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My Losing Season

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Pat Conroy, one of America’s premier novelists, has penned a deeply affecting coming-of-age memoir about family, love, loss, basketball—and life itself. During one unforgettable season as a Citadel cadet, Conroy becomes part of a basketball team that is ultimately destined to fail. And yet for a military kid who grew up on the move, the Bulldogs provide a sanctuary from the cold, abrasive father who dominates his ...

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Overview

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

Pat Conroy, one of America’s premier novelists, has penned a deeply affecting coming-of-age memoir about family, love, loss, basketball—and life itself. During one unforgettable season as a Citadel cadet, Conroy becomes part of a basketball team that is ultimately destined to fail. And yet for a military kid who grew up on the move, the Bulldogs provide a sanctuary from the cold, abrasive father who dominates his life—and a crucible for becoming his own man.

With all the drama and incandescence of his bestselling fiction, Conroy re-creates his pivotal senior year as captain of the Citadel Bulldogs. He chronicles the highs and lows of that fateful 1966–67 season, his tough disciplinarian coach, the joys of winning, and the hard-won lessons of losing. Most of all, he recounts how a group of boys came together as a team, playing a sport that would become a metaphor for a man whose spirit could never be defeated.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Pat Conroy's entire body of published work is rooted in the circumstances of his own life: his southern heritage, his military school background, his adversarial relationship with the brutal, domineering father he would eventually immortalize in The Great Santini. Conroy's latest, the autobiographical My Losing Season, once again revisits these familiar subjects, integrating them into a painstaking account of the author's passionate, ongoing love affair with the game of basketball.

Conroy discovered basketball in Orlando, Florida, at the age of 10, and it changed his life. The sport provided him with a refuge, a place to escape the continuing storms of life in the Conroy household. From that initial encounter until his graduation from college, 12 years later, Conroy devoted the best of himself to his chosen game, which provided "the single outlet for a repressed and preternaturally shy boy to express himself in public." My Losing Season charts the complete arc of Conroy's athletic history, focusing on his years at the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, and in particular on his senior season of 1966–67, when his demoralized team -- the Citadel Bulldogs -- lost 17 games out of 25. The narrative is dominated by a series of vivid, play-by-play accounts of the high and low points of an alternately inspiring and dispiriting season.

Bringing a novelist's eye and a sportsman's expertise to bear on some highly charged memories, Conroy illuminates his losing season with humor, passion, and hard-won wisdom. Highlights -- and there are many -- include a viscerally exciting re-creation of the longest game in college history, with the Citadel defeating rival military school VMI in quadruple overtime. Conroy supplements this material with empathetic portraits of his beleaguered teammates, his hard, unyielding head coach, Mel Thompson, and a host of ancillary characters. Chief among these is the Great Santini himself, Colonel Don Conroy, whose withering assessments and reflexive violence set the tone for Conroy's adolescence.

By placing all this in the larger context of life at the Citadel during the turbulent 1960s, Conroy has created a unique, compelling reminiscence that is also a useful companion piece to his 1980 novel, The Lords of Discipline. Though its power is sometimes undercut by bursts of melodramatic purple prose (an inevitable aspect of any Pat Conroy book), My Losing Season is powered, for the most part, by its conviction, its emotional urgency, and its raw narrative energy. By forcing his way back to the sometimes painful center of that seminal season, Conroy has produced a cumulatively affecting meditation on time, memory, comradeship, and the enduring lessons of loss. In the process, he has provided a credible -- and indispensable -- portrait of his own evolution as a writer and as a man. My Losing Season is one of Conroy's finest creations to date. Don't let this one pass you by. Bill Sheehan

From the Publisher

“A superb accomplishment, maybe the finest book Pat Conroy has written.”—The Washington Post Book World

“A wonderfully rich memoir that you don’t have to be a sports fan to love.”—Houston Chronicle

“A memoir with all the Conroy trademarks . . . Here’s ample proof that losers always tell the best stories.”—Newsweek

“In My Losing Season, Conroy opens his arms wide to embrace his difficult past and almost everyone in it.”—New York Daily News
 
“Haunting, bittersweet and as compelling as his bestselling fiction.”—Boston Herald

