Review: "The Man Watching: A Biography of Anson Dorrance, the Unlikely Architect of the Greatest College Sports Dynasty Ever"

First, don't let anybody tell you the subtitle of this book is an overstatement.

During various stretches since women's soccer began at the University of North Carolina, the team has gone years at a time without losing. North Carolina has won seventeen of the sport's twenty three championships. Anson Dorrance's program has stocked the national team with many of its most accomplished players, whether or not he has been coaching the team at the time.

But what were author Tim Crothers and the folks at Sports Media Group (the publisher) thinking when they decided to title the book The Man Watching? Am I the only person who finds that title creepy?

All that aside, the story of Anson Dorrance and the program he has created at U.N.C. is extraordinary. Characterized as arrogant by opposing players and coaches (and sometimes by close friends), Dorrance also writes personal letters to his players in which he celebrates their strengths and thanks them for being part of his life. Thoroughly organized in his practices, his style elsewhere — in his office, on a road trip — might be charitably characterized as casual, and more accurately termed chaotic. Praised by some of his players as the most important positive influence in their lives, he's also been called "the most evil person I have ever known" by one of the women he coached on the national team, and sued for harassment by a former U.N.C. player. (The suit dragged on for five years, and was eventually settled when the complainant, who received a payment from the university, acknowledged that Dorrance's transgressions were limited to smart-aleck comments he made during discussions with team members, and Dorrance apologized for those comments).

Tim Crothers does not disguise his admiration for Dorrance and for what the coach has accomplished, but he gives those who are critical of Dorrance equal time. The result is a book that may be too dense for casual readers, but that will intrigue fans who've been wondering for years how it is that Anson Dorrance always seems to be coaching winners.

This program aired on October 26, 2006. The audio for this program is not available.


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