As fire is to prairie or water to fish, so is basketball part of the natural environment in Indiana. Round ball, or Hoosier Hysteria is so much a part of the state’s heritage that many people believe basketball was invented in Indiana. Naismith’s game is a virtual religion in the state.
While everyone knows about the growth of basketball in high schools and in college, the story of Indiana’s role in the development of professional basketball has not been told before. It is a fascinating, passionate, lively story of men who loved the game and were willing to play for nickels, of raucous fans, local heroes, and love of the game.
Growing out of an award-winning documentary, Pioneers of the Hardwood tells the story of the growth of professional basketball in Indiana in the good old barnstorming days. Gould covers the Indianapolis Em-Roes, the Fort Wayne Pistons (later the Detroit Pistons), the Indianapolis Kautskys, and the Indianapolis Olympians. He sets his story within the context of the times and also discusses some of the teams that the local heroes competed against, including the famous New York Celtics (the original Celtics) and the gifted Harlem Rens, the first all black professional team.
The book is based on extensive research as well as revealing interviews with former players John Wooden, collegiate all-American Ralph Beard, Pat Malaska, Frank Baird, and others. Indiana teams were frequently “world champions.” The Fort Wayne Pistons dominated professional basketball for a number of years.
Pioneers of the Hardwood is an essential part of the story of the growth of professional basketball in the first half of this century. As Gould puts it, “Before stars such as Larry Bird or Oscar Robertson, before the high-priced basketball shoe advertisements, and before the success of the NBA, before the Indiana Pacers, the forefathers of professional basketball forged a remarkable legacy as unlikely and as magical as a last-second shot spells a championship. Under primitive conditions, these fabled sportsmen laid a hardwood foundation for others to follow.” This is their story.