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Last Dance: Behind the Scenes at the Final Four Paperback – Bargain Price, February 2, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Feinstein is turning out the sports books faster than ever, as his whirlwind tour of the NCAA college basketball tournament follows quickly on the heels of his fall 2005 look at pro football, Next Man Up. Maybe that explains the somewhat rushed feel, as Feinstein skips briskly from one anecdote to the next. In his effort to depict the annual climax of "March Madness" from as many perspectives as possible, Feinstein collects stories from coaches, players, referees, sportscasters and others, more often than not finding the positive angle. Even Terry Howard's missed free throw during a 1975 semifinal game is turned into a reflection on what an honor it is just to be able to play in the Final Four. The closest Feinstein comes to controversy is when he criticizes the NCAA's recent decision to add a 65th team to the tournament. The account of last year's battle between Illinois and North Carolina for the championship is largely perfunctory; Feinstein is clearly much more interested in revisiting the past with coaching legends like Dean Smith and Mike Krzyzewski (who also supplies a brief foreword). Then again, in all likelihood, so are most readers. 8 pages of photos. (Feb. 7)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* For sports-challenged individuals, the Final Four is the culmination of the NCAA men's college basketball season and the number-two American sports event, trailing only the Super Bowl. The four best teams from an initial field of 64 meet on semifinal Saturday to decide the participants in Monday's championship final. Feinstein, arguably the best book-length sports journalist working today, employs the 2005 weekend as the catalyst to discuss the history of the event, the key people, and, most significantly, the effect that involvement in the Final Four has had on participants' lives. The book is centered almost exclusively on the Atlantic Coast Conference and Big East Conference. Feinstein's jingoism translates to lots of Duke, North Carolina, Maryland, and Syracuse, with scant attention to the rest of the country with the exception of UCLA and coach John Wooden. That caveat aside, this is a terrific book. Feinstein goes behind the scenes to examine such matters as the often-controversial selection marathon, and the sometimes-petty rivalries between coaches. The anecdotes are entertaining, and the insights into the tournament's logistics fascinating, but what will linger most are the remembrances of players, especially those who ended up on the losing side. The best books take us to places we've never been and let us feel what life there is like. Welcome to the Final Four, courtesy of John Feinstein. Wes Lukowsky
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Back Bay Books (February 2, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316014257
  • ASIN: B003IWYL3E
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,742,419 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

John Feinstein spent years on the staff at the Washington Post, as well as writing for Sports Illustrated and the National Sports Daily. He is a commentator on NPRs "Morning Edition," a regular on ESPNs "The Sports Reporters" and a visiting professor of journalism at Duke University.His first book, A Season on the Brink, is the bestselling sports book of all time. His first book for younger readers, Last Shot, was a bestseller.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Kindle Customer on February 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Any fan of college basketball will enjoy this book from John Feinstein. It is a remarkably quick read filled with interesting anecdotes and stories from previous Final Fours and different perspectives from the 2005 Final Four in St. Louis.

However, I felt there were two fairly significant flaws in the book. First, the book is remarkably repetitive. Within the first 15 pages of the book I learned that the Duke class of '86 was Coach K's first "great" recruiting class, that they had a great team in '85-'86 and were stunned, disappointed and impacted by losing in the Final game to Louisville. Great. But I did not need to hear versions of literally the same sentences 3 or 4 more times in the book. Likewise, outside of Harry Potter, I never thought I would see the phrase "Lord Voltemort" 3 or 4 times in a sports book. These were not the only examples.

It seemed that this was a very good 220 page book extended into 330 pages. The book felt like it was made of discrete chapters, but not to be read together due to the repetition. I am no literary critic, but I am curious about the editorial decision to compose the book in a way that so frequently repeats the same stories.

The second, and perhaps more disappointing critique, is that it is not as interesting as I had hoped. Missing from this book, that likely will be read by fairly serious college basketball fans, is any sense of basketball strategy that the Final Four coaches employed during the 2005 games. I presume Feinstein did not have access during the tournament or after to the coaches that could have added detail to the game flow and strategy. With a greater level of "technical detail" the book would have been more interesting to me.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Arthur Valentine on February 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Feinstein's books are getting lazier and lazier. As he has gotten older, his access to the a-players is better and better; his diligence worse. This one has a few good anecdotes, but those are outweighed by the lack of flow and repetition throughout.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Cajhawk on February 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I love college basketball. John Feinstein's book provided some interesting and fun insights into the workings of the NCAA Tourney. Unfortunately, his editor did nothing but "word-smith" this book from notes. How else can you explain telling stories that were in the book 3 chapters ago magically reappearing! I liked the information, but the book was SOOO repetitive it killed me. Did I mention it was repetitive?
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Docmorrison on March 19, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Very superficial look at the basketball scene, I suspect much of the material was taken from his earlier books and didn't make it into them so he put the remainders in this book. Stories somewhat entertaining,alot of them ring of truth from my experience coaching BB in HS but would like to see some new material for serious fans.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 1, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Like baseball fans who spend the winter chanting their mantra --- "pitchers and catchers" --- in anticipation of the first day of spring training, college basketball enthusiasts count down the days until March Madness, the tournament to crown the NCAA basketball champions.

The sporting event has become one of the biggest in the country, aided by increased media attention that now includes coverage of all the games, not just those among the teams fighting to be involved in the final face-off.

John Feinstein captures all the tumult in his typically illuminating fashion in LAST DANCE: Behind the Scenes at the Final Four. As in his other books, which encompass baseball, football, basketball, golf and tennis, he focuses on the buildup of the excitement leading up to the championship game rather than dwell on the athletic accomplishments of individual participants.

Feinstein has the ability to entice even those who don't consider themselves sports fans. He makes his subjects human, making them accessible to the level of the average person, while at the same time telling us what makes them remarkable. For example, this anecdote about legendary UCLA coach John Wooden:

"The lobby was still crowded and, as often happens when Wooden crosses a room or a lobby, people stopped what they were doing to watch the great man. At that moment, what they saw was heartbreaking: Wooden pushing his wife's wheelchair, everyone knowing that her time was short.

"To this day, no one is certain how it began, but someone started to clap. Then others did the same thing. By the time the Woodens had reached the elevators, everyone in the lobby was turned in their direction, clapping. It was one of those unrehearsed moments that become remarkable ones.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Danton M. on March 25, 2007
Format: Paperback
The portions of this book about how the "selection committee" works and about refereeing in the Final Four are interesting, full of information I have not read before. I agree with Feinstein's comments about the favoritism of the "power schools and conferences" over the smaller, lesser-known schools--excuse me, "institutions," in the words of the NCAA. The chapter about the interminable waiting on Sunday and Monday before the championship game is played will have me looking at that day differently this year--though since we're talking about "student-athletes" who are missing loads of school, I wonder if any of them do any studying for their missed classes. . . Yeah, right.

However, the book needed more editing. Mike Krzyzewski's foreword doesn't say anything that isn't said later in the book, offering little insight worth the time to read it. Nothing is said about the academic challenges facing the players who are on the road for days at a time. I, for one, would be interested in seeing something about that. Also, more from the coaches on strategy during the games could have offered insight.

That said, it's full of entertaining stories from the years of the tournament and worth a quick read.
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