Don McLeese
The popular novelist of such books as The Prince of Tides and Beach Music establishes himself as the Homer of sweat socks in this memoir of a collegiate basketball season. For the rest of Conroy's teammates, The Citadel's 8–17 record in 1966–1967 made it a season best forgotten, but the author remembers it as an odyssey of hardwood heroics, Olympian fortitude and larger-than-life adversaries, with the occasional temptations of a coed siren. Despite flashes of insight into the sport he loves (along with clues to the autobiographical underpinnings of his fiction), the bulk of Conroy's self-important prose can be as difficult to penetrate as a zone defense. "I wore the memories of that season like stigmata or a crown of thorns," intones the author, after earlier admitting that "the games are fading on me now where once they imprinted themselves, bright as decals, on the whitewashed fences of memory." If only Conroy had taken seriously the question posed by a newspaper editor who responded to a thirteen-page letter Conroy sent him during his senior year: "Have you ever thought about writing with economy and restraint?"
From The Critics
The popular novelist of such books as The Prince of Tides and Beach Music establishes himself as the Homer of sweat socks in this memoir of a collegiate basketball season. For the rest of Conroy's teammates, The Citadel's 8–17 record in 1966–1967 made it a season best forgotten, but the author remembers it as an odyssey of hardwood heroics, Olympian fortitude and larger-than-life adversaries, with the occasional temptations of a coed siren. Despite flashes of insight into the sport he loves (along with clues to the autobiographical underpinnings of his fiction), the bulk of Conroy's self-important prose can be as difficult to penetrate as a zone defense. "I wore the memories of that season like stigmata or a crown of thorns," intones the author, after earlier admitting that "the games are fading on me now where once they imprinted themselves, bright as decals, on the whitewashed fences of memory." If only Conroy had taken seriously the question posed by a newspaper editor who responded to a thirteen-page letter Conroy sent him during his senior year: "Have you ever thought about writing with economy and restraint?" Author—Don McLeese
Publishers Weekly
H"Loss is a fiercer, more uncompromising teacher, coldhearted but clear-eyed in its understanding that life is more dilemma than game, and more trial than free pass," writes bestselling author Conroy in his first work of nonfiction since The Water Is Wide (1972). Conroy is beloved for big, passionate, compulsively readable novels propelled by the emotional jet fuel of an abusive childhood. The Lords of Discipline, The Great Santini, The Prince of Tides and Beach Music are each informed by a knowledge of pain and heartache taught to him by a Marine pilot father whose nickname was "the Great Santini." Here, in a re-creation of the losing basketball season Conroy and his team endured during his senior year at the Citadel, 1966- 1967, Conroy gives readers an intimate look at how suffering can be transformed to become a source of strength and inspiration. "I was born to be a point guard, but not a very good one," he admits. Drawing on extensive interviews with his teammates, he chronicles, game by game, their talent and his sheer determination and grit. In Conroy's hands, sports writing becomes a vehicle to describe the love and devotion that can develop between young men. Toward the end of this moving work, Conroy explains that writing books became "the form that praying takes in me." But readers will see how basketball can also be a way of reaching for something finer than a winning score. What emerges is a portrait of a young man who isn't a soldier but a knight with a great and chivalrous heart. Anyone who was a son or knows a son will be touched by this book. (Oct. 15) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
When one loses, one learns, says Conroy (The Great Santini, The Prince of Tides, Beach Music) in his first work of nonfiction since The Water Is Wide. A wonderfully rich, informative, and well-researched reminiscence of, primarily, his senior year as a point guard at the Citadel during the 1966-67 season, this book is a gem. Written with humility and sincerity, the volume will please former teammates in any sport, not just basketball. Despite frustrations dealing with a coach whose aberrant behavior borders on masochistic and an institution whose social customs mirror his father's brutality, Conroy excels as team captain and burgeoning writer, giving credit to his teammates and professors as they lift his playing ability and encourage him to write. In the end, the author/player perseveres, at times fantastically. Highly recommended for all libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/1/02.]-James Thorsen, Central North Carolina Regional Lib. Syst., Burlington Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The author of overlong novels (Beach Music, 1995, etc.) returns with an overlong memoir of his last season (1966-67) as an overachieving point guard for the Citadel's mediocre basketball team (8-17). Conroy can be entertaining and endearingly self-effacing. In this autobiography of a roundballer, he reminds us from the first sentence to the last that he was among the least talented players on his or any other team. Still, he was all-state in high school and won the Citadel's MVP award with his (self-described) hustle, intelligence, and passion for the game. Here he gives us dribble-by-dribble accounts of some significant basketball moments from elementary school through his final college game, and he interviews his former coach and teammates, several of whom came to see him when he was on tour promoting Beach Music. Some of their stories are affecting, none more so than that of Al Kroboth, a POW during the Vietnam War. Looming large are coach Mel Thompson, whose bullying tactics, Conroy alleges, ruined the careers of some of the players, and-no surprise-the author's late father, a softened version of whom was the Marine meanie in The Great Santini. Don Conroy appears here as the quintessential crude abuser who slugs and slaps his son in the face, demeans his talents, calls him a "pussy," but somehow experiences an epiphany after reading Santini and becomes a Nice Guy ("the great miracle of my adult life," avows his son) whose bruised children grieve at his passing. Conroy is not an especially gifted writer, nor always even a careful one. He tells us that his college English professor taught him to avoid dangling participles and verb-subject agreement errors, but he makes both mistakeshere and for good measure throws in a pronoun-case error and a lockerful of sports clichés, mixed metaphors, and sexist language (all women are "pretty" or not). Still, this compensates for its frail artistry with hustle, intelligence, and passion for the game.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553381900
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/26/2003
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 432
  • Sales rank: 98,056
  • Lexile: 1100L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.17 (w) x 8.27 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Meet the Author

Pat Conroy is the bestselling author of The Water is Wide, The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline, The Prince of Tides, and Beach Music. He lives in Fripp Island, South Carolina.

Biography

Pat Conroy was born on October 26, 1945, in Atlanta, Georgia, to a young career military officer from Chicago and a Southern beauty from Alabama, whom Pat often credits for his love of language. He was the first of seven children.

