on September 10, 2006
All good writers have a story to tell. Rus Bradburd does just that and brings you with him on this journey to Ireland. It is here that a universal story unfolds as you meet the people of Tralee, and where Bradburd has come to a crossroads in his own life: career, music, writing and a special romance.
Paddy's magic and mystery is in its subtle revelation that this story belongs to us all.
The author makes you feel his every frustration as he struggles to build a winning basketball team in the Irish Super League. And, how that daily grind seems to interfere with his other purposes for coming to Ireland: his music and writing.
But, you will also experience the camaraderie of the pubs and traditional Irish music as Bradburd ventures beyond his world of career and into the lives of Tralee's people.
There are many stories here. In the end, you will come to know them. And perhaps, we might come to discover ourselves again.
on August 30, 2006
The book is an engaging, compelling, highly readable account full of the sights and sounds of Tralee, Ireland. Bradburd decides to leave his well-paying jobs as a college basketball coach in the U.S., for the relative obscurity and monetary scraps as a head coach in the Irish Super League.
The idea is -- as a coach in a league where the practice gyms are rented by the hour, the newspapers fail to mention even the most dramatic victories, and the best Irish-born players would rather sit the bench as brawny cheerleaders at Gaelic football matches -- he will find time to write and master his fiddle, and after the season, would be able to leave basketball behind.
For basketball fans, the book is an insightful exploration of one of the poorest professional leagues in the world, as well as a series of portraits of the players Bradburd comes to bench, fire, start, and, in some ways, rely on.
For music fans, we witness a short history of traditional Irish "tunes," and learn how tunes grow and change as they move from place to place. We also get to sit in on his sessions in the dark corners of Irish pubs, where the tables and bellies are full of pints of Guiness. And Bradburd writes so well we can hear the technical mastery of his friends and mentors, see their hands moving effortlessly over the instruments.
The story is one of transformation -- a certain kind of entrainment, as Bradburd discovers -- across the book, as he passes through the trials of coaching, and comes to find musical kindred spirits, and a personal one, too; even his prose seems to transform, from the sharp tones as he starts his journey, into a calm, more poetic voice as he finds -- most, if not all -- of what he went to look for in Tralee, Ireland.
on October 20, 2006
Rus Bradburd's "Paddy on the Hardwood: A Journey in Irish Hoops" is a highly enjoyable book on many levels. Bradburd's story revolves around his love for basketball and traditional Irish music. In Ireland, not everyone (in fact, almost no one!) shares his passion for basketball; Bradburd's struggle for respect for his team, and his sport, are part of the journey. In contrast, Bradburd's efforts to learn and to master traditional Irish music is a challenge which arises within himself, and the best part of the journey may be his success in dealing with that challenge. This is a book which transcends its subject matter, one which you can (and will) appreciate whether or not you know (or care) anything at all about basketball or Irish fiddles. It's a well-crafted and well-written book, and a great read. Highly recommended!
on April 9, 2009
If I asked you who won the Irish Super League Championship last year, the proper answer would be "who cares?" We would also accept "The Irish Super WHAT?!?"
Very few people care which team wins the league crown in Ireland's professional league, including the Irish themselves. But since I read Rus Bradburd's Paddy on the Hardwood, I find that I suddenly do care. That is Coach Bradburd's shining achievement in recounting his two years on the Emerald Isle, coaching a mish-mash of unschooled locals and underachieving Americans. He gets the reader to care about the team simply by telling their story honestly - never telling us how to feel.
How does this relate to a college basketball website? For starters, Bradburd was an assistant coach who understudied some of the greatest basketball minds of a generation. He began under Don Haskins at UTEP, where he was lead recruiter of the legendary Tim Hardaway. When he was dismissed from that job due to a relatively minor infraction (again, this is recounted with amazing veracity; "I was guilty" the author flatly states), he joined the staff of Lou Henson at New Mexico State. Growing weary of the recruiting grind, and harboring a very un-coach-like desire to write for a living, Bradburd quit college hoops and completed his MFA in Las Cruces.
The book begins there, as the former college assistant tries to figure out how to get a job that will allow him to spend time writing and practicing his other love - playing the fiddle. A friend tells him about the Tralee Tigers, an Irish team seeking an American presence on the bench. Drawn by the literary and musical traditions of the island, he takes the job, figuring it will take little personal involvement and leave him plenty of time for his other pursuits.
The rest of the story unfolds in a very easygoing way. Unlike other sporting memoirs I've read, it never glosses over the failures, and Bradburd is able to describe the characters that wrought havoc on his attempts at discipline and accountability without making them unlikable. Some favorites emerged for me.
