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Review: "Paddy on the Hardwood: A Journey In Irish Hoops"

In case you ever wondered whether Jerry West is a reader, the answer is apparently "yes," based on Mr. West's cover endorsement of Paddy on the Hardwood as "the best sports book I've read in a long while."

I don't know which other sports books Jerry West has been reading, but his praise of Paddy on the Hardwood is justified for various reasons, including novelty. Professional basketball in Ireland is only "professional" for the two Americans and one European each team is allowed to employ. The actual Irishmen on each team play for free. The team coached by Rus Bradburd, the author of Paddy on the Hardwood, shared their floor (which was made of ceramic tile) with volleyball, handball, badminton, and soccer players, and practiced just twice a week. One of Bradburd's best players rarely made it to practices because they conflicted with his commitment to Gaelic football. The building was so dark that the coach encouraged fans to bring candles to the games.

Except for those details and dozens of others, Bradburd found coaching in Ireland to be similar to his experience as an assistant coach at Texas-El Paso and New Mexico State, meaning that the ball was still round and the idea was still to throw it through the hoop while preventing the other guy from doing the same. But that was okay, because Bradburd didn't come to Ireland to coach basketball. He moved to Tralee to finish some short stories he'd been writing and to learn to be a better fiddle player. Coaching basketball was supposed to be nothing more than a way to support those endeavors. Who knew he'd come to care about the Tralee Frosties Tigers so much that they would become the subject of his first book?

In his second season as coach of the Tigers, Bradburd astonished the team's fans one night by starting five Irish players. Tralee fans were delighted and the opposition was baffled: no team in that league had started five locals in thirty years. This "vote of confidence for my loyal, unpaid Irish guys" exemplifies the attitude Bradburd took toward coaching in Tralee, a situation he came to enjoy a good deal more than he'd liked working with teams that made the NCAA tournament back home.

This program aired on November 30, 2006. The audio for this program is not available.

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