His father was a violent and abusive man, a man whose biggest mistake, Conroy once said, was allowing a novelist to grow up in his home, a novelist "who remembered every single violent act... my father's violence is the central fact of my art and my life." Since the family had to move many times to different military bases around the South, Pat changed schools frequently, finally attending the Citadel Military Academy in Charleston, South Carolina, upon his father's insistence. While still a student, he wrote and then published his first book, The Boo, a tribute to a beloved teacher.

After graduation, Conroy taught English in Beaufort, where he met and married a young woman with two children, a widow of the Vietnam War. He then accepted a job teaching underprivileged children in a one-room schoolhouse on Daufuskie Island, a remote island off the South Carolina shore. After a year, Pat was fired for his unconventional teaching practices -- such as his unwillingness to allow corporal punishment of his students -- and for his general lack of respect for the school's administration. Conroy evened the score when he exposed the racism and appalling conditions his students endured with the publication of The Water is Wide in 1972. The book won Conroy a humanitarian award from the National Education Association and was made into the feature film Conrack, starring Jon Voight.

Following the birth of a daughter, the Conroys moved to Atlanta, where Pat wrote his novel, The Great Santini, published in 1976. This autobiographical work, later made into a powerful film starring Robert Duvall, explored the conflicts of his childhood, particularly his confusion over his love and loyalty to an abusive and often dangerous father.

The publication of a book that so painfully exposed his family's secret brought Conroy to a period of tremendous personal desolation. This crisis resulted not only in his divorce but the divorce of his parents; his mother presented a copy of The Great Santini to the judge as "evidence" in divorce proceedings against his father.

The Citadel became the subject of his next novel, The Lords of Discipline, published in 1980. The novel exposed the school's harsh military discipline, racism and sexism. This book, too, was made into a feature film.

Pat remarried and moved from Atlanta to Rome where he began The Prince of Tides which, when published in 1986, became his most successful book. Reviewers immediately acknowledged Conroy as a master storyteller and a poetic and gifted prose stylist. This novel has become one of the most beloved novels of modern time—with over five million copies in print, it has earned Conroy an international reputation. The Prince of Tides was made into a highly successful feature film directed by Barbra Streisand, who also starred in the film opposite Nick Nolte, whose brilliant performance won him an Oscar nomination.

Beach Music (1995), Conroy's sixth book, was the story of Jack McCall, an American who moves to Rome to escape the trauma and painful memory of his young wife's suicidal leap off a bridge in South Carolina. The story took place in South Carolina and Rome, and also reached back in time to the Holocaust and the Vietnam War. This book, too, was a tremendous international bestseller.

While on tour for Beach Music, members of Conroy's Citadel basketball team began appearing, one by one, at his book signings around the country. When his then-wife served him divorce papers while he was still on the road, Conroy realized that his team members had come back into his life just when he needed them most. And so he began reconstructing his senior year, his last year as an athlete, and the 21 basketball games that changed his life. The result of these recollections, along with flashbacks of his childhood and insights into his early aspirations as a writer, is My Losing Season, Conroy's seventh book and his first work of nonfiction since The Water is Wide.

He currently lives in Fripp Island, South Carolina with his wife, the novelist Cassandra King.

Author biography courtesy of Pat Conroy's official web site.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Donald Patrick Conroy (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      San Francisco and South Carolina
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 26, 1945
    2. Place of Birth:
      Atlanta, Georgia
    1. Education:
      B.A.,The Citadel, 1967

Read an Excerpt

chapter 1

Before First Practice

It was on the morning of October 15, 1966, that the final sea-son officially began. For a month and a half, my teammates and I had gathered in the field house to lift weights, do isometric exercises, and scrimmage with each other. Right off, I could tell our sophomores were special and were going to make our team faster, scrappier, and better than the year before. In the heat of September, there was a swiftness and feistiness to the flow of these pickup games that was missing in last year's club. My optimism about the coming season lifted perceptibly as I observed my team beat up on each other in the vagrancy of our uncoached and unmonitored scrimmages.

I could feel the adrenaline rush of excitement begin as I donned my cadet uniform in the dark, and it stayed with me as I marched to mess with R Company. I could barely concentrate on the professors' voices in my classes in Coward Hall as I faced the reality of the new season and stared at the clock with impatience. It was my fourth year at The Citadel and the fourth time October 15 had marked the beginning of basketball practice. Mel Thompson was famous for working his team hard on the first day and traditionally ran us so much that the first practice was topped off by one of us vomiting on the hardwood floor.

I made my way to the locker room early that afternoon because I wanted some time to myself to shoot around and think about what I wanted to accomplish this season. Four of my teammates were already dressed when I entered the dressing room door. The room carried the acrid fragrance of the past three seasons for me, an elixir of pure maleness with the stale smell of sweat predominant yet blended with the sharp, stinging unguents we spread on sore knees and shoulders, Right Guard deodorant spray, vats of foot powder to ward off athlete's foot, and deodorant cakes in the urinals. It was the powerful eau de cologne of the locker room. I realized that my life as a college athlete was coming to its inevitable end, but I did not know that you had to leave the fabulous odors of youth behind when you hurried out into open fields to begin life as an adult.

As I entered the room, I waved to Al Beiner, the equipment manager. He and his assistant Joe "Rat" Eubanks were making sure that the basketballs were all inflated properly. Carl Peterson, another assistant, had just returned with a cartful of freshly laundered towels, still warm to the touch.

