Book Review: "Don't Put Me In, Coach" Sheds New Light On Blazers C Greg Oden

A few weeks ago, the good folks at Knopf Doubleday reached out with a copy of a new book, Don't Put Me In, Coach by Mark Titus.

Titus penned the famous Club Trillion blog while serving as a scrub on the Ohio State University men's basketball team. There, Titus played with Portland Trail Blazers center Greg Oden, but their relationship actually began much earlier, when the two faced off and eventually teamed up on youth AAU basketball teams. Titus wound up as a reserve on what he calls "the best AAU team of all time," a squad that featured five eventual NBA players in its starting lineup: Mike Conley, Jr., Eric Gordon, Daequan Cook, Josh McRoberts and Oden.

This book is an extension of Titus' popular blog concept: a look behind-the-scenes at a major Division I basketball program, with all sorts of personal details about the stars and figures he met along the way.

Oden, of course, has been a man of mystery since being selected by the Blazers with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft. But in Don't Put Me In, Coach, Oden is just another one of the kids, a tall teenager who didn't care what others thought of him, even as he blossomed into an elite, program-changing center.

The book's press statement includes the following testimonial/threat from Oden...

Here are some key promotional quotes (Yes, Mark really did get them to say this stuff):

"Mark Titus knows a lot of personal secrets of mine. If he revealed any of them in this book, I will kick him right in the testicles. I'm not joking." -Greg Oden (#1 overall pick in 2007 NBA Draft, 2007 1st Team All-American)

20 pages into this book, as lighthearted and goofy as it is (and despite the groin-kicking threat), you will realize that there isn't a more detailed account of who Greg Oden is anywhere else in the world. It doesn't get much more definitive than hearing one of his school-age buddies tell the stories in the first person.

Here's one early Oden excerpt from the book.

If it weren't for Wayne Brady, John Howard Griffin, and Carlton Banks, the young version of Greg Oden could very well make a case for being the whitest black person to ever live. Clearly I don't mean that he had light pigmentation for a black guy, but rather that he seemed to identify more with white culture than he did with black culture. Whereas most black basketball players aim to be the epitome of cool, Greg used to play in Rec-Specs and routinely wore calf-high socks with jean shorts. I would say that he was kind of a goober, but I've never actually used the word "goober" in my life, and I don't want to start now, so I'll instead just say he looked like a dweeb. As we got older, Greg stayed true to his adopted culture by watching Laguna Beach religiously (I know this because we discussed Team Kristin versus Team LC far more often than two straight men ever should), and he even came to my high school's prom instead of his own because there were "too many black people" at his school's prom.

But my favorite example of Greg shying away from his natural culture came in the summer before our senior year of high school. We had an off day during the week of a tournament in Las Vegas, and most of the guys on the team tried to convince their parents to take them to an Ashanti concert. Hell, even I wanted to go until I found out that Ja Rule wasn't going to be there too. (Sorry, Ashanti, but as far as I'm concerned you can either sing "Mesmerize" with Ja Rule or you can STFU.) But when my dad suggested that we go see a matinee magic show on the Strip instead, my inner nerd came out and decided that that was a much better idea. When I mentioned to Greg what my dad and I planned on doing, he immediately asked if he could come with us.

That's right -- when given the choice between a concert featuring one of the best R & B singers at the time and a $15 matinee magic show, Greg picked the magic show without hesitation. This single decision contradicted every stereotype I ever had about black basketball players and helped subdue all of the uneasiness I had about integrating with my new teammates.

Oden left Ohio State after his freshman year, and the book covers Titus' four years at OSU, including his relationship with later Buckeye star Evan Turner, now with the Philadelphia 76ers. To be clear, this is the Mark Titus Story and not the Greg Oden Story, but the first third of the book covers the Oden Era and there are plenty of Oden details and vignettes in here to make it worth your while.

Don't Put Me In, Coach is a quick, light, sharp read and the above excerpt should give you a good sense for its tone. The book will be released on Tuesday. You can pre-order on Amazon.com right here if you're interested.

Disclaimer: Blazersedge.com received a complimentary review copy of this book.

-- Ben Golliver | benjamin.golliver@gmail.com | Twitter

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