Book Review: Players and Pretenders

December 13th, 2007
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Players and Pretenders

The Basketball Team That Couldn’t Shoot Straight

by Charley Rosen

University of Nebraska Press




It is not whether you win or lose but how you play the game.  Yes, a very tired cliché and not very fitting in today’s modern sports world, especially on the college basketball level.  Yet for the 1979-80 Running Red Devils of Bard College, it proved to be very fitting indeed.


Players and Pretenders, originally released in 1981 but re-released this year with a new afterword from its author, chronicles the Bard College (located about 90 miles north of New York City) hoops squad as they struggle through a one-win season.  Their coach just happened to be the author of the book, Charley Rosen, who has gone on to author numerous tomes to hoops and is’s current NBA analyst.


So why should anyone care about a small time college basketball team (where some of the players hadn’t even played organized ball before) that was really bad and played almost two decades ago?  Anyone who loves hoops and loves a good read, that’s who.  Rosen is a fantastic writer who makes larger-than-life characters out of the players (rather pretenders) featured in the book and adds in dream sequences and flashbacks to mix things up.  The fact that it was written years ago only adds to the charm, as some of the phrasing and expressions used transports the reader back to another time.


It is often forgotten that basketball is a game, and like all games, it should be about having fun.  This fact was not lost on the Bard College players, thanks to their caring and wise coaches, Disco Dodds and Rosen.  Anyone who has forgotten this fact ought to grab a copy of Players and Pretenders.



3.5 out of 5 stars