"Life's a Joke: Tales of a College Basketball Vagabond" is a collection of humorous short stories about the author's experiences in the college sports world. The author, Jack Fertig, put together a collection of anecdotes over the course of his varied career in college basketball. The result is a collection of tales that make you scratch your head in amazement at times and laugh out loud at others.
The author relates funny stories about college sports life, practice, recruiting and players. He is not afraid to poke fun at himself as well as relate the humorous adventures of his colleagues and former players. His stories include recruiting mishaps, coaching blunders and even players and college administrators who mistook Alaska for a foreign country. In addition, the reader gains insight into the inner workings of coaching life.
"Life's a Joke: Tales of a College Basketball Vagabond" is a must read for all sports enthusiasts, not just basketball fans. The anecdotes are truly funny and cover all the aspects of being involved in team sports. This book will leave you wanting more!
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars!
Reviewed by Lisa and Chris Kisner for Reader Views (6/06) http://www.readerviews.com/
"The absolute best bathroom book ever."
Ben Braun, Head Basketball Coach, University of California
"Fertig is so good he can make an isosceles triangle seem funny."
Mark Schoifet, 1970-71 student in Jack Fertig's geometry class at Highland Park (NJ) HS
"I found myself laughing out loud...congratulations on a truly funny book."
Ernie Saracki, Buffalo, NY"
Great book - a fun look at the inside of basketball."
George Matoian, Fresno, CA
"Got your book and really enjoyed it. (For) everyone who's ever coached, this book is a must. You did good!!"
John Underwood, Director of Sports Marketing, Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau
"I have truly enjoyed reading your (book) and the humor infused throughout. Indeed, books like this one are a wonderful addition to my library. Please count me among your admirers, and I'll look forward to seeing more of your writing soon!"
Dr. Betty L. Siegel, President, Kennesaw (GA) State University
"I really enjoyed your book. It was hilarious."
Bob Huggins, Head Basketball Coach, West Virginia University
"Great book! I really enjoyed it."
Steve Merfeld, Former Basketball Coach, Evansville & Hampton Universities
"Life's a joke accurately reflects the persona of Jack Fertig. The book demonstrates that Jack is highly intelligent, has a great sense of humor, appreciates interaction between people and is a consummate professional in every sense of the word. There should be more people in this world like Jack Fertig and we would be much better off."
Jerry Roth, Attorney, Allentown, PA"
The book's everything - interesting, funny, exciting, and the perfect gifts.
Thank you! Thank you!"
John Pat Bourasse, Basketball Coach, Kirkland, WA
"I just finished your book, and it was great...you really brought (the characters) to life. It was an enjoyable read. Best wishes for a sequel."
Larry Pope, President, Kwik Kopy Printing, Asheville, NC
"In Stephen King's book, On Writing, he says, 'Book buyers aren't attracted by and large by the literary merits of a novel. Book buyers want a good story to take with them on an airplane, something that will first fascinate them, then pull them in and keep turning the pages. This happens when readers recognize the people in a book. When they recognize their behavior, their surroundings, their talk. When the reader hears strong echoes of his or her own beliefs, he or she is apt to become more interested in his or her own story.'"
Although a collection of real life stories, the above paragraph is a perfect description of Jack's book."
Ray O'Canto, president ofNTD Media Dynamics
"Great book. Couldn't put it down."
Mike Colello, Former Head Trainer, Cleveland Browns
"It's the perfect gift."
Billy Schmidt, Former Asst, Basketball Coach, Michigan & Seton Hall Universities
"Jack Fertig is a noted public speaker. He's also a funny man. (He's) put together a collection of his favorite stories. Most in the 225-page paperback should bring a smile."
Larry Stewart, "Hot Corner," LATimes"
Really enjoyed it. I could almost hear you telling the stories! Such memories."
Mark Edwards, Head Basketball Coach, Washington University.
"I loved the book. Read it one eve in a hotel. Stayed up 'til 3:00AM which is hard for an old man like me."
