Book on high school team a must read

By Felix Chavez/Sun-News reporter




LAS CRUCES There have been plenty of good high school basketball books written in recent years from "Fall River Dreams" to "The Miracle of St. Anthony", and another one is on bookshelves around the country.


Author Neil Swidey has given readers a fabulous tale about Charlestown High School in Boston in a book titled "The Assist," a book about hoops, hope and the game of their lives.


Unlike other sports books in which writers spend a season with a team, Swidey spent three years with the team and his book reflects a tale of determination, hard work and dealing with some of life's toughest issues such as race.


"I'm really happy with the book, people are connecting with it and have liked it." Swidey said. "Some people have come to it because of basketball and it's an inside view of a basketball powerhouse. Some are interested in it even if they don't have an interest in sports."


Swidey said he read both "Fall River Dreams" and "The Miracle of St. Anthony" and he enjoyed reading those books. But he didn't want to duplicate either of those books.


Charlestown High School is a powerful high school basketball program in Massachusetts. The team has won state championships and has turned out several college basketball



The book centers around head coach Jack O'Brien and two star players, Jason White and Ridley Johnson. O'Brien is the highly successful coach, who is hard-edged on the court but who is with his players as much as possible off the court. O'Brien wants nothing but the best for his players on and off the court and he has gone through great lengths to see to that.


Johnson and White are two of his players that battle some of life's obstacles to try to get where they want to be in life. But it isn't easy for many of O'Brien's players, who often battle living in some of Boston's toughest neighborhoods.


"What is unique about this story is that there is real life people at the center of this story," the author said. "The players, Ridley and Jason along with coach O'Brien are so different and powerful in their own way. They connect in some ways, but they drive each other nuts sometimes. I didn't want to do just one season. The logical ending was with the first season when they won the state title. But the story got more important later. What happens to these people when they are away from each other. When you watch coach O'Brien, you see him pacing, pouting and his arms flailing. He's motivated by relationships, he told me he could do without hoops, but not relationships."


The characters in the book are wonderfully portrayed to the reader, particularly the character of O'Brien. He is a complex character, who can't make up his mind. He's also a great coach that has been successful at a school that he helped build. And he's also a person that doesn't care about color, race or simply the win, but rather a generous person who has gone above and beyond what many high school coaches do.


Neil Swidey's is a must-read for sports fans and even non-sports fans. The book combines both sports history and the history of the city of Boston's educational system, while combining a real life portrait of people's lives that makes this book an easy read.


"It was an interesting story," Swidey said. "I didn't know where the story would lead. When good things happen, it's easy to write, when things are bad, it's tough. The people I wrote about talked honestly about what happened. I appreciate their willingness to let me in their lives.


For more information on the book go to


Felix Chavez can be reached at