"The Big Day," Al said. He was reserved and serious and considered the players juvenile and frivolous. Al's presence was priestlike, efficient.

"Senior year," Rat said. "It all comes together for the big guy this year, right, Pat?"

Joe Eubanks was the only man on campus who called me "the big guy." Five feet five inches tall, he was built with the frail bones of a tree sparrow. His size humiliated him but his solicitousness to the players made him beloved in the locker room. Joe hero-worshiped the players, a rarity at The Citadel. His wide-eyed appreciation of me reminded me of the looks my younger brothers gave me. My brothers thought I was the best basketball player in the world, and I did nothing to discourage this flagrant misconception.

When I began undressing, Carl brought over a clean practice uniform and a white box containing a pair of size 91Ú2 Converse All Star basketball shoes. Carl wore gold stars for his brilliant academic work and moved quietly among the players, silent as a periwinkle.

As I sat down to open the new box of shoes, Joe Eubanks slipped up behind me and began massaging my neck.

"Still hurt, Pat?" Joe asked. "It's been two years now." My neck had been sore since Dick Martini knocked me unconscious in a practice game.

Behind me Carl rumbled by with another load for the laundry room. Stepping out of the equipment office, Al warned us not to take our shoes out unless we signed for them. Joe brought a box of tape to Coach Billy Bostick, the mustachioed seventy-year-old trainer who taped Doug Bridges's ankles as Danny Mohr waited his turn.

Jim Halpin sat to my right, struggling to put on the grotesque knee brace which supported his ruined leg.

"Still happy about your choice of colleges, Jim?" I asked.

"This fucking place sucks," Jimmy answered as I knew he would. For four years, all conversation between Jim and me began with this withering mantra.

"Tell me what you really think, Jimmy, don't hold back," I said.

"Conroy, Halpin says the same damn thing every day, year after year," Danny said, sitting at the last locker, both his ankles taped.

"Thanks for pointing that out, Root," Bob Cauthen said.

"Fuck you, Zipper," Danny said, not even looking at Bob. Danny we called "Root" because he was not much of a leaper for a big man and stayed "rooted" on the ground beneath the basket. Bob was called "Zipper" by Danny because he was long and skinny. He was given that name by a heckler from Georgia Southern, and it stuck.

"Don't you love the fellowship on this team?" I said. "Can't you feel the brotherhood? The coming together of a group of guys who can never be broken or defeated?"

"Conroy," said John DeBrosse, unbuttoning his uniform shirt as he approached his locker. "Speak so us poor peasants can understand you. I got to carry a dictionary around to understand what your sorry ass is saying."

"Thank you, Lord, for directing my path toward The Citadel," I said. "I love this place, Lord. I truly love this place. I've found myself a home."

"This fucking place sucks," Jimmy muttered to himself.

"You're onto something, Halpin," Dave "Barney" Bornhorst, a wide-bodied forward from Ohio, said. "Keep working on the details."

Danny said, "I had scholarships to Davidson, NC State, Wake Forest. Do I go to any of those great places? Oh, no. I come to El Cid so I can spend my life with Muleface."

I looked to the door, watching for the sudden appearance of our coach. "Be careful, Danny."

Joe Eubanks came through the locker room. "Twenty minutes to get dressed and on the floor."

"Eat me, Rat," Bob said.

"Don't irritate me, Cauthen," Joe said, putting his tiny fist against Bob's chin.

"Make me laugh, Rat," Bob said.

"Leave Rat alone, Zipper," Danny called down from his locker.

Bob stuck up a middle finger at Danny and said, "Eat a big hairy one, Root."

"What a team," Jimmy Halpin said, shaking his head sadly. "This fucking place sucks."

The new assistant coach, Ed Thompson, came into the locker room and walked down the straight line of lockers, squeezing our shoulders or slapping our butts, whispering words of encouragement. A sweet-faced, soft-spoken man, he looked like an aging Boy Scout as he imparted his own enthusiasm about the beginning of the new season.

"Let's get ready to go, boys. Let's win it all this year. This is the year for us. Can you feel it, boys? Tell me now. Let's get on out there."

After he spoke to each of us, he retreated from the locker room like an ambassador for a third-world nation intimidated by the hauteur of the Court of St. James's. "Little Mel," as we called him, was intimidated by us still and did not feel comfortable interacting with us quite yet.

"Why'd Little Mel take this job?" Danny asked the room.

"He just lucked out," Bridges said.

"What a sinking ship," Bob said.

"Hey, none of that, Cauthen," DeBrosse said. "We're going to have a great team this year. None of this negative shit. Leave that in the barracks."

"Who are you, the fucking Gipper?" Bob answered.

Danny Mohr finished lacing his shoes and said, "I like Little Mel. What in the hell did he see in Muleface?"

"He just wanted to coach All-Americans like you, Mohr," Cauthen said.

"Eat me, Zipper," Danny said, again shooting Bob the finger.

"Can't you feel the team jelling?" I said. "Feel the camaraderie. Feel the never-say-die spirit. Nothing'll ever get between this band of brothers."

DeBrosse said, "Get the dictionary. Conroy's moving his lips again."

