More Than A Game: A Book Review

Characteristics of a Sound Offense (According to Phil Jackson and Charley Rosen)

1. Must penetrate the defense.

      a)Create good % shots. Define what is a good shot for each player

      b) Stress inside power game. Play for the 3 pt. power play.

      c)Break down all defenses from full court presses to double teams.

2. Transition basketball starts on defense. Look to run!

3. Provides proper floor spacing 15’-18’, creating an operating room and clearing area on the court. Keeps defense occupied on and off the ball.

4.Provides player and ball movement with a purpose. There is only one ball and 5 players. All things being equal, a player is without the ball 80 % of the time.

5. Provides strong rebound position and good defensive balance on all good shot.

6.Provides the player with the ball an opportunity to pass to any of his teammates.Utilize the abilities of the individual players. Must create high % shots for a team’s best shooters, rebound opportunities for best drivers.

 

 

More Than A Game is as close to a philosophy book as you will find on the game of basketball. A coach is only as successful as their coaching philosophy. John Wooden had his Pyramid of Success, Don Nelson had Nellie-ball, which was about creating defensive mismatches by having the best five offensive players on the court at one time, and Tex Winters had the Triangle Offense (also called the Triple Post); which hit the peak of its success when Phil Jackson implemented it with the Chicago Bulls, and later with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Though some chapters are dedicated to filling in the gaps of the coauthor’s lives, the book doesn’t get bogged down in the “who, what, and why’s”. The narrative thread is seamless despite the jumps in place and time. The reader learns  about Jackson’s Knicks days and how he met Rosen during this time period.

Phil discusses his upbringing and the road that led him to him abandon the Pentecostal concepts of sinning, the afterlife, and redemption, for Zen Christianity (essentially trading in a belief in the otherworldly for something tangible and non-theistic). Jackson expresses how the attraction for the Triangle philosophy almost mirrors his personal religious aesthetic, as he recites the Noble Eightfold Path and how it relates to hoops:

  • Right Understanding
  • Right Thought
  • Right Speech
  • Right Action
  • Right Livelihood
  • Right Effort
  • Right Mindfulness
  • Right Concentration

Jackson goes on to further explain that “Right thought means being in the moment as much as humanly possible. Right action means playing every play, every quarter, every game to its fullest.Winning is only the secondary effect of right thinking and right action.”

Jackson embrace of the Triangle Offense came when he and Tex Winter were Bulls assistant coaches under Doug Collins. Jackson thought the Winter’s offensive scheme reminded him of his time playing for Red Holtzman (who Phil got to watch up close when he was on the bench with a back injury). When Phil was finally promoted to head coach (after Doug Collins’ dismissal), he kept Winter on as an assistant and let Winter install the offense that both credit for their coaching success. Why was it so successful? According to Phil Jackson:

  • Provides a clear purpose and direction with implicit goals.
  • Trains and educates new people, who in turn learn how they can contribute.
  • It rewards unselfish behavior which in turn renews the system.
  • Makes for easier transition through times of change.
  • Provides context within which a leader can integrate all the skills of the team.

The Bulls were able to win 6 titles despite not ever having a dominate point guard or center, and the Lakers managed to win multiple titles with a bunch of role players (some of them scrubs) filling the stat sheet with whatever Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal could not do themselves.

Some of the other highlights from this book are

  • Getting confirmation from both Charley Rosen and Phil Jackson that Rick Barry is indeed an asshole.
  • Jim Cleamons theory on why east coast bred players practice harder than west coast guys.
  • A scene with Phil, Charley, and Tex watching an instructional video by “Pistol” Pete Maravich and discussing the phenomenon of the palming violation.
  • Phil’s and Charley’s collective coaching experiences in the Puerto Rico Superior League and CBA.
  • Jim Cleamons and Quinn Buckner’s (separate) attempts to install the triple post offense as head coaches in Dallas, and the player reactions.
  • Despite Portland going 13 straight possessions without scoring, the Trailblazers lost not because they choked, but because they were gassed from coming back from a 3-1 deficit in the 1999-2000 conference finals.
  • The genesis of the triangle going all the way back to USC coach Sam Barry’s “Center Option with a reverse action” playbook.