First of all was the tubby American Ricardo Leonard, a former Richmond star gone to seed. I, of course, was picturing Big Ant as I read about him. Leonard is the first of many American expatriates to roll through the mid-sized town on the west coast of Ireland, and certainly the most sympathetic. In Ireland, American players are expected to be the ringers - taller, more athletic, and more skilled than their Irish teammates - each team is allowed to sign two U.S. players and one player from a non-U.S. country, and those three are generally the only paid players on the team. But foreign players on Irish teams are at the bottom of the pro hoops barrel, and the specimens in this book show it. Each has a fatal flaw; they are over-the-hill, unmotivated, awkward, or all three at once. For Bradburd, they almost become a necessary evil.
The Irish players emerge as heroes, as they generally stink, but tend to show the kind of spirit you'd expect from someone who shows up to play an unpopular sport for no pay. It's the love of the game factor, and getting to know these square pegs is one of the true joys of the book. I won't ruin it for you by describing any of them - you have to get it in book-time.
The joy of watching a spirited but clueless amateur grow is one of the major themes of the book. It is skillfully turned on its head in the interwoven scenes of Bradburd attempting to fit into the Irish traditional music scene. As one who was not "born to the tradition", he begins to have experiences that mirror those of his charges - he must "sit on the bench" (albeit with a Guiness in hand) for weeks, watching the masters, before he even begins to bring his own instrument along. As Bradburd begins to grow as a musician, his Irish-born hoops benchwarmers begin to grow as players, and it's a beautiful thing to watch.
I flew through this mesmerizing account. You'd be hard-pressed to find a book that has more attractive subject matter for me: it's about writing, music, basketball, and travel. If they could have found a way to tape some bacon to the outside cover, I'd have been set. Which is to say, I loved it, and literally had trouble putting it down to do my own writing some days.
This book is well worth the read for anyone who loves a good "underdog makes good" story. I enjoyed it so much more than other sports memoirs I'd read because it dared to step outside of the sports mentality quite often. It's refreshing to hear from a coach who is passionate about music and literature, and finds a way to fit them into his daily challenges as a leader and teacher.
Paddy on the Hardwood will, quite simply, make you happy.
on August 15, 2010
Anyone who wanted to know some of the inside life of Irish basketball this is a great book. It gives you detailed info. It was not some paid author to live in Ireland for a year. The author wanted to be there. Very heartwarming and enjoyable.
on January 1, 2008
As an aspiring writer and former hoops coach, I was very interested in reading this book after getting re-acquainted with Coach Rus (we first met at Don Haskins' summer camp in 1989) at a local book signing. I couldn't put it down once I started reading it. There were many times when I would find myself laughing out loud at his witty observations about the basketball-challenged Irish culture or his players' quirks. Coach Rus' story transcends the sport of basketball, but will entertain the best hoops junkie. His journeys to the Irish pubs and eventual fiddling sessions made me want to book a tour of Ireland. And true to any hero's journey, Coach Rus gets rewarded for his perserverance.
on November 10, 2009
This is a book for coaches! It is first about a guy spending a couple of seasons in Ireland learning to fiddle and coaching a basketball team that would have to step up a few notches to be rag-tag. However, with Bradburd's history in the America collgiate ranks I saw the work as a metaphor for life in his attempt to coach the game he loves, succeed, and get out before the inevitble "bad ending". If he's like every other coach I've seen, he cannot stay away from the game and hopefully his bad-end journey will have just as many colorful characters filling the pages of that remembrance as did Paddy on the Hardcourt.
on April 30, 2013
For anyone who loves basketball, Ireland or who has lived overseas, this is a must read. Mr. Bradburd does an excellent job telling the story of bringing what's essentially a foreign sport to an old society and trying to maneuver through the Irish society that is set in its ways. Add to that his own struggles of keeping his job and his team afloat while possibly looking to return to the States and find employment and the very true story proves that fact is often stranger and more entertaining than fiction. This is a wonderful book and a very enjoyable experience. I highly recommend the book.
on December 6, 2011
If you have any interest in the intricacies off a professional basketball team, struggling to survive in one of the poorest paid leagues in the world, you will love this. Arrogant American players demanding free shoes, Irish players more interested in gaelic football then pro basketball, its all here. He supplements the basketball parts with tidbits about traditional music which provides some comic relief in the form of a philosophical and pensive fiddle teacher. Well written, interesting and engaging, one of the best hidden gems on the market. My favourite book of the year
on April 11, 2008
If you like sports from a spectator or participant viewpoint, chances are you will like this book. You will love the book if you have ever coached, are Irish, play or listen to Celtic music or simply have a great sense of humor. The book is well-written, a quick and delightful journey into an idividual's dream that is lived out in a real-life way. I visited Ireland for the first time shortly after reading the book. The accounts are accurate and added an additional dimension to my visit.