Phenomenal coach proves a brilliant subject

A SEASON ON THE BRINK
John Feinstein
Published: 1986.
Sport: Basketball.

Sample: ''The problem is you aren't hurt enough. You're sitting here satisfied because you played a good game. All I want to do is go into a room somewhere and cry. I could just cry. Boys, there's no such thing as a moral victory. The game was there to win and we lost. If you just followed the rules, we would have won. Instead, those cheating sonsofbitches won.''

The setting: Bloomington, a college town in the great state of Indiana.

The protagonists: A wonderful, weird, combustible college basketball coach called Bobby Knight. One of his Indiana University teams. And the author.

Why it is brilliant: Warts and all, I believe is the expression. By the mid-1980s, this style of book - where an author followed a sports team for a season - was nothing new, particularly in the United States. But Feinstein got lucky with unfettered access to the extraordinary Knight, a walking quote machine and a fascinating case study. He swears (lots), yells, throws his weight around and acts pretty terribly, but he also displays his phenomenal coaching gifts. Feinstein sees, and writes, it all.

Don't just take my word for it: ''Perhaps the best basketball book ever written.'' - Dayton Daily News.

The aftermath: Knight never spoke to Feinstein again. But Feinstein didn't care, as he started churning out the best-sellers. Brian Dennehy starred as Knight in a 2002 television movie of the book. Knight got the boot from Indiana after manhandling one too many players, and is now a television analyst.