Many of you have read Matt Sayman's inspiring book "The Leftovers" and have commented on how it was hard to put down. I caught up with Matt for some additional insight born from questions after reading it last week.
Bearstruth: Your book is currently one of the top 10 books on Amazon.com's best selling list for basketball related books- in the same company with books authored by and/or about Pat Summit; Bobby Knight; Jay Bilas; Bill Simmons and Phil Jackson. Are you surprised it has been so well received?
Sayman: I am humbled that many have taken an interest in the story. And sites like Bearstruth have really helped get the word out. Obviously I don't have the media machines like some of the names you mentioned to help generate interest in the book, so the fact that it has sold well is a tribute to Baylor Nation.
Bearstruth: Have you been able to talk with any of your former teammates after the book came out? Or any feedback from the Baylor coaches?
Sayman: I traded texts with Ryan Pryor. We just commented on how the book brought back some good memories. Coach Drew told me that his wife Kelly couldn't put the book down and finished it soon after she got it. One of my high school coaches- Charles Freet- said it was the best book he ever read.
Bearstruth: One of the questions I got from one of our subscribers is what happened to Ellis Kidd? You had mentioned how likeable he was, did you ever get any detail on why he was dismissed from the team?
Sayman: No- just told he violated team rules and would no longer be with us. He was starting to play really well and it was a blow to our squad to lose him.
Bearstruth: Let's talk about Coach Drew. He has done an amazing job at Baylor but he has his critics. A common view out there is that Drew is a great recruiter but a suspect coach. I have always been a Drew apologist and I have my own opinions on this type of thinking. But for someone who saw it up close, what is your opinion on the job he has done at Baylor?
Sayman: First of all, the people that say Drew can't coach don't know basketball. One example I would give is that his offenses were always very creative to get key guys shots in places where they could score. We knew where we wanted to get the ball to Terrance Thomas. We knew where RT would be effective. And then if things broke down, we got the ball to Harvey (laughs) because we knew he could make difficult shots.
The thing is coaching is not easy. So much goes into having a successful program. Recruiting is important. But then you have to keep your players in the program- which is always a challenge. You have to manage egos. You have to keep a positive atmosphere. You look at a program that has gone 15-4 in the postseason tournaments; been to two Elite 8's and won the NIT championship this year. I promise there are just a handful of programs that wouldn't trade places with Baylor.
Winning at this level is incredibly difficult. Drew has done a fantastic job- averaging 24 wins per year over the last 6 years. How much better can it get? Winning a national championship? The fact that we even ask that question as a realistic question tells you everything that you need to know.
Bearstruth: I agree with what you said, many college basketball purists would be surprised to know that Baylor has been ranked in the top 20 in offensive efficiency for 5 of the last 6 years. Did you see the focus on that with Drew even in the early years?
Sayman: Definitely- there was always attention to detail with out of bounds plays. In the book I talk about running idiot motion for the first 15 seconds of a shot clock so that we would limit possessions in a game and give us a better chance to win. But we used to lull people to sleep and then have some designed plays for easy buckets. One of my favorites was dribbling around halfcourt. Someone would set a backscreen for Harvey Thomas. And then I would non-chalantly lob the ball towards the rim and Harvey would finish with a dunk. No one could stop this play- Kansas, OU, Texas. We ran it against everyone and the success rate was high. But we practiced it. There is definitely a method to Drew's madness. He is very good at getting our best players high quality looks.
Bearstruth: Tell us about the other coaches. What was your relationship like with them?
Sayman: These were really great guys. I regret that I didn't buy in more. In reading the book, you can tell that Terrance Thomas is the hero of the story. His transformation during his senior year set his life on a different path- a good path. He is still playing pro basketball and is an inspiring guy spiritually. But even though I was struggling through some bitterness from the events of the summer before Drew came to Baylor, these coaches created such a positive environment.
The direction and leadership starts with Drew. I was closest to Driscoll- he was the one who did a good job re-directing my thoughts when I was feeling sorry for myself. But Tang and Mills were inspirations to me- very vocal with their faith. They were like preachers. At the time I didn't appreciate it as much as I do now. Coach Morefield was great- a basketball guy that I enjoyed being around. All of them are unique and the fact that the staff is so close to each other today (even though Driscoll and Morefield have moved on) shows the type of men that they are.
Bearstruth: Thanks Matt- your efforts here are appreciated by many Baylor fans. We hope the book continues to be a great success.
Sayman: Thanks to all the subscribers of Bearstruth who have bought and read this book and for those who are going to buy and read it. It has been a great experience.
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