Rat appeared suddenly at the door and said, "Muleface left his office. Hurry up. He's on his way."

There was a headlong scramble of all of us as we raced for the door that opened to the floor. The sophomores had not spoken a word. It was their first day on the varsity team and they were nervous and mistrustful.

"This fucking place sucks," Halpin said, then moved out toward the sounds of boys shooting around, limping in his knee brace.

chapter 2

First Practice

There was a tension in the gym among the players when the first practice was about to begin. We were more serious as we took jump shots, awaiting the appearance of the coaching staff at exactly 1600 hours. DeBrosse hit eight jump shots in a row from the top of the key as I admired the perfection of his form and the articulation of his follow-through. The net coughed as the ball swished through again and again. It was the loveliest sound in a shooter's world. Bridges and Zinsky both practiced long-range jumpers from the corners. Everyone had his favorite spots to get to when shooting around before practice. The managers were feeding all of us retrieved balls as I caught sight of our two coaches, both named Thompson, skirting the bleachers on the way toward the court. Mel was talking quietly to his new assistant, and we wondered aloud if "Little Mel" had any idea what he had gotten himself into. Mohr believed that Mel Thompson was as charming in hiring new assistants as he was when he recruited us.

Coach Mel Thompson blew his whistle, shouted "Two lines," and without fanfare or commentary, our season began. He flipped me the ball and proffered me the honor of making the first layup in the first practice of my final year. A surge of enthusiasm rippled through the team as the line moved smoothly, expertly. One thing a college basketball player could do without thinking or breaking a sweat was to move effortlessly through a layup line. Style was important, and everyone brought his best moves into play during the warmup. The big guys dunked it as we little guys did reverse layups on the other side of the glass. You worked on being cool, disinterested, unflappable. You knew that this period was the last time during the season that the team would not be exhausted. Getting out of bed tomorrow morning would require the forbearance and strength of roommates.

A whistle blew again and Mel shouted, "Figure eights," and we broke up into three lines of four men in a line. I passed the ball to Tee Hooper, the sophomore guard on my left, and ran behind him as Tee threw to Bridges and cut behind him, who threw it to me, cutting behind me as I passed it to Tee, who put it in for a layup. Not once did the ball touch the ground. Coach Thompson also turned it into a disciplinary drill where we ran the figure eights until we were close to dropping. The guys with bad hands--always the big guys--had trouble sometimes handling the long passes and their awkwardness infuriated Mel.

"Catch the goddamn ball," he yelled at Brian Kennedy, a willowy sophomore. "Protect it. It's not a loaf of bread."

"Gee, it's not?" Cauthen whispered. "Why didn't someone tell me?"

"You got something to say, Cauthen?" Coach Thompson barked.

"No, sir," Bob said, lowering his head. Our coach required gestures of submission.

"You still ain't worth a shit, Conroy," DeBrosse teased me, slapping my butt as he ran by me.

"You're shorter than you were last year," I whispered, coming up behind him in the figure eight line.

"I'm a half inch taller than you, duck butt."

In truth, John and I were both very small basketball players, and that's why we were guards. John was prickly and defensive about his height while I was not; I was prickly and defensive about my shooting ability or lack thereof. All athletes disguised the secret shame of their shortcomings. John spent a great deal of time stretching his neck, lifting up, trying to convince himself he was taller than I was. When I was listed as five foot eleven in the program, DeBrosse went wild and said, "Honor violation, Conroy. HV. HV. Turn yourself in."

"I didn't say I was that tall," I said. "Our coach has always pretended I was. It makes him feel better."

"Why?" Johnny said. "You still can't shoot worth a shit."

In the middle of the figure eight drill, I got to study the sophomores up close for the first time. Their speed and athleticism impressed me, but it was their closeness as a class that was most unique. Their freshman team put together a remarkable record. With each game they improved at all positions. They were the first freshman team I had witnessed who did not seem completely undone by the plebe system. By the end of that first year, they had cohered into something very special. I thought they would make The Citadel a team to be feared in the Southern Conference. Even in the layup line and the figure eight drill, they hung together, a team not yet incorporated into our team. Incautious and reckless, they hurled themselves around the court and brought an enthusiasm to this first practice that made me feel a great affection for each of them. So much of our team's destiny rode on their shoulders. So much would be required of them, and no one knew how their egos would withstand the changeable nature of our tempestuous coach.

Years later I read a copy of a program from that year which spelled out this team's prospects in the words of Mel Thompson himself. Though it was still a cautionary tale with loopholes and escape clauses, I read between the lines that our coach was as optimistic about this coming year as I was.

prospects for the season by Coach Mel Thompson.

The 1966-67 season will again find the Bulldogs in a year of rebuilding. First, on a long list of musts, we must find a replacement for Wig Baumann, the team's leading scorer and floor leader. Our success will depend on finding a replacement for Baumann and the ability of our younger players to find their maturity in the early going. Senior Pat Conroy and Junior John DeBrosse appear to have a shot at floor leading the Cadets. DeBrosse appeared in all 23 games last season as a guard. He scored 248 points averaging just over 10 points per game. Conroy appeared in 16 games scoring 74 points for an average of just over 4 points per game. Both boys are excellent ball handlers. Conroy excels in passing and dribbling. DeBrosse is a fine shot. He hit on 49 percent of his shots last year.

