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Bedtime Reading: Miracle of St. Anthony

This site is not an advertising platform, and I am no advertiser, nor will I ever be one.  Especially not in this space, where it is a privilege to have the opportunity to write.  So please, please, please, take these next few sentences for what they are: the happy review of a someone who appears to be part of a dying breed, those who still enjoy reading.  But if you are willing to reach so far as to read me, I would have to imagine that you really like to read in general as well.

What all that means is that you certainly deserve to take the time when you can to read someone far better: Adrian Wojnarowski, specifically his book The Miracle of St. Anthony.  Just an unbelievable read for basketball fans everywhere.

Following in the footsteps of John Feinstein (the master of the single-season insider account story), Wojnarowski spent a year with the St. Anthony Friars in Jersey City, New Jersey and turned the 2003-04 championship season at St. Anthony into a masterpiece of a story.  More than anything I have read as of late, Wojnarowski brings the players and coaches on this team (as well as many of the other figures in their lives) into clear, three-dimensional form.  The stories of underprivileged kids fighting the pressures of life in Jersey City on a day to day basis are eye-opening.  The tale of Sean McCurdy, the suburban outsider, is a well-articulated warning about what the worlds of high school and college basketball have turned into when they collided with money and the media.

Wojnarowski gets it all: the practices, the games, the classrooms, the homes and everywhere in between.  He understands that his subjects are human, and he paints them exactly as such.  There are no unequivocal heroes.  Just a wide array of personalities trying to find their own niche in this strange hoops world.

And there is, of course, the star himself.

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What Bob Knight is to A Season On the Brink, St. Anthony's Coach Bob Hurley is to The Miracle of St. Anthony.  The quintessential old-school coach, Hurley wears the hats of world-class basketball coach, disciplinarian, parole officer, guidance counselor, college advisor and devoted family man throughout the story, sometimes nearly all at once.  His commentary is priceless.  His coaching -- particularly in 2003-04 -- is impeccable.  His understanding of what it means to truly 'get it' is unquestioned.

I can't come close to doing Wojnarowski's work justice in this space, but that is my best shot.  The man had a front-row seat to a tumultuously exciting story of basketball in what is perhaps its purest form, and his writing transfers that closeness straight to his readers.  Just incredible.  And definitely worth taking the time to read.

Even if that time comes out of reading this column.  Really, it's well beyond being that good. 

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