 

Littered with hoops jargon and diagrams that illustrate the basic ways to fill a triangle; More Than a Game strikes a beautiful balance of real life experiences with  X’s and O’s. The symmetry of Jackson and Rosen’s storytelling reveals accuracy of the phrase “basketball is an expression of life.” Each experience is treated as merely another step on the path to basketball nirvana. This book is a must read for anyone who wants to go into coaching–basketball or otherwise. A+

BM

 

 profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at FullsassStudios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

A Book Review of :07 Seconds or Less

If you’ve read Sports Illustrated or stumbled across the book Unfinished Business, then you are familiar with the work of Jack McCallum. Mccallum has been a notable figure in the sports journalism circles for decades as a basketball writer for SI, and his various paperback books about both basketball and non-basketball related topics. He is currently in the basketball Hall of Fame as a writer, and for any older school Celtics fans of the Parish,Bird, and McHale era should get their hands on Unfinished Business.

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Much like Unfinished Business, McCallum follows around the ’05-06 Phoenix Suns during their entire season like he did with the 1990-91 Boston Celtics. The biggest difference is that McCallum gets an incredibly rare glimpse into NBA minutiae as an unofficial “assistant coach” of the team; sitting in on meetings and going on road trips with the other team assistants. This access pays off as McCallum gives readers an intimate (but sometimes unfair) snapshot of the pivotal and inane moments  of the Suns unexpected run to the Western Conference Finals.

Some of these moments include:

  • Boris Diaw making a name for himself in the wake of the Amare Stoudemire season ending knee injury, and become the lynch pin to seeing Head Coach Mike D’Antoni’s philosophy come to fruition. It is hard to believe today, but Boris Diaw came into the league as a 6’8 guard.
  • Raja Bell at the peak of his NBA career, and laboring to keep a spot in the NBA, he finally finds a place where he can thrive.
  • Eddie House (yes that one) and his hilarious locker room quips.
  • Pre-game, mid-game, and post game conversations among assistant coaches ranging from what adjustments need to be made from game to game, to the best places to eat in certain cities after NBA games.
  • The Suns coming back from a *cough* 3-1 series deficit against the Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.
  • The Suns-Clipper second series that turned when Mike Dunleavy Sr. decided to put a green Daniel Ewing in the game to guard (and subsequently lose) Raja Bell in the waning seconds of the 4th quarter.
  • Tim Thomas. Remember that guy?
  • The strained relationship between the Colangelos and Robert Sarver, and why the Phoenix experiment ultimately failed. I’ll give you one hint. It wasn’t because of the Colangelo family (I never realized that Joe Johnson was traded. I’d always was under the impression he left as a free agent).
  • Steve Nash yelling out the time remaining on the “Clickety” before each tip-off.
  • Dirk Nowitzki’s epic 50 point game in a pivotal game 5 of the Western Conference Finals.
  • Alvin Gentry’s humorous anecdotes about players and coaches, including the time Jerry Stackhouse beat up Kirk Snyder.
  • NBA pre-game routines of players, coaches and staff.
  • Then NBA commissioner David Stern issuing a racially coded league wide dress policy.

The book is a real Who’s Who of names from that time period, and I found myself reminiscing on how good Corey Maggette and Elton Brand were back in the day. If you ever listen to the Truehoop podcast (and I highly recommend you do so if you haven’t yet), you may hear Amin El Hassan refer to his time in Phoenix during the SSOL era, and how he went from having some of the most fun he’d ever had on a job, to hating to even come to work.