From the Hardcover edition.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 68 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2007

    A reviewer

    Pat Conroy makes me jealous that I did not pursue basketball in high school. His passion for the sport bleeds through the writing in his memoir, My Losing Season. In fewer than four hundred pages, Conroy takes the reader through his life on the basketball court, focusing on senior season on the basketball team at the Citadel. Using varied flashbacks, Conroy does a game by game analysis of his final year on the hardwood. Each of these games follows a simple equation, including: a description of the size and talent of the opposing team, the place that they are playing, the captainship, the halftime speech, and the vain efforts of Mel Thompson to keep Pat from shooting. In the last two hundred and fifty pages, each game uses this combination of descriptions, but it somehow does not get repetitive. A different hero emerges from each game, and one person in particular surfaces as the hero of the Citadel¿s season. I found myself rooting for Pat and the Citadel as I read on. Both Conroy and the military school take on the underdog role both are undersized and do not have the talent to play with much more competitive teams. Instead, both work harder, hustle more, and have more heart than anyone they would face in their disappointing season. Pat Conroy symbolizes the tough, hard-nosed Citadel basketball team, and ultimately emerges as their hero. Only Conroy can write about himself as a hero without appearing to believe that he is above everyone else. He does this by building up unbelievable ethos: a sophomore starts over him for the first few games of his senior season he is the envy of his team as the captain even though he is not a starter, and he is the leader of the ¿greenie weenies¿, the benchwarmers. He quotes his coach, Mel Thompson, at the end of the novel as saying that Pat Conroy: ¿gets more mileage out of his talent than any player I have ever coached¿ (341). Conroy makes this quote especially meaningful by building up Mel as a terrible person throughout the book. Regardless, Pat Conroy¿s memoir gives perspective in the world of basketball to many.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 31, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    an eyeopening memoir

    My Losing Season is an introspective look at a critical time period in the life of novelist Pat Conroy. After forty years, few would care, let alone remember, of a losing basketball team at South Carolina's military college of The Citadel. The team lost in the first round of the Southern Conference tournament, its coach was fired a few months after the season ended. The team's anonymity should not be any greater than scores of other teams that fade into the passage of time, falling far short of excellence on the college basketball courts of the nation. Yet this team had one of the greatest novelists that the region ever produced, and one of the more controversial graduates that the school ever graduated in Pat Conroy.

    This book has been Conroy's only attempt at a book length non-fiction account of his life. Readers familiar with books and movies such as the Great Santini and the Lords of Discipline will quickly recognize the real life characters that the fictional stories were based on. Conroy's real father was in many cases, much, much worse a father and husband than even was portrayed in the Great Santini. The brutalness of The Citadel, admittedly at the height of the Cold War and at a time when the old South was finally passing away, was in many cases much more arbitrary and difficult on an artistic, beat up and sensitive soul such as Conroy.

    It must have been a difficult job to reimagine the feelings and world view of a 21 year old, thirty years later. In many cases, though it is often remembered as the greatest time of life, the layers of life that get added afterwards bury the freshness and naivety of life beneath years of experience and world weariness. The key to understanding this book is that in many ways, the central character is the voice, the inner perspective that Conroy develops during this time period in his life that allows him to step out from the abused son of a Marine and the victim of a diffident and clueless basketball coach, who really didn't teach his players much.

    While primarily focused on Conroy's senior as captain of his basketball team, the memoir retells Conroy's entire life up to this point, especially as the observation and empathy skills developed that enabled him to be a writer. The stories of his father's brutality to his family are difficult to read, and due to Conroy's vivid writing, hard to absorb. You should feel empathy as Conroy tells the awkward story of his first real infatuation with a Charleston woman, who just needed a friend.

    Most of all, the reader should have the opportunity to take away from this memoir the triumph of life to overcome difficult circumstances, to deal with impossible harshness and the first, tentative steps of full adult hood for man. What is remarkable is how self-contained the story is. Much of this narrative takes place during the heat of the Vietnam War, and the radical movements and culture shift that came about as the baby boomers grew up. Conroy himself seems to indicate that he was oblivious to these larger movements, even at a conservative, Southern military college, and did not give them much thought until he was through with school, with protest followed by later shame as he realized the effort that his classmates gave for their country, during a difficult time. My Losing Season is an essential way to understand Conroy's work, and a vital

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2004

    Surprised by Basketball

    I would have never purchased this book on my own. Our book club selected the book. I admit that I found myself quickly scanning a tad of the basketball blow by blow accounts, but I really enjoyed the balance of the reading. I had taken a college English course that stressed how the past impacts the present, and Pat Conroy certainly proved the value of understanding our past. The book is sweet, emotional, and conveys a great lesson of life.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2003

    Moving and wonderful - a woman's perspective

    Pat Conroy's A Losing Season was one of the most moving stories of growing up I've ever read. Anyone who has ever participated in athletics - at any level - would benefit from reading this book. As a former athlete, coach's wife, coach's daughter and coach's sister, and mother of high school athletes, I can assure you Mr. Conroy expresses the real meaning behind what competing in athletics means; those life-changing moments that shape our future.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Not the Typical Cinderella Story