Doug Ash, Long time NCAA Assistant Basketball Coach
"Enjoyed the book. Some great lines and stories."
Joel Maturi, Director of Athletics, University of Minnesota.
"If you're in the mood for something that will make you laugh out loud - aren't we all? - bag a copy of Jack Fertig's book dozens of stories - many of them absolutely hilarious and some of them featuring some prominent basketball figures."
Frank Burlison, Sr. Basketball Writer, FOXSports.com
"A fast breaking short story sports spectacular that will leave you laughing about the coaches and kids that make up the wild world of college basketball."
Sports Director, KGPE Television (CBS)
"What a great book!"
Dennis Johnson, VP of The Game Show Network
"Your sense of humor is terrific. You really bring perspective to each situation."
Tim McCoy, Fresno State Bulldogs fan
"Very entertaining book."
Bob Moosbrugger, Athletic Development, San Diego State University.
"Loved your book! The kids wanted to read it and I have kept it away from them as I want to give each a copy for Xmas. Good bathroom reading!"
Dave Merchant, Former Head Basketball Coach, Lebanon (OH) HS
"Absolutely must have this book for new material. Please rush me a copy."
Jeff Schlesinger, Regional Manager, Cole Haan
"Enjoyed your book. So did my four children. I'm enclosing a check for five more copies."
Ada Yamamoto, Fresno State Bulldogs fan
"A great read - so funny, so true."
Tom Sorboro,Former asst coach, James Madison University
"Fertig, who also is a frequent motivational speaker, tells humorous tales of his life in basketball, and he has plenty of fodder gleamed from all nine Division I institutions where he's been employed during his career."
Kay Hawes, NCAA News
"Great work! I had one smile after another."
Lanny Van Eman, Long Time Former NCAA Basketball Coach
Well-traveled coach compiles best in book
By Thomas O'Toole, USA TODAY
College basketball coaches are gathered in Atlanta for their annual convention held in conjunction with the men's Final Four. That means Jack Fertig has a chance to see old friends. And after spending 30 years at nine different Division I schools, he has made plenty of friends.
Along the way, he also gathered his share of stories. So Fertig, director of basketball operations at Fresno State, combined his travels with his stories to write a book, Life's a Joke: Tales of a College Basketball Vagabond.
Example: Tennessee played in the Great Alaska Shootout when Fertig was an assistant in the mid-1980s. The team went to a gift shop in Anchorage, and one of the players asked the clerk, "Do you take American money?"
Another Alaska story: A team from the Big 12 was invited, but the athletic director wrote back to say the school couldn't play because "we've already used our foreign exemption."
In many cases names are withheld, Fertig says, to not embarrass anyone. But he does tell tales on former bosses such as George Raveling, Don DeVoe and Jerry Tarkanian.
The idea for the book grew over several years of attending coaching clinics and conventions and traveling with teams.
"You'd always get together and tell stories over a late-night beer or over lunch after a camp broke up with all the coaches that went to all the same places," Fertig says. "Inevitably, someone would say, 'We ought to write a book.' "
So he did. He sat down one night and quickly put together 12 stories. Then over the course of three years he kept index cards with ideas, ending up with 280 stories that he organized, trimmed and put into book form. He published it himself. Some stories are a few paragraphs, others much longer.
Fertig, 53, began in 1972 as a graduate assistant at Vermont, then went to Washington State and Oregon. He became a full-time assistant at Robert Morris, then Western Carolina and Tennessee. He was an associate head coach at Toledo and Southern California before going to Fresno State in '95.
He has a Web site (www.18.104.22.168), where the book can be ordered for $13). He also remains committed to that elusive head coaching job. Tarkanian recently retired, so the job is open at Fresno State. Fertig, though, is being mentioned as a candidate to coach the women's team at Fresno State.
Looking back over three decades in Division I coaching, he says the best way to sum up the growth of college basketball is this: "At Vermont, our budget not counting salaries and scholarships was $9,775 for the athletic department. This year at Fresno State, we paid $60,000 for one charter trip."