McCallum captures the sweet period of that blip in franchise’s history before it went sour and all the front office guys went on to do bigger and better things (people like Steve Kerr, David Griffin). My only criticism is that there are a few times that McCallum comes off as an out of touch, old, white guy who has trouble relating to this new generation of stars. The Phoenix staff, although welcoming, does not take it easy on him, and Jack occasionally is the butt of joke just by being there as a writer.

I also wonder if he could do it again, would McCallum leave out some of the more unflattering passages of Shawn Marion and/or Amare Stoudemire. It is these instances where I often considered if he understood the weight of the perceptions he was giving; as sometimes Marion and Stoudemire were unfairly portrayed as dumb, lazy, or selfish.

I personally felt that McCallum could have still moved the story along without including these superficial broad strokes of their characters. Both Marion and Stoudemire overcame seriously adverse circumstances to become the people they were, and McCallum failed to give readers this balanced look at their lives.

All that being said, it is a really fun read, and quite funny. It moves along with the same pace as those high-octane D’Antoni offenses, moving from one place to another with ease. If you’ve read some of Jack McCallum’s other works, it isn’t an unfair criticism to call some of his writings stale and out of touch. This book is only slightly out of touch.

I give it an A minus.

BM

 profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at FullsassStudios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

Book Review: Life Is Not An Accident

You may have heard the cautionary tale about former college hoops phenom, Jay Williams and wondered how the hell could someone throw away such a promising career by doing something as reckless as owning a motorcycle. Well if you read his memoir, Life Is Not An Accident, the book will answer every question you’ve ever had about the man.

The book begins on the day of his accident and then works backward (kind of like a movie—upon writing this, I immediately pictured Michael B. Jordan playing the role of Jay Williams). Williams had just finished his rookie campaign and had barely gotten used to NBA life before the abrupt end to his playing career. Unlike Bobby Hurley, another legendary Duke point guard who managed to salvage a couple of years playing despite his own life threatening vehicular accident (car crash), Williams never played in the league again.

The memoir then follows back towards the twists and turns that dog Williams all the way through rehab and his post NBA career, detailing the mental anguish he felt from self-directed guilt and anger. Sandwiched between the details surrounding the accident and his journey to becoming one of ESPN’s best basketball analysts, are tales of various on the court and off the court experiences by the 2002 Naismith Player of the Year.

Most notable are:

  • Scoring 9 of the 11 points in a pickup game while being guarded by J.J. Redick.
  • His recruitment as a high school player and his unrequited desire to be a UNC Tar Heel.
  • His collegiate battles against the Maryland Terrapins;including this unforgettable game.
  • Playing with Shane Battier, Chris Duhon, Carlos Boozer, and Mike Dunleavy Jr.
  • Being on the Bulls with Jalen Rose and Jamal Crawford.
  • Losing the stamina and quickness that gave him an advantage over other college studs.
  • A brief career as an agent that included an unsavory recruitment process of Kevin Love.

 

After a successful rehab stint that involved relearning how to walk, Jay Williams discusses his unsuccessful comeback attempts and his head space immediately following the wreck. Painfully honest, Williams gives an unflinching account of his addiction to pain-killers and being suicidal period.

The most pivotal moment of the book comes when Williams realizes that the self-pity and neurosis that led him to his post-injury depression may have been the same factors that led him towards that fateful bike wreck.

Williams finally gets to a point where he decides to start embracing the things still in his life, instead of mulling  over the things that he (seemingly) threw away in his costly accident. It is here where he confronts his insecurities and demons head on, and turns his life around.

Although not Pulitzer material, this memoir is well written and insightful into the pressures some players deal with the moment they realize they have an opportunity to achieve their wildest dreams. Even the most fervent of Duke haters can empathize with the on the court wins and off the court losses of one of college basketball’s most decorated players. I give this book a B+.

BM

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

A Book Review: The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History

As promised, we’re doing a review of the FreeDarko book, The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History. If you missed the review on their other project, “Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac, you can read that post here.

