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The Man Watching: A Biography of Anson Dorrance, the Unlikely Architect of the Greatest College Sports Dynasty Ever Hardcover – September 30, 2006
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From the Inside Flap
That's the word most often used to describe what Anson Dorrance has done as a soccer coach. First, there are the remarkable eighteen national championships and then there's the fact that his teams have won 94 percent of their games. But imagine that the greatest dynasty in the history of college sports has been created by a man who never aspired to coach and got the job only after a case of mistaken identity. Imagine that the UNC program is run in such chaos that Dorrance can't remember the names of some if his players and often arrives late for games after getting lost in transit. Yet Dorrance is considered by to be a great leader, motivator, mentor, and he is certainly one of the most successful coaches in all of sport.
Through it all, Dorrance has groomed more All-Americans than any other coach in any sport. In The Man Watching, Dorrance and his players describe in gripping detail, how he breeds "savages" in practice by tossing them into his grueling "competitive cauldron" and then motivates them to outduel each other through his sarcastic wit, pushing them to the boundaries of their physical and emotional endurance. In this book Dorrance also tells his side of the story for the first time about the lawsuit filed by two former UNC players, which threatened to destroy his career. Crothers spent four soccer seasons interviewing Tar Heels from every era along with players and coaches from other programs to create the most comprehensive, intimate, and unfiltered look ever inside and athletic dynasty.
This is not a book about a soccer coach, but about one fascinating man and the 200 young women he has inspired to believe that anything is possible.
From the Back Cover
"I am so proud to have played to Anson and to be a Tar Heel. The Man Watching is a rare look behind the scenes at everything it takes to coach and play at the highest level, but to me it's more about what Anson has done to coach all of us so well in life."
-- Mia Hamm, International Soccer Star
"Anson Dorrance's story is one of the most fascinating to ever come along in American sports. And Tim Crothers is the perfect writer to tell it."
-- Rick Reilly, Sports Illustrated
"The story of one of the winningest coaches in history, this powerful book takes you on a journey of strength, courage, and leadership. It's a great read for anybody aspiring to be the best in sports, business, or whatever their chosen field."
-- Dr. Stephen Covey, Best-Selling author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
"Anson has built a dynasty that has no comparison and Tim Crothers has written a book equally extraordinary, chronicling this pioneering coach and his remarkable teams with a depth of knowledge and insight that I believe only Anson and Tim could bring."
-- Dean Smith, Legendary UNC basketball coach
"This book isn't about a great women's soccer coach, it's about a great coach, period. Anyone who aspires to a leadership role can learn form Anson's innovative style and approach."
-- Pete Carroll, Southern California football coach
"Anson Dorrance is masterful in using both creativity and intensity to develop the competitive potential of his players. This book is full of captivating stories about all the steps and even missteps Anson has taken in producing a consistently successful record that may never be equaled. Needless to say, Anson's story is full of useful insights and lessons about our wonderful game."
-- Juergen Klinsmann, head coach of the '06 German World Cup team
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The author's thorough background research and countless hours spent with Dorrance himself combine to make a satisfying and intriguing read. The charges of sexual harassment that haunted Dorrance are discussed and put into a plausible light, though the specifics and motivations may never be clear. The mystery of why this initially reluctant recruit into the world of women's sports has achieved unprecedented success is explored through this in-depth literary portrait, though the mystery remains satisfyingly unsolved.
The historical background was easily the most interesting part, and the first half of the book is much stronger than the second. Coach Dorrance's background as a child of the world and an aggressive, competitive youth was surprisingly engaging. Even better was the origin of women's varsity soccer at UNC and elsewhere as women's soccer germinated to a critical mass within American colleges. Similarly, the creation of the women's national team with early stars such as Michelle Akers and its evolution into a dominant power with and without Coach Dorrance was also very informative. Tim Crothers has added a valuable historical record by capturing these stories with factual reporting and extensive interviews.
Coach Dorrance is of course famous for the exceptional success of the program at UNC, and the Heels even won the next national championship after the book was published. The author draws out Dorrance's coaching philosophy, recruiting style, motivational approaches, and other aspects of his personality and performance. The various "aha!" moments where Dorrance learned to appreciate and exploit the differences between men and women have been fodder for stories and lectures for many years, and they make for excellent material and opportunities to compare with our own observations and attitudes.
What got a little tiresome was the volume of material on how competitive Dorrance is and how great Carolina is and how special Carolina is, almost as if other teams don't have their own special bonds among teammates or play with intense effort and dedication. I ended up skimming a bunch of that as too much rah-rah and of little additional value. Fortunately, Crothers added a chapter on Dorrance's "dark side", such as his arrogance. Some juicy, bitchy stories can make up for an excess on the praise side.
Crothers naturally had to cover the lawsuit. Based on the tone of the book, I surmise that the author has put the whole situation in a relatively positive view. Debbie Keller isn't exactly presented as sweetness and light. However, on the contrary side, the author reviews Dorrance's admitted mistakes, his agreement to training, his change in approach, and some remarks by people who were at least neutral on the whole matter. I'm not sure what to think, and the reader can still gather a lot from the biography if the lawsuit is secondary to one's interest in the book.