Doug Brunk, author of, Wildcat Memories: Inside Stories from Kentucky Basketball Greats, spent his formative years as a resident of Wilmore, Kentucky, in the early 1970s, where he became hooked on following the University of Kentucky Wildcats men’s basketball program. He’s currently a reporter for Frontline Medical News, reporting on health and medicine for physicians in more than a dozen specialties. He lives in San Diego with his wife, Vickie, and their yellow Lab, Sonny.
You can listen to Doug talk about his work here!
Foreword writer and book contributor Dan Issel was interviewed on 1250 AM SportsTalk on Jan. 22, 2015, in which he talks a bit about Doug’s book and a lot about UK hoops in general, here.
You can read an excerpt of a chapter on John Wall from Wildcat Memories here.
And listen to an audio book review by Roberta Schultz of WVXU in Cincinnati here.
Tell us some about Wildcat Memories.
I’ve been a devoted follower of the University of Kentucky men’s basketball program since my formative years as a resident of Wilmore, Kentucky, where I lived from 1973-1978. In December of 2011 my dad and I traveled from San Diego (where I now live) to Lexington to watch the Wildcats play St. Johns as a way to celebrate my dad’s 80th birthday. It was only the second time in Rupp Arena for me, and the third for my dad. Part of that trip involved a brief visit to the UK basketball office, where I was given a copy of that year’s media guide. The bottom of the cover contained the words “Kentucky Effect,” one of Coach John Calipari’s catchphrases. On the plane ride home I began to think about that phrase, and about the effect the Kentucky program has had on me as an everyday fan. I started to realize that as far back as 1973, UK basketball has provided something I could latch onto and have a sense of belonging to, like how a church member might view his or her home congregation. It provided a sense of connection, camaraderie regardless of age, income level, or political party affiliation.
I then began to think about the former players and coaches in Kentucky’s storied history. I began to wonder not only what effect representing UK had on them, but I also wondered if there were individual Kentuckians who served as mentors or role models to these former players and coaches on and off the court—a different kind of “Kentucky Effect.” With that in mind, I formed a wish list of interviewees and started to invite former players and coaches to tell me about the people who impacted them the most during their time representing UK.
When was the moment you knew you needed to write this book/work?
Early on in this project I drove to Los Angeles to interview Dan Issel, who is the all-time leading scorer in men’s basketball at UK. When I asked Dan about the impact of Coach Rupp on his life, he paused the interview, reached into his back pocket, and pulled out his wallet. From that wallet he pulled out a folded up, tattered piece of white paper and began reading from it. It was a quote from President Theodore Roosevelt that Coach Rupp was fond of. It was from a famous speech that Roosevelt delivered in Paris, France in 1910 known as “The Man in the Arena,” about the importance of learning by doing, the idea that it’s better to stumble in competition or in other areas of life by giving your all than to do nothing, or to sit by on the sidelines and criticize. And here was Dan Issel, more than 40 years removed from the program, carrying those words in his wallet. Talk about impact! Right then I knew I had to proceed with this book.
What was your favorite part of research for this title?
Having the opportunity to interview (and in some cases meet) so many former coaches and players I’ve admired and cheered for over the years. Some of them were childhood heroes of mine, including Coach Joe B. Hall, Jack Givens, Kyle Macy, and Rick Robey. To learn about their “heroes” in life, their mentors and their support network from years ago, was special.
What was the most difficult element to pin down with this book/work?
Overcoming my preconceived notion that because I wasn’t a sportswriter, the sources I invited to be interviewed would be leery about participating in the project.
Where can we buy this and more of your work?
At UK Press, Joseph-Beth Booksellers, or wherever you prefer to purchase books.
What does your writing process look like?
My level of concentration is best I the morning hours. That’s when I’m generally most productive, but I know other writers who do their best work late at night. Regardless of when you write, it’s hard work and ultimately you have to enjoy what you do or it’ll show in your final product. I love the quote from Samir Hunsi, Ph.D., a professor of magazine journalism at the University of Mississippi: “If you’re not enjoying yourself, neither are your readers.” So true!
What is your favorite part of the publishing process?
Signing off on final proofs before the book goes to press! Least favorite? Assembling the index; there’s no App for that! Index creation is an under-appreciated art that I enlisted help from an expert with.
Do you read reviews? Why or why not?
Yes. It’s interesting to see if the reviewers catch on to themes or messages you as a writer hope to impart in your work.
What book do you wish you had written?
Some of the books in the “For Dummies” series. The business model is brilliant.
What authors are inspirational to you?
I like reading works from writers who inspire us to think in different ways, people like Thomas Merton and Anne Lamott. I also admire writers who create works in a variety of genres, such as the comedian (and author/musician) Steve Martin.
Being in the first ten rows for a Who show. It’s always an invigorating experience and always worth it.
What’s in your pockets right now?
Some lint and 38 cents.
Do you have any scars? Where are they from?
I have a scar near the top of my forehead, from a gash I suffered as a two-year-old boy running into a corner where two walls meet. My big brother was in chase; what else was I supposed to do? About two weeks later I reopened that same wound in the same place for the same reason. More stitches were needed. Some things never change.
If someone made a movie about your life who would play you?
A young Steve Martin.
What’s your middle name and where did it come from?
William. That’s my father’s first name, and it’s an honor to share it. He’s the best.
Worst job you ever had?
I worked on a golf course one summer during college. I didn’t mind selling buckets of balls to people and talking to them about their game, but when we started to get low on golf balls I was the guy who’d venture onto the course in a beat-up jeep with no insulation to retrieve them. Customers took far too much pleasure in aiming balls at me when I was out there, with only chicken wire separating me from a certain concussive episode. It made me feel small but I got over it. Eventually.