In 2010, this collective, self described as a movement that “crawled out of the muck of a fantasy league message board”, returned with an illustrated encyclopedia that will satisfy any and all basketball nerds.

A few fun facts that I learned from reading TUGTPBH:

  • We all know that a Canadian named Dr. James Naismith invented the game of basketball while living in Springfield, Massachusetts.What I did not know is that basketball developed from a Canadian schoolyard game called “duck on the rock.” The premise of the game was to use a ball to knock a small rock (the duck) off of a larger rock. A person would guard the “duck” and apparently the best way to get the ball past the guard was to arc it. inaismi001p1
  • Up until 1937, teams would perform a jump ball after every basket was scored. Can you imagine how slow the tempos of those early games were? People complain about the constant starts and stops inherent in American football games, and that baseball is too slow, but my guess is if they hadn’t adjusted the jump ball rule, there’d be no NBA today. You’d probably be watching a bunch of black athletes dominating on the soccer pitch.
  • Josh Smith’s mother was an R & B singer named Paulette Reaves (I’m telling you these guys are thorough), who was famous for songs like “Do It Again” and “Flesh”, and Ralph Sampson had a daughter who grew up to be neo-soul singer India Arie.

What is also cool, is learning about the fringe novelty teams that barnstormed America which helped popularize the game. In addition to the Harlem Globetrotters (akin to seeing the circus in many people’s opinion), there were the Rens, the first All Black team to win a world title in any sport.

The All-American Red Heads was a group of red headed women (some natural, some dyed) who played up 200 exhibition (six on six but with men’s rules)games during a seven month season. They started by driving around in a station wagon, but eventually moved up to limousine status. Their popularity waned by 1973, which was when the colleges were finally forced to implement sports teams for women.

In addition to learning how the NBA was created (a merger of the NBL and BAA), the book breaks down milieu of each NBA decade, starting with the early Celtics dominance, and finishing with the dynasties of the Lakers and Spurs.

This book was published six years ago–right before Lebron James made the infamous “decision” that would help him achieve full “Lebron” status. I wonder if in four years, Bethlehem Shoals and company will add an extra chapter to account for this current decade.

We haven’t seen an  NBA Finals without LBJ since the 2010 Lakers-Celtics 7 game extravaganza. Even then, FreeDarko wrote about James, that “amazing is a continuous state.” This observation hinted at what the future held in store for Lebron and the game of basketball.

The Undisputed Guide to Pro Basketball History is the kind of thing that it is to be absorbed rather than consumed. The density of the material forced me into a chapter per sitting regiment (in which I finished over the course of a month). This book isn’t for everyone. If you’re the kind of person who would rather read a book written by a Swedish guy obsessed with spies, then this isn’t the book for you–in fact what are you even doing on this site?

I’m not saying that this book is a must read, but it is a must own. Just put it on your coffee table, and within a few days your life will become infinitely better. Trust me on this one.

BM

 

Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: Boys Among Men

Don’t sleep on this guy just because he looks like Eli the Rapper’s older brother. Jonathan Abrams is one of the best NBA writers in the game right now. He asks the questions that somehow escape other writers; creating story angles that provide different player narratives than the ones most mainstream outlets whiff on. Also, did I mention that he is thorough?

Jonathan Abrams is a USC graduate (boo!) who worked at both the L.A. and New York Times. When he wrote for the now defunct Grantland, he would pop up with a feature on players like Harrison Barnes, Andre Miller, Zach Randolph, J.R. Smith, and Greg Oden, or write about random journeymen like former Jayhawk great Thomas Robinson, Paul Milsap, and other players who find a way to fly under the radar of the national media.

It was always exciting to see his columns pop up on the Grantland homepage because you were guaranteed a quality piece (not always a guarantee on that site) on a player that would make you reexamine the way you originally thought about them. Abrams even had me halfway considering not hating on Austin Rivers, a guy who was a perennial “Buster of the Week” nominee the past 2 NBA seasons. That’s how good of a writer Jonathan Abrams  is.

