'Don't Put Me In, Coach': An NCAA Bench-Warmer's Saga Sports writer Mark Titus opens up about his experiences as a walk-on for Ohio State's basketball team. His new memoir, Don't Put Me In, Coach, is an irreverent, behind-the-scenes look at life in a top NCAA basketball program.
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'Don't Put Me In, Coach': A Bench-Warmer's Saga

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'Don't Put Me In, Coach': A Bench-Warmer's Saga

'Don't Put Me In, Coach': A Bench-Warmer's Saga

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Mark Titus spent his college basketball career collecting splinters in his red shorts, on the bench. He was a walk-on, good enough to win a spot on the roster of Ohio State University's vaunted Big 10 basketball team, from 2006 to 2010. And he set the record for most individual career wins in school history while scoring just 9 points - 9 points only; four years.

Mark Titus founded a blog called Club Trillion, because that's what all the zeros that follow your name look like when you play one minute a game but get no points or assists - or much besides another cup of Gatorade. His new memoir: "Don't Put Me In, Coach: My Incredible Journey from the End of the Bench to the End of the Bench." Mark Titus joins us from the studios of WOSU in Columbus.

Thanks so much for being with us.

MARK TITUS: Yeah, thanks for having me.

SIMON: And let's understand this - you weren't on the Ohio State team four years because you were so good, but because the really good players kept getting drafted by the pros.

TITUS: Yeah, something like that. I was actually pretty good childhood friends with the number one recruit in the country, Greg Oden. And he committed to Ohio State, and I came to Ohio State with him. And there's no doubt in my mind that it was because of Greg.

SIMON: Well, you weren't just his friend. You were a very good high school basketball player.

TITUS: Yeah. I was above average, yeah, but high school was probably my ceiling. I just made the decision to come to Ohio State and not play basketball, actually. And somehow, yeah, I got on the team.

SIMON: How did you talk yourself out of a Harvard scholarship?

TITUS: Oh, they talked it out for me.


TITUS: It actually, kind of fell through. I was recruited pretty heavily by Harvard and they...

SIMON: A couple of coaches were set up to come to a game.

TITUS: Yeah, they'd watched me play like, 10 times. It was my understanding that they were more or less coming to just like, support me rather than recruit. Earlier in the week, me and my high school coach got into a little bit of a fight, and I was suspended for the first half of the game that the Harvard coaches were at. I came back out in the second half, and they were gone. And I never heard from them again. So it's not really smart to put all your eggs in a Harvard basket, but that's kind of what I did.


SIMON: Would you have been on the same team as Jeremy Lin?

TITUS: I think we actually would have been in the same freshman class. So I like to tweak the story, now that he's been successful - that my spot went to him.

SIMON: Well, you got to the Final Four as a freshman there at Ohio State, and that was a close game you lost to Florida for the national championship.

TITUS: Yeah.

SIMON: Even though in your own account, you weren't, shall we say, central to that or any other game. Was that tough?

TITUS: It was hard for me because my friends Greg Oden and Mike Connelly, who was our point guard that year, us three actually had played AAU basketball together since we were in, like, junior high. They were our two best players, and they were like, the reason we even made it to the national championship game. So I kind of knew that that was my last game I'd ever play with them unless I somehow - miraculously - made it to the NBA, and we all got on the same team.

So for me, it was unfortunate that our time together had to end on a sour note. But looking back, though, that Florida team that we lost to was one of the best teams in like, the past 25 years.

SIMON: When we fans watch at home - obviously, March Madness set to begin - what should we look for in a big college basketball game?

TITUS: I think the thing that makes college basketball, in particular, stand out from pros - I mean, you'll hear basketball fans say it all the time - but, I mean, it's the passion of the players. Because with college, especially in the tournament, you get the guys that are seniors and they know - especially like, the smaller schools - they know that this is their last chance to play basketball. And so they like, pull up the miracle upset against the team full of NBA guys. You know, that happens - seemingly - every year. So that's what makes college basketball great to me, I think.

SIMON: You did get - if I might refer to it as your 15 minutes of fame, as a senior at OSU. Tell us about that last game, if you could.

TITUS: Yeah. I wrote about it on my blog, and there were a lot of fans that like, knew that this was my last game because I was having surgery the next day. So while some of our other seniors would get to play at the Big 10 tournament and the NCAA tournament, this was the last time I'd ever wear an Ohio State jersey. So I come out and there are like, 3,000 students wearing T-shirts with my blog's logo on them. They introduced me, and I was just kind of overcome with emotion. I started crying, and it's still pretty embarrassing to talk about now, and I still get a lot of flak from it from my teammates.

And we won big enough to where I got to get in, and I was out on the court as the horn sounded and we won the Big 10. I mean, I don't think I could have scripted it any better, how it ended up working out for me.

SIMON: Mark Titus. His new book, a memoir of his four years on the bench - and in the hearts of Ohio State - is called "Don't Put Me In, Coach: My Incredible Journey from the End of the Bench to the End of the Bench." Mr. Titus also writes for Grantland.com, the sports blog. Thanks so much for being with us.

TITUS: Yeah, thanks for having me.

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