UK Happenings

UK Men’s Basketball legend Jack 'Goose' Givens shares his life, legacy in new memoir

Jack Givens
Jack Givens pictured at Rupp Arena in January 2018 | Photo courtesy of UK Athletics

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Jan. 23, 2024) — Jack “Goose” Givens, one of the greatest players in the history of the NCAA and University of Kentucky men’s basketball, shares his powerful story in a new book, "They Call Me Goose: My Life in Kentucky Basketball and Beyond" (University Press of Kentucky, March 2024).

Givens chronicles his early years, growing up in a housing project in Lexington, and his success with UK men’s basketball through his time with NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and the Japan Basketball Association, his career as a college and NBA television color analyst, and his recent appointment as a commentator for the UK Sports Network.

In this intimate and all-encompassing biography, the iconic sports legend shares personal and endearing accounts from his childhood and speaks candidly about his experiences with poverty, ruinous financial debt, and how his faith and his family helped sustain him through hardships and challenges.

“I have been fortunate in life — blessed is really the best way to put it. But things could have turned out differently had I not been surrounded by love from my mom and siblings and others who looked out for me during my childhood,” said Givens. “One of the reasons I decided to write this book was to pay tribute to them. My nine siblings and I lived in an east Lexington housing project until my sophomore year of high school, a place where a tall fence separated apartments where Blacks lived from the ones where whites lived. Sometimes we didn’t know where our next meal was coming from and most of my clothes were hand-me-downs. But you know what? We had each other, supported each other, and I look back on those times as some of the happiest days of my life.”

Givens is most famous for his remarkable performance in the 1978 NCAA championship game against the Duke Blue Devils. He scored 41 points, which stands as the third highest scoring individual performance in an NCAA championship game, and helped lead Kentucky to a 94-88 victory and the NCAA championship.

Givens was also a trailblazer in Black collegiate sports and addresses the monumental role that he and other athletes played in history. After he was named 1974’s Mr. Basketball for the state of Kentucky as a high school senior, Givens signed with the University of Kentucky, becoming one of the first Black players to integrate UK basketball and the first African American All-American basketball player to wear a Wildcat uniform.

“I am proud that James Lee and I became the first Black basketball players from Lexington to sign with the University of Kentucky in 1974,” said Givens. “I think we helped change the perception most people had that UK did not welcome Black players. Big Blue Nation started supporting me when I was a forward at Bryan Station High School. That support continued during my career at UK, which culminated in the 1978 NCAA National Championship win against Duke, and it continues to this day as I call UK basketball games with my broadcast partner Tom Leach on the UK Sports Network."

Givens, who co-wrote the book with author and San Diego-based journalist Doug Brunk, hopes the book will serve as an inspiration.

“Another reason I decided to write this book was to encourage people who may be going through a rough time in life,” said Givens. “Doug Brunk and I began working on this book soon after the COVID-19 pandemic started. That was tough on everyone, a time when hope and positivity seemed to be in short supply. I chose to open up about some of my own setbacks in the book in hopes that others might find a way to overcome their own difficulties.

“I’ve heard it said that life’s struggles can either break you, or break you open,” said Brunk. “There are some come-to-Jesus moments in this book that Jack articulates with an open heart. More importantly, he leaves readers with a lesson. That is, challenges in life are not so much about the circumstances themselves but how you respond to those circumstances.”

They Call Me Goose will be released as part of the University Press of Kentucky’s Race and Sports series. Edited by University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences faculty Gerald L. Smith and Derrick E. White, this series publishes works that expand the boundaries of sports history and opens a new analysis of American sport and culture.

A book launch event for "They Call Me Goose" will be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 29, at King Alumni House, 400 Rose Street in Lexington.

Additional book signings are also scheduled:

  • Joseph-Beth Booksellers | 161 Lexington Green, Lexington, KY | 7 p.m. Friday, March 1
  • Your Frame of Mind Galleries | 521 Southland Drive, Lexington, KY | 9 a.m. Saturday, March 2
  • Kentucky Crafted Market | Alltech Arena, 4089 Iron Works Parkway, Lexington, KY | 1 p.m. Sunday, March 10
  • Carmichael’s | 2720 Frankfort Avenue, Louisville, KY | 7 p.m. Thursday, April 18

Jack “Goose” Givens, formerly an American collegiate and professional basketball player, spent many years working as a broadcaster and real estate developer. He currently serves as the vice president of business development and external affairs at Bowlin Group and as a radio color analyst for the UK Sports Network. He lives in Georgetown, Kentucky, with his wife, Linda. They have two children and four grandchildren.

Doug Brunk is an award-winning and San Diego–based journalist who has written hundreds of articles for trade and consumer publications. He is the author of "Wildcat Memories: Inside Stories from Kentucky Basketball Greats and Forty Minutes to Glory: Inside the Kentucky Wildcats’ 1978 Championship Season."

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.