FanPost

In Review: Bird at the Buzzer


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The Huskies athletic program has produced a long list of elite athletes, particularly in relation to women’s sports and basketball. Prior to the passing of Title IX, women’s basketball was one of the earliest ways that women could participate in sports.

In 1892, Smith College hosted its own women’s basketball team. A few decades after in the 1920s, the Women’s Division-National Amateur Athletic Federation provided vital infrastructure to help train athletes and provide women’s teams a league to compete in.

UConn was one of the earliest universities in the country to create a women’s basketball team. The first squad competed in the 1974-75 season, then went on to become a major competitor when NCAA leagues were formed in 1979.

With an overall win average of .795, the Huskies women’s basketball team is the most successful in the NCAAB. Not only that, but head coach Geno Auriemma, who’s been coaching since 1985, is one of the most successful in the history of college basketball.

But many Huskies women’s basketball fans already know these factoids. The school has produced multiple Olympic-caliber basketball players who have taken home a total of nine gold medals, from Sue Bird to Diana Taurasi to Maya Moore.

Medals At Home & Abroad

Unsurprisingly, these players have become the subject of great media attention. In recent years, the USWNT has made headlines for their performance in the Women’s World Cup and work challenging FIFA’s wages. Competitors in the WNBA have been charging a similar fight at home, working to improve their status while providing a great experience for fans.

Many top competitors got their start at UConn, then went on to make meaningful contributions at the international and national levels. Unsurprisingly, they’ve become the focus on some pundits and analysts, who have studied former Huskies to dissect what, exactly, makes them great.

Lori Mortensen penned Maya Moore: Basketball Star (Women Sports Stars) to highlight the player’s biography and personal experience as a player. Meanwhile, Shane Frederick penned Diana Taurasi: Hoops Legend to give fans a closer glimpse of the player’s greatest feats.

Sue Bird’s seminal book stands out, though. Rather than only cover her biography and career, the book instead dives into a single game that stands out in Huskies history: the Big East Tournament Championship Game of 2001.

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Bird at the Buzzer

Ten years after the pivotal game, Jeff Goldberg penned the book Bird at the Buzzer: UConn, Notre Dame, and a Women’s Basketball Classic. Unlike the books mentioned above, Goldberg’s work gets incredibly granular in detailing every aspect of this match.

He covers the rivalry between Notre and UConn, as well as the details about the Huskies' previous seasons and their record leading up to the March 6th faceoff. The author sets the stage in a way that highlights and honors the nature of the Huskies basketball program, especially under Auriemma, who’s given a special (and hilarious) profile.

In fact, it’s these little details that make the book stand out as not only a classic about Bird’s time with the Huskies, but about what it means to be a Huskies athlete in the first place. By capturing the hype and hard work the team went through that year, the stakes are set for the final match and draw out all the dramatic tension fans remember from watching the game.

The Devil in the Details

One reason Bird at the Buzzer stands out from similar titles that cover other Huskies stars are the details Goldberg provides. As mentioned above, the game became an ‘instant classic’, according to ESPN, and is still considered one of the best women’s basketball games ever played.

Goldberg portrays Bird in all of her uncertainty and drive as a collegiate athlete, as well as cheeky remarks from Taurasi and special treatment for Ruth Riley, the then-player of the year who Bird’s game-winning shot arched over. It’s this attention to detail that helped Goldberg’s book become something of a classic itself, as it carefully preserves a moment in time that will be treasured by UConn fans forever.