At least once a month I’d hit someone with the “Abrams has done it again” text after reading one of his “Oral History” columns; the most notable ones being the “Malice at the Palace” and Lakers-Kings Western Conference Finals. Word on the street is that he is currently  working on an oral history of famed television show, The Wire.

“Abrams is the rare reporter who unearths new details about the most famous prep-to-pro stars, like Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant, and tells the complex stories of those who didn’t make it in the NBA. A must read for any basketball fan.

Earlier this year, Abrams blessed the game with his book, Boys Among Men, an examination about the “Prep-to-Pro” phenomenon that started in the 70’s and hit its apex  in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.

Abrams opens this examination with a chapter that reflects on players like Bill Willoughby, Darryl Dawkins, and Moses Malone; players from the 70’s who made the jump when the NBA was operating under a different financial landscape. Rookie contracts weren’t the financial windfall that the 90’s players landed (indirectly leading to an NBA lockout in 1999) and the risk was much greater for these prep pioneers who made the jump for various reasons.

Abrams goes into great detail about the situations that each Prep-to-Pro player faced when making their decision. Whereas Kobe Bryant (who people forget was a late lottery pick who had to prove himself) came from a privileged upbringing, guys like Amare Stoudemire and Lebron James came from impoverished backgrounds.

Abrams interviews general managers and other front office heads who were behind the scenes of these historic drafts. They detail the reasons why players like Kevin Garnett, Tracy McGrady, and Kobe Bryant succeeded in contrast to players like Korleone Young, Kwame Brown, Leon Smith, and Lenny Cooke, who didn’t quite pan out. There are no what if’s in these books, because the why’s are all laid out for the reader.

One of the biggest questions that gets raised (but isn’t quite answered) is if the rules the NBA implemented to keep high school seniors from declaring for the draft are fair. For players experiencing economic hardships, these rules seem harsh–especially for those players who are equipped to handle the process as mature adults. Despite the cautionary tales of the players who should have gone to college (or overseas like Brandon Jennings), it seems to me like the rules were implemented to save the NBA owners from themselves.

After the success of Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant, the pressure to not miss again on young, but high level prospects,  was just as immense as taking a flyer on a high school player and blowing a year’s worth of draft picks. On the surface it seems like an unconstitutional rule that could be fought by the NBA players union (especially considering the league instituted a rookie cap after the first lockout in 1999).

Jonathan Abrams does extensive interviews throughout, with players’ family members, AAU coaches, friends, and agents and gives a behind the scenes look at what happens on draft day for these franchises and the young players they are taking. The book lends a better understanding of the various factors that go into a player’s successes and failures, and sometimes the only thing separating this outcome is a little bit of luck.

Sometimes it is a matter of landing on the right team and getting a support system that isn’t there for some players; whether that be coaches, other players, or “sponsors” who happen to work within the organization. While sometimes it is matter of performing in front of the right people at the right time.

If you’ve ever wondered why a guy like Tyson Chandler is still in the league as a veteran while Eddy Curry was not able to live up to his “potential” then this is the book  for you. Boys Among Men gets an A + . Hiring Jonathan Abrams was a HUGE get for The Bleacher Report .

BM

 

 

A Review of FreeDarko’s Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac

I did not realize how late  I was to the work of the FreeDarko crew until recently, when I saw a tweet lamenting the fifth anniversary of the site’s final post. My NBA hoops fandom shut down in the early 2000’s when I was convinced the game was rigged. The Kobe-Shaq era Lakers were laying waste to the rest of the NBA, and it felt like the refs were helping.

2003 was a great year for basketball. The NCAA gave us one of the best tournaments in its history, and the Spurs finally knocked off Los Angeles and gave me one of the most satisfying visuals of all time–Kobe’s tears.

