Make It, Take It


An inventive novel, Make It, Take It sneaks the reader past the press conferences, locker rooms, and huddles of college basketball. Without judgment or sentimentality, Rus Bradburd lays bare the web of conflicts between players and coaches, blacks and whites, revealing the complex humanity of a team’s inner circle. Here, every choice has a very real cost.

Steve Pytel is an assistant coach and top recruiter for a university basketball program. His goals are simple. He wants to ...

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Make It, Take It

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An inventive novel, Make It, Take It sneaks the reader past the press conferences, locker rooms, and huddles of college basketball. Without judgment or sentimentality, Rus Bradburd lays bare the web of conflicts between players and coaches, blacks and whites, revealing the complex humanity of a team’s inner circle. Here, every choice has a very real cost.

Steve Pytel is an assistant coach and top recruiter for a university basketball program. His goals are simple. He wants to keep his job and be a head coach someday. Keeping his wife barely makes the list. The team staggers; everyone’s days are numbered. Pytel was responsible for landing prized recruits Leonard Redmond and Jamal Davis. Pytel’s duties now? Keep Leonard out of jail. Make sure Jamal ignores the advice of his preacher, sidesteps his girlfriend’s pregnancy, and puts the ball in the basket. Good thing Pytel doesn’t carry around a bagful of scruples.

Rus Bradburd is the author of the controversial Forty Minutes of Hell: The Extraordinary Life of Nolan Richardson (HarperCollins/Amistad) and a memoir, Paddy on the Hardwood: A Journey in Irish Hoops (University of New Mexico Press). He spent fourteen years as a college basketball coach, working for legends Don Haskins and Lou Henson. A regular contributor to SLAM Magazine, his essays have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Houston Chronicle, and Chicago’s SouthtownStar. He is married to poet Connie Voisine. They live in New Mexico and Chicago, Illinois.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Jack 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.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
From the Publisher

"Ex-coach Rus Bradburd crafts a spare and intriguing story that illuminates the complex machinations required to stay afloat in the unforgiving world of this high-stakes "amateur" sport. Ironic, acerbic and often distressing, Make It, Take It is fiction, but it feels more authentic than any ESPN documentary … With an ear for the music of leather on hardwood, Bradburd is a fan, no question — but Make It, Take It is both a crisply sardonic tale of frustration and a blistering indictment of the sickness inherent in the business of college basketball." — Shelf Awareness, starred review

"[A]n appealing novel … it’s engaging and imaginative, and includes one of the most unforgettable characters in (the admittedly lean genre of) basketball literature." — Bloomberg News

"Make It, Take It reveals the truth — not just of college basketball, but the inner lives of men — with its wise, sharp, surgical dissection of a backwater program. It's a fearsomely tough book, reminiscent of Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio — all these people with oddities galore in a sealed-off world they're sure is perfectly normal. You can watch thousands of hours of ESPN and still be waiting for real insight into the how and why of hoops. Do yourself a favor. Read this instead." — S.L. Price, senior writer, Sports Illustrated, and author of Heart of the Game and Pitching Around Fidel.

"Make It, Take It Blissfully light on the dramatic-finish game details that so often derail sports novels. Set against a backdrop of college basketball, it is a compelling story of people and the ways in which they can rise and sink to various levels." — Chicago Tribune

"[A] cool new piece of fiction … fun." Seth Davis, Sports Illustrated

"If compelling fiction is about finding ordinary characters in extraordinary situations, then Bradburd has given us just that. The stakes are high from page one, and the change in pace throughout this novel-in-stories makes each extraordinary situation an easy one to digest." — Bookslut

"The literary equivalent of a basket at the buzzer — a real nail-biter … Bradburd's vision is…refreshing. [His] confident, savvy debut is more in the vein of North Dallas Forty, a letter from the locker room with no contrived winners or losers. The clear victor here is the reader. — San Antonio Express-News

"Coach Pytel's pivots to keep his job, his marriage, and his troubled players afloat are so much fun to watch that you may not even notice Bradburd’s hard-won wisdom until it socks you. For all the hilarity in these pages, Make It, Take It is a soul-wrenching indictment of how the game behind the game is played." — Alex Shakar, author of Luminarium, winner of the 2011 Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction

"Rus Bradburd has given us an original novel about college basketball that is compelling, unsettling, yet downright funny and sad at the same time. Make It, Take It is even better than his incisive non-fiction — and, frankly, that’s just not fair." — Dave Zirin, contributor to Nation Magazine and author of Game Over: How Politics are Turning the Sportsworld Upside Down

"Rus Bradburd, like other tough visionaries, has selected a universe unique unto itself — college basketball. In it, he reveals quintessential American issues: race, power, corruption, and, sometimes, excellence. Make It, Take It casts light and shadow on both the coaches and the players. It also quietly invites the reader to consider the ways in which basketball reflects a country's virtues as well as its lamentable flaws. This is a very savvy book." — Antonya Nelson, author of Nothing Right and Bound, A Novel

"Rus Bradburd's compelling novel confirms just about all my worst fears concerning a sport that is very near and dear to my heart. College basketball is a messy business. I would be afraid to ask him how much of Make It, Take It is made up." — Bob Ryan, commentator for The Boston Globe and ESPN

"One of our favorite writers." — Slam Magazine

"Here's a superbly accurate "fiction" novel that details the lengths to which coaches, student-athletes and those around them will go to advance, survive and/or bury themselves." — College Athletics Clips

"The themes here are compelling." — Bill Littlefield, The Boston Globe

"An intriguing novel. It’s not a true story, but there’s so much that is real about Make It Take It." —

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781935955436
  • Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press
  • Publication date: 1/8/2013
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 1,314,804
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Rus Bradburd is an assistant professor at New Mexico State. He walked away from the glamorous world of college basketball after coaching fourteen seasons at UTEP and New Mexico State.
His book about Nolan Richardson, race and college sports—Forty Minutes of Hell—was published in 2010 by HarperCollins' Amistad Books. ESPN's film version of Richardson's life, based on Bradburd's book, came out in early February, 2012.
Bradburd traveled to Ireland in 2002 to coach in the laughable Irish Super League. While leading his beloved Tralee Tigers into dead-last place, he gleaned wisdom from his reclusive Irish fiddle teacher. His book about that time, his first, was called Paddy on the Hardwood: a Journey in Irish Hoops (University of New Mexico Press, September 2006).
His free summer program in El Paso's poorest neighborhood &mdash Basketball in the Barrio &mdash has been featured nationally on NPR's Weekend Edition, was the subject of an award-winning feature film, and comprises a chapter of David Zirin book Welcome to the Terrordome: the Pain, Politics, and Promise of Sport.
His short stories have appeared in Southern Review (special mention for a Pushcart Prize), Colorado Review, Puerto del Sol and Aelthon. His essays have appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago’s Daily Southtown and Houston Chronicle.
Rus married to the award-winning poet, Connie Voisine. He lives in Chicago and New Mexico.

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