Friday, January 28, 2011

Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machine by George Dohrmann

A sports coach can be the most revered or vilified person in the room; a Red Auerbach-like personality who can inspire a team of individuals to come together to form a dynastic team, or someone who pitches a fit and sends a chair skidding across the floor a la Bobby Knight. George Dohrmann presents to the reader a very different type of coach, who has the skills to find the most dynamic players and then milk them for the most base of ends: his financial well-being.

But in the end the story isn't solely about Joe Keller as a coach, it's about him as a pioneer of the efforts made by the shoe companies to extend their commercial empire by ensnaring the next LeBron James before the kid graduates middle school. The author does an exquisite job as chronicler of the years spent by Joe Keller building up his AAU team to become one of the greatest in the U-13 leagues; of the hard-knock maturation process the children went through; and of the backroom machinations that made Joe Keller a very rich man.

I'm far from interested in basketball, but I would come home from work every night looking forward to reading more of this book--it had all of the personalities of a great page-turner, with easily recognizable villains and victims, but, appropriately enough, the hero never made an appearance.

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