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Publishers WeeklyJack Hood, the power-drunk new coach of the men's basketball team at fictional Southern Arizona State University, tests the ethics of assistant coach Steve Pytel in this overly rangy debut novel. Bradburd(Forty Minutes of Hell) neglects his protagonists' combustible relationship as he wanders into other coaches' strolls down memory lane. While chapter-long sequences often introduce, solve, and shelve away their own conflict, they mix poorly within ongoing tensions. Will Pytel ever earn his bread as head coach? Will he and his wife cement their faltering bond with a baby? Will Jack Hood drive the basketball program into the ground? Bradburd too often plops down key developments (Pytel's wife flies to meet him as she's ovulating, for instance) in the same expository chunks by which he introduces characters who are too sharp-speaking and funny-consider one player's political refusal to bathe-for such bland beginnings. At its best, the book centers on basketball: Leonard "Deadman" Redman's springs-for-legs, "Church Boy" Jamal's grace. Were the sport itself granted more play, a fledgling theme may have matured, but amid image concerns, the father-figures of college ball tend to misplace their love of the game. Though fun to read in spots, the novel's components expose lackluster team chemistry.
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