Book Recommendation-The Assist


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I recently finished the book The Assist by Neil Swidey. It follows the Charlestown basketball team, a mini-dynasty in boy's high school basketball in Massachusetts. The Charlestown high school is largely comprised of minority students in an area of Boston undergoing a rejuvenation. The reason for Charlestown's impressive success can be drawn to head coach Jack O'Brien who keeps track of his basketball players all year round, doing all he can to help them avoid the pitfalls of inner city life. O'Brien's relationships are almost exclusively center around basketball and over the years the community of ex-players who still come back to see O'Brien at least once a year.

While The Assist falls shy of my favorite inner city basketball book (that would be The Last Shot by Darcy Frey, a must read for any sports fan), it is a wonderfully detailed book that goes beyond the basketball court to take a look at Boston's controversial public school busing, the dangerous lives that the players are exposed to each and every day, and the inner politics and jealousy that chase O'Brien's success. I had a difficult time putting this book down, finishing the 350 page book in a weekend. It has my strong recommendation.

Reading the letter that Jared Nuness wrote to the Strib, it made me recall this book. I saw many similarities between what Nuness described and what the book paints for the reader, both in the relationship between players and coach and the controversy that follows winning programs.
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