'Life's a Joke' for former UT assistant coach
By Gary Lundy News-Sentinel sportswriter
Part of Buzz Peterson's popularity as Tennessee's basketball coach is his knack for public speaking and storytelling. If you ranked UT coaches on their ability to spin a yarn, Peterson and former Vols assistant Jack Fertig would be at the top of the list. Fertig, director of basketball operations for Jerry Tarkanian at Fresno State, was an assistant on the Tennessee staff for seven years in the 1980s. In fact, he helped recruit Peterson on his official visit to Knoxville.
Fertig pokes fun at everybody, including himself, in his new book, "Life's a Joke." The funniest recruiting tale is about the time he was in Chicago trying to convince blue-chip standout Weldon Williams to sign with the Vols. As he was making small talk, Fertig reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his plane ticket. Something else also flew out of the coat pocket and landed on the floor.
"All three of us - me, Weldon and his high school coach - were standing there staring at this thing that had fallen on the floor," Fertig said Tuesday as he recalled the story. "It was dead silence. I mean, what do you say when a condom has just popped out of
your coat pocket? I honestly had no idea where it came from."
Fertig was baffled until the next day when he called the UT basketball office. Another assistant coach, who was a big practical joker, asked him if he had found anything special in his coat pocket. The slightly embarrassed recruit still made an official visit to
UT, but signed with Duke.
In another chapter, Fertig tells about a UT starter walking on campus while smoking a joint with a couple of friends. A woman walking in the opposite direction gave him a double-take. The player, showing off in front of his friends, took the marijuana cigarette and shoved it in front of the woman' face.
'What, is this what you're looking at?" the player asked defiantly.
Unfortunately for the Vols, the woman was the assistant dean of students. The next day, the UT player was an ex-basketball player.
Fertig's intent is not to embarrass individuals, so he leaves out the names in many stories. He tells about a UT player in the 1980s, who received a gold necklace from his mom for Christmas. One day, the guy discovered it had been stolen. A teammate walked into the locker room wearing an identical necklace.
"Hey, you stole my necklace," yelled the UT player. To which his teammate replied, 'No, man, I stole this necklace at Zales.
"There are dozens of short anecdotes like the one about a former UT basketball captain who shall remain anonymous. During warm-ups, the captain would say, "right foot" as he commanded his teammates to extend their right legs and stretch. Same thing with the "left foot." Then as the players extended both legs and tried to touch their toes, the player said, "Both foots."
While the stories about his time in Knoxville are those most longtime UT fans can relate to, there are dozens of other amusing anecdotes from his 32-year career at nine NCAA Division I schools.
Fertig recalled the game he was an assistant to Southern Cal coach George Raveling, who angrily jumped up to protest a call and fainted on the spot. The top assistant coach, Steve Cottrell, an ultra-competitive Type A personality, took over the team. As the game continued, the trainer tended to Raveling with smelling salts at the end of the bench. A minute or so later, Cottrell turned to the trainer and said, "Keep him down. We're making a run!"
My favorite story of all doesn't have anything to do with basketball. It's the one about Fertig coaching his oldest son, Andy, in a 5-year-old T-ball league in California. One of players was crushing the ball, so Fertig suggested that maybe Andy could ask the 5-year-old Babe Ruth for a few pointers. "Well, Andy, did you ask Dustin why he hits so well?" Jack asked. "Yeah, dad, I did," answered Andy. "He said he looks at the ball sitting on the tee and makes believe it's his piano teacher's head."
Author finds humor in the seriousness of basketball
By Leticia Juarez - The Collegian
Most people write down their memories in a journal-Jack Fertig published his. His 32 years experience at Division I schools has' given him the material he needs for a book. "Life's a Joke" is a collection of short stories about Fertig's career in basketball along with his family.
"It's the ultimate bathroom book," he said with a chuckle.
