wasn't good enough … it was just dumb judgments and impatience.

"There was no agenda. There's no meaning there. It was just one of those funny things that happened."

BOZICH: Kentucky coach John Calipari also made his name in your area, coaching at Massachusetts. Cal is also missing from the book.

RYAN: "This isn't a book about any one thing. If it were an all basketball book it would be one thing. If it were an all Celtics book it would be another thing. It's trying to touch a lot of bases with 11 Olympics and a lot of other sports.

"He was great to me at UMass. I had a great relationship with him. He was accessible beyond belief. It was a lot of fun for me to cover his games. When they went to the Final (Four) that year (1996), I saw them 15 times as a columnist. I was out there a lot. I went on trips. I went to Maryland with them. I went to Virginia Tech with them. I had to make decisions."

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