Reporter pens book about Acadia hoops team

Jennifer Vardy Little
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From the time he was a student at Acadia, Pictou native John DeCoste has been fascinated with the university’s basketball team. 

John DeCoste, a reporter with the Kings County Advertiser and Register, recently penned a book about the Acadia men’s basketball team. - Submitted

That interest only grew over the years, as the Aylesford resident began working as the sports reporter for the Kings County Advertiser and Register, where it became part of his job to follow the men’s team. Earlier this spring, DeCoste self-published a book about the hoop Axemen.

Living the Dream: The Acadia Axemen at the Nationals from 1963-2013 tells the story of the successes the team has experienced over the years.

“The first national tournament was in the 1962-1963 season, and my book was originally going to be 50 years at the nationals. I tell people I got held up because they kept writing new chapters for me. Acadia was at nationals three years in a row.”

When DeCoste was a student at Acadia, the hoop Axemen won the 1977 national tournament held in Halifax. DeCoste had the opportunity to broadcast the final game, an experience he recalls fondly. Acadia has been to nationals three times since then, but hasn’t brought home the gold.

“But we hope every year,” DeCoste adds.

Ten years ago, he began wondering why that 1977 team hadn’t been inducted into the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame.

“So I asked, and they said it was probably because no one had ever nominated them, so I prepared the nomination,” DeCoste said.

From there, his book was born.

“I thought it would be a nice idea to have a history of Acadia and nationals,” he said. “In 52 years, Acadia has been there 24 times. They’re tied with Brandon University in Manitoba for being there the most times.”

Of those trips to nationals, Acadia won three times and lost in the final six other times.

“They’ve been quite successful, one of the most successful schools in the country,” DeCoste said. “They had good players and colourful coaches.”

From 1994 on, DeCoste was able to use his own stories and photos published in the Advertiser and Register as part of his research. The last half of the book, he says, “has quotes I gathered myself.”

It took about three years for DeCoste to research the book, pouring over old papers, the Acadia archives and drawing on the knowledge of current St. Francis Xavier basketball coach Steve Konchalski, who once played for Acadia, and former players Ian MacMillan of Falmouth and Richie Spears of Wolfville.

“They were a great help, they had great insight on Stu Aberdeen, who coached from 1958-1966 and brought Acadia to the first four national teams,” DeCoste said.

The book, he says, focuses on the years Acadia qualified for nationals, but the past 50 years are included.

“If you follow Acadia men’s basketball, you’ll see a lot of familiar names and stories,” he said. Readers will also see familiar faces to go along with it - the book also includes 28 pages of photos.

“I tell the players of today it’s their history, and for the long-term fans, it’s their history too.”

This is DeCoste’s first sports book, but he previously co-authored two history books.

Copies are available through Chisholm’s, Box of Delights or by contacting DeCoste at 847-9847 or e-mailing robardecoste@ns.sympatico.ca 

Organizations: Brandon University

Geographic location: Acadia, Kings, Halifax Manitoba

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