2003 also gave us what is arguably the second best draft of all time. It is a draft full of really solid role players, and four of the biggest impact players of this era in Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and Carmelo Anthony. Darko Milicic was a player not in either group. Homie was a bust at the number 2 pick (ahead of Anthony, Bosh, and Wade), and Joe Dumars insistence on picking Darko was the difference between them being a pretty dominant Eastern Conference team, and a mid-aughts’ dynasty.

But not all was lost, a collective of like-minded hoops heads got together and created a forum that continues to influence the way that basketball is discussed on the internet within blogs, articles, and even twitter. There are a Who’s Who of current sports journalists spawned from this generation of writers. You may know them from ESPN (Ethan Sherwood Strauss), Grantland (Rafe Bartholomew, Chris Ryan, Brian Phillips) D Magazine (Zac Crain),  Vice (Eric Nusbaum), and even Deadspin (Will Leitch).

In a way, Bethlehem Shoals and company may have provided a blueprint for DIY thinkers, writers, and junior analysts to get their voices heard, and at the same time be taken seriously. What started as a fringe project became a phenomenon, and this book was one of the results of their work.

I discovered The Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac when I was living in Oregon. A good friend of mine had it on his bookshelf, and I pored through it for the next hour and a half of that evening. It was unlike anything I’d come across, and the illustrations by Jacob Weinstein were enough to give pause.

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The foreword is written by Gilbert Arenas; a man who lives in NBA infamy for a number of things, including the penchant  for yelling “Hibachi!” after taking shots when he suspected he was heating up. arenas-hands-up1

 

The book begins with a “FreeDarko Manifesto”, and a “Periodic Table of Style” to help readers with the descriptive icons for player ratings. There are six chapters, divided into Master Builders, Uncanny Peacocks, Lost Souls, Phenomenal Tumors, People’s Champs, Destiny’s Kids. At the end of each chapter is a special sub section that highlights different topics using charts, illustrations, and diagrams.

Published in 2008, the books reads almost as a dated reference. The majority of the featured players are long past their peak. Players like Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, Ron Artest (Metta World Peace) Rasheed Wallace, Tim Duncan, Kobe Bryant, and Tim Duncan have retired, while players like Lebron James, Chris Paul, and Amare Stoudemire are seasoned veterans.

It is extremely interesting to read and examine the ratings, and bios of these players, and analyze where their career went afterwards. I often wondered if the FD boys would want a Mulligan on any predictions that may have seemed reasonable back then (in particularly Josh Smith and Gerald Wallace).

The smart and witty design provides a primer for some of the heady and lofty ideas spouted in the text. This period of basketball rides the first wave of the analytics movement, ushering in new ways to consider talking about and watching the game. Funny, at times sober, and always thought-provoking, the Macrophenomenal Pro Basketball Almanac is a must own for lovers of NBA basketball.

BM

“Shoot baskets, not people.”

#bucketsnotbullets #fullsass #thisagoodassgame

thisagoodassgame@gmail.com

Crazy Basketball : A Book Review

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I first discovered Charley Rosen in the summer of 2004, when I went from being a mild basketball fan, to developing a full-blown love for the sport. Growing up, I gravitated towards baseball and football because both sports were relatively easy to pick up. The basketball players at  school were from a different physical mold altogether.

I always loved playing in P.E. and in friend’s driveways, but it wasn’t until I was about 21 that I started playing pickup ball on the regular. This was when I got my first inkling of the many nuances to playing hoops. I only knew to dribble ball, shoot the ball, and sometimes (if I wasn’t double teamed) pass the ball. The concept of rolling towards the basket after a screen was foreign. I thought rebounding was about outjumping the other people in the paint (What? Me? boxout? Why?).

