- Crazy Basketball, A Life In and Out of Bounds
In this version of a memoir, Charley Rosen, who has written more than a dozen books, both fiction and non-fiction, on basketball, tries to explain his “basketball jones.” Rosen has had an interesting run of more than fifty years in various aspects of basketball—playing, coaching and some aspects of administration. He shares much of this, especially those years in the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) (and its forerunner the Eastern League) from about 1962 to his last job in the CBA, which ended with his firing as coach of the Albany Patroons in the spring of 1992. In between, he was an assistant coach for Phil Jackson during his Albany term in the CBA, held coaching positions in Savannah, Detroit, Oklahoma City and, for the longest period of three years, Rockford. He also wrote for various sports publications, wrote and published books, and went through three marriages. Of the latter, little is mentioned other than when he lived in Woodstock, New York, near Phil Jackson. Even less is told of his children, other than when he coached the women’s team at an unnamed Division III college, where his daughter was on the squad. That lasted a year.
The bulk of the book is spent on the CBA years, and these chapters are the most tedious. One chapter (eight) is just journal entries, which should have been edited or excised by a judicious editor. The other chapters on the CBA read better, but they do not hold the reader’s interest much more than the journaling. Characters (there are many) come and go, and one does not really care much about any of them.
On the other hand, the early and later chapters are much more interesting, insightful and, at times, even poignant. Rosen’s upbringing in the 1940s in the West Bronx is interesting and very self-effacing. His college years at Hunter College, which had just begun admitting men, saw Rosen set scoring and rebounding records at the school. Rosen can be a good writer, but much of this book is rather lazy in its presentation. Rosen recounts with various levels of enthusiasm, but his love for basketball and its intricacies and philosophical “truths” is never in doubt. At the end of the book and late in life (he is now seventy), [End Page 363] Rosen discovers Buddhism and alters his perspective on life. That coincides with his alliance with doing basketball workshops at the Omega Institute in upstate New York each summer since 1985, first assisting Phil Jackson, then taking over as director and having former National Basketball Association player and coach, Scott Wedman, as his partner in the enterprise. These used to run a week, but now appear to be just three-day sessions, which focus on teamwork, balance, and adoration of the game.
That last clause summarizes what Rosen espouses throughout his book, i.e. adoration of the game. After his history of rough, thug-like play at times, his baiting of referees and his fights with coaches and fans, Rosen has channeled his will to win at basketball into a calm reverence. Though this book drags quite often, it provides an insight into what being a real basketball junkie looks like.