    This memoir is definitely not focused upon a feel good winning season for the Citadel Bulldogs, rather it is just the opposite. So often writers focus on the miraculous wins and comebacks that it is interesting to read a story about a season almost completely full of losses. My Losing Season really captures the struggle of a young man when things are not going all that well both on and off the court. With a strict and hot tempered father who is in the military, Pat's life was not a walk in the park. All of the times the family had to move and all of the beatings Pat received from his father made his life a living hell at times. The only joy that came in his life was from basketball. But the eight and seventeen season for the Citadel Bulldogs did not bring much joy to Pat's life either. This story puts an incredible view on sports that is easy to relate to for many athletes. There always seems to be a season in an athlete's career that everyone wants to forget, but Conroy truly brings that season of his back for his audience. Through the book he does an excellent job of showing the importance of that season. He shows his audience that one can learn more from losing than from winning.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 20, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Conroy's Winning Reflection

    As much as I enjoy Pat Conroy's fictional accounts of South Carolina and tales of all things coastal, my preference are his forays into non-fiction. This book is a wonderful look at familiar Conroy themes like The Citadel, his dysfunctional relationship with his Marine colonel father, and the whole 'southern mystique' that he examines in each of his novels. In this reflection of his senior season as an undersized and sometimes over-matched college point guard, he examines the relationship dynamics of his teammates and coach and their responses to a disappointing 1966-67 campaign. It is a love story between a young man and a game, as told by an author who can actually convey his feelings for the sport. The individual game stories may make more sense to you if you are a basketball fan, but they are not critical to the overall enjoyment of the book. It is an impressive ode to growing up, letting go, moving on, and finally to reuniting with those who helped shape your journey into adulthood. Impeccably crafted and told in classic Conroy style. Well-worth your time and interesting for any fan of this author's work!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 24, 2007

    Typical Conroy mediocre

    An autobiographer should refrain from blowing his own horn about how wonderful he is. Conroy uses the Charleston newspaper in quotes to do it for him. It is also a bit tiresome how abused he was by his father. We read all about that in 'The Great Santini'. Alas, Pat wants us to feel sorry for him again. He cannot seem to make up his mind if Mel Thompson was a terrible coach or just fair.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2005

    In failure.....a winner

    Mr. Conroy loves to play the game of basketball so much that he does it despite constant criticism from his coach, and contempt for any success he has from his father. The lesson is that lack of athletic talent can be overcome by hard work and desire, and costanntly being told that you will be a failure, can serve as a rallying point for the human spirit.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 28, 2003

    My Losing Season - A Winner

    I'm a huge fan of Conroy's Great Santini, Prince of Tides and, especially, The Lords of Discipline. But his Beach Music was one of my biggest book-reading disappointments ever. So much so that I never intended to read this non-fiction work. But I got it as a gift from my wife, and Mr. Conroy will be happy to know he's back in my good graces. It's a coming-of-age novel in the form of a nonfiction memoir. Keeping it rolling are Conroy's gifts of observation and writing, no doubt. But the big plus are the ... 'interesting' antagonists of this work -- Conroy's abusive father and his cold college basketball coach. Conroy readers know the father from Santini, of course, but Santini proves to have been sanitized. This is one heck of a page-turner, for us basketball fans and for those who simply like a good read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2003

    HONEST ALMOST TO A FAULT

    A raw honest book, where Mr. Conroy exposes the details of a tough childhood, and his inner ability to rebound through sport and literature. A beautiful narritive that glves one insight into ones own life, that helps give meaning to suffering and redemption. I could not recommed this book more highly for anyone who has experienced the pitfalls and triumphs of a life time.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2003

    Good book- but not for everyone

    I really enjoyed 'My Losing Season' but I would caution other readers that this book is for people who truly enjoy reading Pat Conroy's style of writing. There is a great deal of basketball talk that goes into great detail. Have participated in competitive athletics, I can relate to this topic and find it interesting but, I don't think this is for everyone. The best part of 'My Losing Season' for me was finding out what is real in the strange Southern drama of Pat Conroy's life. A great book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2003

    Did we read the same book??

    This book is much less than the glowing tome indicated by other readers. After reading the book I was left wondering why was it written. There were no profound insights, few compelling characters. Just a team that lost a lot of games. More frequently than not the games Conroy highlights are those games in which he played well. I would expect such a book from Michael Jordan but not from a self-described mediocre point guard. Which brings up another point -- if he is so mediocre how does he rate as all state, and the Citadel MVP? Sorta like the fat guy that everyone calls Slim. I think he is actually paying homage to himself but lacks the courage to do it openly, resorting instead to frequent article insertions from local newspapers. I think the one part of the book which was most compelling was somewhat misplaced in the book. This just added to the disjointed nature of the book for me. I must admit I was unable to put the book down once I started reading it. I was looking for a point to the exercise and refused to stop reading until I found one. Alas, I found none.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2003

    Quite Surprised

    My wife bought me this book for Christmas after seeing Pat on some morning show, and to tell you the truth I didn't plan on reading it soon, or did I think it would be any good, but I absolutely loved it. Being a former college basketball player myself, coach and referee everything the author described brought back many memories of when basketball was simple and fun, not ruined by the ESPN Vitale Headband Long Trunks Self Absorbant Dunks that are the norm today. I loved it so much I bought the audio CD to listen to on long trips. Very accomplished writer describing to us about his fears, his relationship with his father and his wins in life despite the losing season. Most of all it taught about pride and respect which comes from life kicking you down, but you get back up. Awesome