It began as storytelling at sports meetings and conferences. This started Fertig's goal of recollecting stories. He began carrying a note card in his pocket, "to jot down a story when I would remember it," he said, while displaying a folded 4x6-note card with different colored ink going every direction.
Fertig, director of basketball for Fresno State, took the advice of numerous colleagues and began writing down stories as he remembered them. He started off with 12; three years and 260 stories later, he developed his book. As of the date of its release, the book has sold more than 550 copies. They are available at Kennel Bookstore and The
"I thought it was a good idea," said his wife Jane. "He is a great storyteller. It amazes me how he can remember things so far back. I knew he was enjoying writing his book."
Readers will relate to Fertig's experiences of owning his first home and not knowing how to turn the hot water on and just having one of those days where everything goes wrong. They will also enjoy what Jane calls "those little zingers at the end of the stories."
The book begins with the University of Tennessee's trip to Alaska for a basketball tournament where one of the players asks, "Do you take American money?" This story sets up the roller coaster of humor that surrounds the book. The blunders from players, coaches and family gatherings gone badly are all packed into 223 pages.
Even Fresno State had its story to share. In the story titled "Are there any questions?" Lynn Button, Chief of Police, talked to the basketball team about various issues, one being domestic violence. He proceeded to discuss how no means no and how to walk away if there was a chance for a heated argument. He then asked if there were any questions, when one of the guys asked "What if they ask you to spank them?"
Being a published author has not changed Fertig's pace one bit. Already media such as the L.A Times have picked up his story. "Jack's always been a hard worker...Jane said. "He would not be Jack if he wasn't working."
Jack's sons Andy and Alex, who are mentioned in the book, both agree their dad's book is "cool." When Jack is making speeches they set up a table where his older son Andy helps sell his book.
Along with being the director of basketball, Fertig also teaches the Theory of Basketball, does a radio show called Chalk Talk on KCBL 1340 and is commentator for Fresno State's televised basketball games. He is also member of the National Speakers Association. With all this keeping him busy, will there be a second book?"I have 110 stories for a second book, " Fertig said."But i'm still thinking about it
Verdict in; jury's still out
Tom FitzGerald - San Francisco Chronicle
In his book "Life's a Joke: Tales of a College Basketball Vagabond," Fresno State director of basketball operations Jack Fertig recalls going to the Great Alaska Shootout as an assistant coach at Tennessee. The team went to a gift shop in Anchorage, and one of the players asked the clerk, "Do you take American money?
LARRY STEWART - LA TIMES
A consumer's guide to the best and worst sports media and merchandise. Ground Rules:If it can be read, played, heard, observed, worn, viewed, dialed, or downloaded it's in play here
What: "Life's a joke"
Author and publisher: Jack Fertig
Jack Fertig, former USC assistant basketball coach under George Raveling and currently director of basketball operations at Fresno State, is a noted public speaker. He is also a funny man.
Fertig, with 32 years of experience at nine division 1 institutions, has put together a collection of his favorite stories.Most in the 225, page self-published should bring a smile.
Fertig is no relation to former USC quarterback and assistant coach Craig Fertig. Jack is Jewish, Craig is Catholic. But they share a similar sense of humor. The book opens with a short anecdote about a Tennessee player who visited a gift shop in Anchorage, Alaska, and asked, "Do you take American money?"
This sets a story Fertig got from Fresno State sports information director, Steve Weakland, who came to Fresno State from the University of Alaska at Anchorage. Weakland told Fertig about a big 12 athletic director who, after his school was invited to the Great Alaska Shootout, declined because "we've already used our foreign exemption.
"One year Fertig was at USC, the Trojans played in a holiday tournament at West Palm Beach, Fla. At the airport, an elderly lady asked a player what time is was, "I'm sorry, my watch is on California Time." he said.
A longer story is about former Trojan Yamen Sanders, Fertig convinced him to block out on the offensive board in a game against UCLA by telling him that missed shots were designed plays to go to him.
Saunders bought it, and USC beat the Bruins.
©Copyright Jack Fertig