I had found a summer job, at my university, working as a clerk in the biology stockroom. When I wasn’t running errands across campus, I was on ESPN’s Page 2 (think Grantland but without all the cursing) and FoxSports.com. FoxSports was more football heavy, but they had some decent basketball writers on their roster. Mark Kriegel (wrote a biography on Pistol Pete Maravich), and Jeff Goodman usually had something interesting to say, but Charley Rosen’s articles always had a nugget of basketball insight that I could think about on the court during those late night runs at the school recreation center.

For example, it had never occurred to me that at best, a non superstar player would get to touch the ball 20 percent of the time, and that the other 80 percent of the time spent on the court is how a player should be judged. From that point on, I started to pay attention to watching off the ball activity just as much as the ballhandler.

It was through Rosen’s column that I discovered that he’d help Phil Jackson write  More Than a Game, and Maverick. I spent the summer reading those books in an attempt to absorb anything I could to help me understand the game better. All of this happened to coincide with the 2004 Pistons-Lakers NBA Finals, and it was fascinating to take what I was reading and apply it to what I was seeing on television.

Charley Rosen was also the first person I’d ever seen write in print that Kevin Love was overrated. This was around 2010-2011, and he said something to the effect of “look at that roster (in Minnesota) someone has to get those points and rebounds.” Keep in mind that he’d also once said Lebron James would be an average NBA player at best.

There was also one column that Rosen had written about a trip he’d taken to Amsterdam with his wife and another couple, where he and his friend ditched their wives on the way to the Van Gogh museum to play pickup ball at a park. That’s the kind of madness I can  get down with (I personally enjoyed the Pablo Picasso “Blue Years Series” exhibit more than the Van Gogh stuff on my visit there. He probably didn’t miss much).

You may have also heard about the famous “Phil Files” he wrote for ESPN a year ago, after Phil Jackson’s first year as Knicks Team President. I still have yet to read all the installments, but its been highly discussed (at times ridiculed) on various blog and media sites.

His book, Crazy Basketball resonates with me because Rosen wasn’t the most skilled individual to play the game. His best offer for a scholarship was at Hunter College in New York City. He was a 6’9 bruising big man whose game was predicated on strength and will. He played in the Eastern Basketball League before taking on various jobs as a free-lance writer, college professor, summer camp counselor,  and basketball coach.

He was a free-lance basketball writer living in New York City, when he met Phil Jackson–then a player for the Knicks, and they became good friends (both really big fans of Grateful Dead apparently). The joint collaboration on Maverick cemented their friendship, and during Jackson’s coaching days in the now defunct Continental Basketball Association, Rosen served as his assistant, on the Albany Patroons. When Phil took an assistant coaching job in Chicago, Rosen went on to serve as a head coach in Rockford, Illinois, Savannah, Georgia, and Oklahoma City.

There are some great stories culled from these experiences, as the CBA had a roll call of NBA names who stopped through on their way to the league. It is easy to forget that it hasn’t even been 10 years since the CBA went belly up. Rosen brings the league back to life with his anecdotes of players like John Starks (Rosen says he wasn’t shocked when Starks choked in game 6 of the ’94 Finals), Steve Javie, and Dick Bavetta (something tells me Rosen doesn’t have him on his  Hanukkah list).

Things were not always easy for Rosen (the salaries he made as a head coach seem laughable at best compared to what NBA coaches get), he battled health problems, anger issues, and endured 3 divorces to still make the life he wanted to create. I find Crazy Basketball such an inspiring read because Rosen admittedly wasn’t the best player, and wasn’t the best X’s and O’s coach, but his passion for the game is contagious. Charley Rosen proves that you don’t have to be a genius coach, or an elite level athlete to find a way to honor the game and become an ambassador for the sport.

Phil Jackson credits Rosen for coining the phrase, “Basketball isn’t just a metaphor for life–it’s more important that!” and writes a very eloquent foreword that illustrates the deep bond between the two men. For anyone interested in more than the flashier aspects of today’s NBA–the dunks, memes, and highlight reels, then I recommend that you at least skim through it–even it is just for the Dick Bavetta anecdotes.

BM