inicio mail me! sindicaci;ón

Interview with author Kathy Orton.

Washington Post writer Kathy Orton's "Outside The Limelight - Basketball In The Ivy League" was published this month by Rutgers University Press. Following all eight Ivy League basketball programs through the 2005-06 season, with a focus on Cornell, Harvard, Penn and Princeton, Orton's book is a look back on a season that did not play out as many of these schools expected it to.

Princeton coach Joe Scott and senior guard Scott Greenman are interviewed extensively by Orton. Both are honest and revealing throughout a year that started so poorly for the Tigers, hampered by injury and uncertainty and ended with unexpected Ivy successes.

The three seasons that have passed since the one Orton covered end up benefitting the book. By the time you reach the comparatively recent epilogue, events from 2005-06 have set the stage for Cornell's rise to power (using the coaching staff's plan to recruit "farmers and Canadians") and Harvard's subsequent dismissal of longtime coach Frank Sullivan, who tried win the school's first Ivy title with one hand tied behind his back by the school.

You can buy a copy of the book through Amazon. More information can be found at Orton's web site -

I had a chance to speak with Ms. Orton by phone about her book and her fondness for Ivy League basketball earlier this afternoon. A transcript of our Q&A follows.

Tell me the backstory of how this book came to be.

I had always wanted to write a book. People had told me if you're going to do something like a book - which you're going to have to devote the next couple of years of your life to, it should be something you really care passionately about.

Not having a connection with the Ivy League, just being an observer from afar, I wasn't probably the most ideal candidate to write this book but I really did fall in love with the league. The Princeton/Penn game in 1999 sort of started it [Orton writes in her preface that the Tigers' second half comeback from 40-13 down in the second half versus the Quakers was the "the most thrilling athletic contest I have ever watched live." - JS], but then as I did more research looking into the league, I really sort of fell in love with it and thought it was such an interesting, different and unique league compared to the rest of Division I college basketball - this fabulous league that I thought nobody really knew about.

A good friend of mine, John Feinstein, wrote his book on the Patriot League about that time. I said to him - you're a fool! You should really write about the Ivy League, that's a much more interesting conference. And he said "oh, no no no," he had his reasons - which is fine because it gave me a chance to write this book, which I am very grateful for. I've always felt like the Ivy League was this diamond in the rough that nobody knew about. The hope of this book was to shine a light on this league and let more people know what a great league it really is.

How did the season you experienced differ from the season you expected?

That's a good question. For one thing, just logistically, I thought "it is a bus league. How hard could that be?" Oh my goodness. The travel in the Ivy League is brutal! Everyone complained about the Cornell/Columbia bus trip and how tough that was, and it is, I'm not diminishing that, but the Princeton to Dartmouth trip or the Penn to Harvard trip - those are some long bus rides. For me, just trying to get everywhere, that was a real challenge.

I think the thing that surprised me that I didn't fully appreciate until I sort of got into it and was following all the teams and everything was how much these players really relish their Division I basketball playing experience. I think in other teams that I have covered in Division I, they're all looking ahead to when they're going to play in the NBA. I think most of these players realize that the NBA is in not in their future. Now they may go and play overseas and have a professional career, but they really appreciate that they're playing Division I basketball and they enjoy it so much more than some of the other players in the other leagues. They have more enthusiasm for the experience and I was pleased to see that, and I think that made me love it even more.

How do you think (do you think?) the three+ years between when the book takes place and when it was published helped the book?

I'd like to think that, but I think that might be optimistic. Certainly it was not planned to have a three year gap in-between I covered the season and when it came out. A bit of misfortune kept that from getting out as soon as I wanted. When I first started writing the book I had no publisher, only an agent who was very optimistic I would get one. To be honest with you, even if no one had published this book, I was still glad I did it because it was such an amazing experience. By the end, I think it was about May, my agent found me a publisher and they were excited about the book. I turned in the manuscript, they liked it, they held onto it for about a year or so and then all of a sudden they dropped me. We had to go find a new publisher and that took some time. Fortunately Rutgers University Press stepped up and they took over and it took about a year from when they got the manuscript to when it came out. I guess the one benefit would be all the kids I wrote about are now graduated. Some have even graduated from law school! So I guess they can kind of look back on it and remember it fondly. I certainly wish the book had come out much sooner, but I'm just glad it is out.

