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The Last Amateurs

I know I'm 15 years behind in reading John Feinstein's "The Last Amateurs", a detailed account of the 1999-2000 Patriot League basketball season. His introduction says he became interested in the PL after watching Colgate play Kansas tough in the 1995 NCCA tournament, almost by mistake. He had planned to go to dinner during the expected blowout and return for the second game. (I have to say that in my 40 years of watching Colgate sports, the most thrilling, unexpected performance was that Colgate team hanging tough with #1 Kansas - as close as 4 points late in the second half - in the Big Dance.) Feinstein later points out that the 2 most competitive games played by PL teams in the NCAAs were the 2 Colgate played in (we lost by 9 to #1 UConn in 1996). Of course this book was written before the great Bucknell and Lehigh wins in the NCAAs, and HC's close call with Kentucky (the latter is covered in an afterword in a later edition).

After this, though, I'm not sure Feinstein does Colgate any favors. There seem to be the fewest background stories on Colgate players or our program compared to any other PL school, and much of what there is concerns Adonal Foyle and Jack Bruen, which occurred years before the season being covered. While Feinstein often praises the academic standards of the PL, there is never a mention that Colgate is the academic cream of the PL. In fact, Feinstein (a Duke grad) pointed out that Mike Krzyzewski was pissed off when Foyle said he picked Colgate over Duke because academics came first. Krzyzewski said Foyle picked Colgate because his guardians were there, and "the last time I looked Colgate wasn't Harvard", and that Duke's library was just as good. There are also several cracks throughout the book about Colgate's remote location, and how nobody likes to travel there. He says there was a mutiny brewing over the prospect of the PL bb tournament being held there a few years after 2000 (was the tourney ever played in Hamilton?)

Feinstein waxes poetic on the glorious principles the PL was founded on, including no athletic scholarships. He then goes on to document, sometimes unwittingly, how impractical those principles are - schools that wouldn't join or left the league because of them, PL schools that unilaterally announced they would start offering schollies the other league members be damned, the benefits to colleges achieving athletic success, etc. He mentions that Colgate and Lafayette were the last holdouts against athletic scholarships, and that Buddy Karelis was "virulently antischolarship" and antiathletics (you don't say?)  As a PL fan I enjoyed the book, but even for me it was a long and slow read. I would doubt if many non-PL fans got into it. I'd be surprised if "The Last Amateurs" was one of John Feinstien's better sellers.


Feinstein recounts Adonal Foyle's strange last year at Colgate at 2 points in "The Last Amateurs". Foyle's guardians, professors at Colgate, were supposedly promised by Jack Bruen that Bruen would do everything in his power to prepare Adonal for the NBA. By Foyle's junior year, noted NBA offensive tacticians Joan and Jay Mandle did not feel Colgate's offensive strategy was preparing Adonal adequately, and that Bruen was focusing solely on winning games. (It is not obvious to me why preparing Foyle for the NBA and winning PL games are mutually exclusive, nor why Bruen focusing on Colgate winning games is inappropriate for a Colgate coach.) Feinstein quotes Colgate player Pat Diamond saying how odd it was to see Foyle working out at the gym alone with an Econ prof and a Women's Studies specialist (these faculty lounge socialists think they're good at everything!) Things got stranger when at halftime of games Foyle would go to the Mandles while the rest of the team went to Bruen.

Feinstein say Foyle told him when he wrote the book that he thought the Mandles were right when they claimed Bruen had reneged on understandings involving him. Feinstein dryly notes that "Bruen isn't around to respond". The only time I met Jack Bruen was the summer before his death, when I saw him sitting at the bar at the Hourglass. I went up to him to tell him I went to see Adonal get picked eighth in the NBA draft in Charlotte, and that I was impressed with his poise when he spoke to the crowd after his selection. Bruen said that Adonal was "a good kid" and that he was proud of and happy for him. I couldn't resist bringing up the Mandles. Bruen was careful with his words, but made it clear that they had disrupted Colgate's season and Foyle's last year. Since Foyle went on to a lucrative 12-year NBA career, Bruen couldn't have done that bad a job preparing him.

Feinstein touchingly describes Bruen's death a few months later during the basketball season. He said Emmett Davis was put in a tough position when he was hired a few months later, and praised his tact, empathy, and respect for his predecessor while implementing his own coaching style and philosophy. It is clear that Feinstein was impressed with Davis and felt he was a good guy.

Great rundown and exactly as I remember it.  Mandles were huge pain in the ass and disruptive.  Bruen was both a great coach and good guy.  Davis is a good guy as well but couldn't match Jack as a coach IMO.  His son is a frosh football player at Navy this year and Colgate recruited him too.  I keep waiting for Adonal to make a significant gift to Colgate but to date he has made appearances but no million dollar gift to basketball.  I wonder if the Mandles have influenced him?

Are the Mandles still around?

P.S. to Gate '80 - Anthony Aveni is apparently retiring.

Anthony Aveni

I took a course taught by Aveni and it was terrific, Go....'gate. His courses were entertaining, informative, and challenging. Colgate is lucky to have had him for all of these years. I don't know of anybody who feels differently.

I don't know why Tony Aveni's view of our football program was different from say Jack Mitchell's (another very good prof I took courses from). Our football program in the late 70s and early 80s was a jewel that brought nothing but favorable publicity to our alma mater. It was apparently liberal dogma that opposition to football was politically correct then, and Aveni parroted the PC Kool-Aid ever since.

I have never been as encouraged as I've been reading posts here that Casey gets it and is trying to reverse this notion that Colgate athletics must be suppressed to make Colgate more appealing academically. Forum Index -> Basketball
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