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2003

    Insightful

    Revealing book about Mr. Conroy and what makes him tick. It is written in beautiful, classic Conroy style, so if you enjoy his novels, you should likewise enjoy this memoir. He is hard on himself, and the non-fictional aspect of this book, makes the truth somewhat hard to take, but it lets us see why and how tortured Mr. Conroy was and still is, though he has done a terrific job overcoming his past. This was probably theraputic for him, and should give us all strength to overcome obstacles. My favorite aspects of the book, and if you have read his previous books I would imagine this to be of interest to you, was the insight in the development of his previous novels. He tells you where people, ideas, situations, and stories came from, and they, as we knew, where from real life instances. I just didn't know the depth of how real and impactful they were. This account makes me want to reread his other novels, this time with an insiders eye.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 23, 2003

    A Truly Memerable Life; it will not be forgotten

    This book is truly is masterpiece. Conroy writes with excitement, fear, intensity, and with the spirit and soul of a talented man. If you enjoy Conroy, this book is the story of how his star basketball career and young childhood make him who he is today. This biography depicts the true childhood of Conroy, from his sweet sixteen days to his horrible days at The Citadel. A classic to cherish and relive!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2002

    A treasure!

    I was deeply moved by Mr. Conroy's book. I treasured every sentence in his book as his writing style is honest and complete. You do not have to like basketball to enjoy this book. I admire the courage of Mr. Conroy to tell his story. This book makes you think long and hard about your own life and it is another testament that we can become the person we want to be with persistance and thoughtfulness.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2003

    One of the best sports books

    As a Conroy fan I was very interested in this autobiographical tale of a young man's journey to adulthood. The book captures feelings about a sport and its participants that only those who play or coach can really appreciate. It is very well written. Anyone who reads who is not moved to tears several times has never been a player or a son. Put it on your must-read list.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2002

    wonderful, typical Conroy

    loved the book as I have every Conroy book - except for The Boo - which doesn't count - great prose, great feeling, great expression - although non-fiction it's hard for me to separate his fiction from his reality - probably more of a guy book because of the bball, Conroy bares his sole (again) and as always,makes the end of the book make me sad because I fear never finding another work as good as the one I have just finished

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2002

    The only way to win is to play the game

    Pat Conroy is one of favorite authors, not just because of his great skill as a writer but also due to his gift of bringing the South Carolina Low Country and its many characters and communities to life. In My Losing Season readers grasp the reality of the constant moves of military families, life as a Catholic school student and athlete, becoming part of a small sea island town like Beaufort, S.C. and the rigors of being a student-athlete AND knob at The Citadel. Throw in the ever-abusing father/nit wit Don Conroy and self-absorbed coach Mel Thompson and the mix is complete. Well, almost. Conroy's research for this book is extensive. At the suggestion of a Citadel teammate during his book signing tour for Beach Music, the author pieces together his senior year of basketball when the Bulldogs (Puppies to those of us who follow Georgia) floundered in an 8-17 season. But as many of us who have been part of a losing season can tell you, there are many victories within a life, even if the record books show otherwise. Conroy creates a masterful blend of locker room chitchat, rivalries and hurt egos allowing readers to become, in essence, part of the team. In Losing season, Conroy, more than any sports story I can remember, includes the team's manager as part of their story; part of their feeling of angst; part of their will to survive under the unwavering ranting of a coach who cannot or will not adjust his coaching style to accomodate the military orientation of The Citadel. The "victory" for these players is not recorded in the scorebook, rather from their ability to play the game, look life in the face and march on in the face of adversity; indeed, a lesson we all need to learn at some point in our lives. The Citadel is not a place for sissies, and neither is life! Conroy dispenses this bit of logic time and again, finally overcoming his father's bullying when the elder Conroy won't accept his son's challenge of a one-one-game after Pat's senior season. Losing Season also touches on the era's most painful subject: Vietnam. In recalling fallen comrades and POW's, Conroy establishes the fact that while The Citadel's many alumni go on to lead lives outside of the military, many more do maintain military careers, sometimes paying the ultimate price. In his efforts to bring many issues to life, and salve wounds to the school created when he wrote The Lords of Discipline, Conroy has prouduced a magnificent work. One that not only displays his love and affection for his teammates but also for his alma mater. After all he, like others who brave the school's harsh plebe system, wears the ring. He polishes it nicely with My Losing Season.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 7, 2002

    A Special Book That Can Change A Reader Forever

    For me the book started out as a story of an abused child, the abuser, and the enabler.In the end it was, for me, a magnificant look at both the coping skills of the abused and the great power of the enabler. It ranks with Kramer vs. Kramer, Three Faces of Eve, Ordinary People, I Never Promised You A Rose Garden as one of those special books that can change a reader forever. Once read it cannot be forgotten. Thank you Mr. Conroy for writing this book. I know that it is very possible that you have much more to say in your struggle with cruel fate. You fight with courage,determination,strength,special talent and a grand and singular will to win.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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