WINNING IS AN ATTITUDE: A Season in the Life of Jo by Steve Wartenberg

WINNING IS AN ATTITUDE: A Season in the Life of Jo

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Philadelphia journalist Wartenberg spent the 1989-90 season observing head basketball coach John Chaney and his nationally ranked Temple Univ. Owls. This October-March account is less a basketball odyssey than an often fawningly uncritical portrait of Chancy, one of college sports' most controversial figures. Chaney played briefly for the Harlem Globetrotters before getting into coaching, most notably at Cheyney State, and then assuming the position at Temple in 1982. With a deserved reputation as an inspirational motivator and hard taskmaster, Chaney has led the Owls to the NCAA tournament six of the past seven years. His "winning is an attitude" lectures (one of which involves his thesis that "Uncle Tom" was a hero), coupled with his 5:30 a.m. practices and strict enforcement of the school's guidelines and rules, seem to work for most of his players. "When you fail in the classroom," says Chancy, "you fail. . .on the basketball court." It is his vehement opposition to Propositions 42 and 48 (which established minimum academic and SAT standards for athletic scholarship eligibility), however, that has focused attention on the coach. He has charged the NCAA establishment with racism, claiming the measures "are anti-poor and anti-Black." Wartenberg fails to examine this viewpoint beyond the recording of Chaney's impassioned speeches. Known for trying to intimidate officials with his "One-Eyed-Jack" and "Restless Eyeball" stares, and for his physical tussles with opposing coaches, Charley comes off here as alternately volatile and shallow, and compassionate and charming. Wartenberg seems all too willing to accept Charley at face value without challenge or criticism, allowing the coach to laugh off and deflect criticism with sharp-witted homilies. The reader--and Chaney--would have been better off with a less passive portrait.

Pub Date: Jan. 14th, 1990
ISBN: 312-05538-2
Publisher: St. Martin's
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