Are You Watching, Adolph Rupp?
In this lackluster sports novel, Jack McHale is head basketball coach of State University, a once-prominent basketball school now suffocating in the shadow of the Big East Conference. Steve Ellovitch, State's overly ambitious athletic director, has given McHale a mandate: win immediately or else. If Doyle had been content to keep his story centered on these two men and their quest for a winning team, he might have written a tighter narrative. Even the recruiting scandal interpolated into the plot might not have derailed the story. However, this overlong novel spins wildly out of control, obscured by a cast of characters that includes a referee on the take, a greedy assistant coach, a power-hungry beer company executive destroyed by his son's drug arrest, a major betting scandal run by the man initially in charge of building the arena and a team which, after a 12-16 season the year before, amazingly wins college basketball's national championship. In addition to the wildly unfocused plot, the narrative is marred by cliched, pedestrian prose. Most unfortunately, Doyle never captures the feel of college basketball. (May)