From Publishers Weekly
These often entertaining reminiscences about the impact that athletic coaches can have on their players are a mixed bag. The very disparate nature of the essays sometimes creates a loss of overall focus, but the wide range of sports covered—baseball, football, basketball, track, tennis, golf and fencing—is a plus. Only four of the 25 pieces are written by women, but they offer interesting contrasts. Novelist Francine Prose describes the 1950s gym teacher from hell, while Christine Brennan fondly remembers her beloved 1970s high school coach who, before Title IX, battled against the lack of funds and equipment for girl's teams. Journalists George Vecsey and Frank Deford present historical recollections of, respectively, baseball's legendary Casey Stengel and Al McGuire, the high-profile basketball coach at Marquette University, but most of the other pieces touch on personal coaching experiences. Of particular interest is CNN correspondent Tour's evocation of a 1970s tennis club in Dorchester, Mass., started by Mister Smith, who dreamed of turning African-American ghetto kids into professional tennis players. While moving, Jane Leavy's description of being a dying coach for a friend with AIDS feels out of place in a collection that otherwise deals with sports. (Oct. 27)
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Phil Jackson will earn 10 million dollars for coaching the Los Angeles Lakers this season. Division I college football coaches regularly earn in excess of 1 million per year. They may all be fine coaches, but the coaching that affects millions of lives every year takes place in smaller, virtually invisible venues: in youth leagues and in junior-high and high schools. This collection of essays--many originally published here--explores the work of 25 coaches of various kinds and degrees of renown. Most are written about coaches rather than by them (Frank Deford on Al McGuire, David Maraniss on Vince Lombardi), but perhaps the most powerful selection describes what happened when Jane Leavey, author of Sandy Koufax (2002), agreed to serve as the "dying" coach for an AIDS-stricken friend. A moving and often humorous collection that may attract a significant amount of "off-the-book-page" attention. Wes Lukowsky
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