I do think that there's a lot of strength in the epilogue because of the three+ years that have passed.

The epilogue turned into almost a mini book. Every time I went back I had to update it. A lot of things I went into the league with - Penn and Princeton win this thing every year - it was kind of nice that Cornell was able to come back. I had no idea that the one year that I happened to pick, which was really because it was the 50th year [of the Ivy League] and Harvard was expected to win the league, which would have been historic, would turn out to be such a harbinger of things to come for this league.

As you well know, having covered the Ivy League for so long, nothing ever changes in the Ivy League - and then, goodness, ever since that one season so much has changed. It's fairly unusual to see so much change take place in this league.

What has the response to the book been like from the coaches and players who are the subjects of the book?

So far I've heard nothing but positive response and I hope it continues. That was my big concern. I really wanted to capture the players and coaches as true to who they are as I possibly could. I've gotten some very, very nice notes from a couple of the coaches. I haven't heard from any of the players. I don't even know if they know the book is out yet! I have to get in touch with them. The response so far has been great. They're going to be my harshest critics by far. If they like the book then to me it is a success. If they're disappointed in it, then I've failed. I really wanted them to have the recognition I think they so deserve. I don't think the Ivy League gets quite the coverage in the media that it should. There's 300-some Division I basketball programs and it is hard to cover all of them, but I think the Ivy League gets overlooked a little too much and I hope this will change that and people will recognize what a great, competitive league it is.

The year that you write about was Joe Scott's second season at Princeton. Coach Scott really gave you access to what was going on despite struggles of all sorts.

It was amazing how open he was. All the coaches were, but especially him - because he was kind of under fire that season, as he was pretty much his entire tenure at Princeton. He was great. He gave me unbelievable access to the players.

Scotty Greenman was one of my favorites that season. He was great about talking to me, even after some really tough losses that they went though. That is what I hope makes the book special and different, is that the access all these players and coaches gave me gives Ivy League basketball fans a real peek into what it is like to be in the Ivy League.

Did you sense when you were writing the book, talking to Scott Greenman, that coaching would be in his future?

With Scotty, he was thinking about law school, he was thinking about playing overseas, his knee was bothering him - all these injuries he had. Especially after that last Penn/Princeton game, which was so amazing. It was a 9:00 pm ET game and it went overtime and it didn't get over until midnight - it was late into the night and he didn't want to let that season go. You kind of sensed it was going to be hard for him to leave this behind. You kind of felt like a coaching career might be something he would pursue.

You gloss over this in the book, but it was a difficult year for you I would imagine as well, having open heart surgery during the season!

I found out that I was going to need the surgery in August of that year. It was so frustrating, because I had set up everything to do the book and I think my doctors would have preferred if I had put it off. In some ways, yes, it was a challenge physically to do the book, but in a lot of ways it gave me something to do besides think about my health. It all seems to have worked out for the best.

It's funny, I was talking to my parents about this the other day - I just had to have two heart procedures again last month, just as the book was coming out, and I said I've got to get this book done because it seems like all my heart problems are tied to the book, so I need to get past the book. My health is great and I appreciate you asking about that. It was a nice distraction to be so consumed with covering the Ivy League and not thinking about your health.

What are you working on currently?

Right now, everything is devoted to promoting the book. I'm still working at the Washington Post, which I hope to for a very long time, but with the newspaper industry being what it is you're never quite sure. Another publisher has approached me about doing a book, but that sort been put on hold because this was such an important book to me. I haven't even though about what lies beyond this book. I'm enjoying my second go around, being able to talk with you and other people in the Ivy League. it is fun to be catching up again with something I did a couple years ago.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.