I come to this book with a lot of perspective. And some would say a lot of bias.
I have been coaching Division 1 AAU boy's basketball for three years now; I was involved as a parent for two years before that.
Most everything I have encountered in AAU basketball has been positive. Now that must sound crazy to anyone who has read this book, but who has not been close to the scene itself.
One cannot escape the writer's strong bias against AAU throughout these pages. If you accept his position, then you are going to regard AAU basketball coaches as predators. Adult men out to exploit kids, looking for profit. Simple as that. The writer might pay some lip service to exceptions to this formula, but it is just that, lip service.
The reality is exactly the opposite. There are coaches like Joe Keller, obviously. The writer found one. But that is the exception. That is one or two men in a hundred. I personally don't know anybody quite like Keller, and I know pretty much every coach from my age group in the Mid-Atlantic area.
There are some men in this for profit, and there are a few who eke out a small living. Those are the rare few though. As for guys who are making a swell living, making real money, getting rich, like Keller? Bet you can count the number of those, in the entire country, using just your fingers.
By far, BY FAR, the average AAU coach for younger teams, let's say 13U and under, are either dads who are coaching their sons, or men who once coached their sons all the way through, and have returned out of love of coaching to do it all over again with younger players. That second group, by the way, is far and away the preponderant one. Most all the guys I know on the better teams are men who have a long history of coaching, some twenty plus years, and started way back coaching their own kids.
Most everyone I know, and I mean upwards of 95%, don't make a dime doing this. Indeed, we are often deep into our own pockets coaching these teams. That is sure true of me.
And so it is frustrating to read this tale, and think that parents are going to come across this book and be soured on AAU because of a few bad apples.
I think it should be better emphasized: the coaches and teams that the writer describes in this book represent a tiny minority, the very very top handful of teams and situations in the country. My team finished top 30 in the country last season. I can tell you that there is a HUGE difference between #30 and #10. If you have a son who is good enough to make #10, then yes. You ought to read this book and you ought to tread very carefully. You ought to ask every question, and question every answer.
But that is a tiny minority. For regular folks, AAU basketball is a tremendously rewarding experience, full of hard work, competition, life's lessons, all the stuff that makes sport great. I would hate to see anyone turned off to it by this book.
ps. Two small things directly regarding the book itself. First, way too long. This is a magazine article expanded into a book, and it didn't need to be expanded SO MUCH! Second, the writer throughout uses the term "grassroots" instead of "AAU." I'd never heard this term before. Everybody says "AAU." Either "grassroots" is a term they use on the West Coast (where this book is almost exclusively centered), or the author really didn't get "close to the ground" after all. Yes. Pun intended.