Michael DeLucia’s book, “Madness: The Man Who Changed Basketball,” is subtitled “How one man captivated a nation and started a basketball revolution.” The author has not overstated that description one bit! Every sport has its superstars. In baseball, Joe DiMaggio was the Yankee Clipper. In football, Joe Montana was Joe Cool. In basketball, Hank Luisetti was who? There is a very good chance that you are unfamiliar with the name, but if you have ever watched a basketball game, you are aware of the revolution that he began in the game.
Not only was Luisetti a star in his day, but he was the kind of star who actually changed the way his sport was played. Almost single-handedly, Luisetti took basketball from a static, defensive match, with scores rarely reaching 60 points in a game (that’s combined scores for both teams) to the offensive juggernauts that will leave fans in awe during this year’s March Madness. Hank Luisetti was a genuine superstar in the late 1930s, but today, he is all but forgotten.
In Mike DeLucia’s own words, Madness: The Man Who Changed Basketball, was a long time coming. After hearing the story of Hank Luisetti from his father, he spent years digging through the forgotten man’s life. His dedication to that research shows. The book is not a dry recitation of statistics or a listing of Luisetti’s accomplishments on the court; it is historical fiction, blending actual events with some characters that have been fictionalized. In an engaging narrative, the author places the reader into key points of Luisetti’s life, from his youth, when the boy dreamed of being an athlete, to each of the bumps, knocks and tumbles that he encountered to realize his dream. It is a story that is as compelling as it is fascinating.
James Naismith invented basketball in 1891, but it was the 6’3” forward, Hank Luisetti who reinvented it in 1936. Born Angelo Enrico Luisetti, he was a native of San Francisco, California. When he was growing up, the two-handed set shot was the norm. Players did not move their feet when shooting and coaches insisted that to gain any accuracy, two hands on the ball to shoot was an absolute must. In high school, Hank was fortunate to have a coach who let the players play and he could not believe what he saw in Luisetti. He developed and popularized an offensive maneuver that few players had ever seen before – the running one-handed shot. The move raised the eyebrows of opposing coaches and players, but the fans loved it. Additionally, one couldn’t criticize Luisetti’s game. He was an excellent dribbler, a deft passer and played a great defensive game. In short, his fundamentals were top notch, but his leaping ability with the ball, taking flight from the foul line and then shooting was a revelation when he played for Stanford University.
During his collegiate days, Luisetti averaged more than 16 points per game. In a remarkable display of athleticism, Hank became the first major college player to score 50 points in a game when Stanford defeated Duquesne, 92-27 in 1938. When he graduated later that year, Luisetti was college basketball’s all-time leading scorer. He finished second to George Mikan in an Associated Press news media poll to select the best player in the first half of the 20th century and was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1959.
The book reminds us that it is okay to have a dream and that hard work can pay off. Luisetti contracted spinal meningitis while serving in the Navy, ending his basketball career. He never had the opportunity to play in the NBA, but to be perfectly honest, the Madness has all of the makings of an outstanding movie. From Luisetti’s humble beginnings as the son of immigrants, to his struggles to reach the top and his captivating play, the key elements for a film are all present. If the movie is ever made, there will be one scene that the audience will likely believe to be Hollywood fiction. Hank once received a standing ovation from the hometown crowd in old Madison Square Garden after Stanford knocked off Long Island University, then the top college team in the nation. It really happened. To put it in perspective, Madness: The Man Who Changed Basketball is a slam dunk!
About the Author
Mike DeLucia is an author and English teacher who travels the world with his wife, Lillian. He grew up in the Throgs Neck/Pelham Bay section of the Bronx, New York. Mike began his career as an actor and entrepreneur who discovered his love for teaching after founding a local preforming arts center in Mahopac, New York. College, graduate school and a teaching career followed. He teaches high school English. Even though he wrote his first screenplay, The Hank Luisetti Story, now titled Madness, at the age of 22, he didn’t publish his first book, Boycott The Yankees until the age of 56. His next work, Settling A Score is a short story that invites readers to the Bronx during the 1960s. Madness: The Man Who Changed Basketball is available through Amazon.