Monthly Archives: September 2013

The man who inspired MY LOSING SEASON left us too soon…

Hey, out there,

My basketball teammate John DeBrosse died September 25, 2013 in Dayton, Ohio. He was the shooting guard on the Citadel team I wrote about in my book My Losing Season. It was John’s surprising and unexpected arrival at a book signing for Beach Music that reignited a friendship I’d lost when I graduated. I spotted him wandering through the aisles of books looking as awkward as a wildebeest in the shopping mall where I was signing.

“Hey, DeBrosse, you ever been in a bookstore before?” I asked. “Once, Conroy,” he came back fast, as he always had, “I was lost.”

“You ever read any of my books, DeBrosse?” I said.

“I tried once. They all sucked. Just like their author,” John said. “Hey, Conroy, would you come home and meet my wife and family? They think I make this shit up. They don’t think I know you at all.”

That ride into the Dayton night with John DeBrosse changed the course of my whole life and the arc of my career. We talked about the team we played on together in 1966-67 – that humiliated, beaten down tribe who staggered to an 8-17 record and felt lucky to win eight games. The painfulness of that year lay etched in DeBrosse’s round Ohio face as he described his mortification over a losing season that’d happened thirty years ago.

When he began to discuss the last game we ever played together, he asked me if I remembered a layup that he had missed in the final minute of a tournament game against Richmond. I told him I remembered the moment down to its last painful detail.

“I didn’t miss layups, Conroy“ he said with sudden fierceness. “I never missed a lay up in my life.”

“It didn’t come at a good time, John,” I said, knowing that the missed layup had cost us the game and our chance to meet West Virginia in the semi-finals of the Southern Conference tournament.

At the next red light, John DeBrosse reached across the van and squeezed my wrist hard. “I didn’t miss that layup on purpose, Conroy. I promise I didn’t miss on purpose.”

I laughed and said, “Of course you didn’t, John. You couldn’t even think like that.”

“Our coach did. Mel Thompson thought I missed that shot on purpose because I knew I could get him fired.”

“Hell, I’d have missed the layup if I thought Mel would’ve gotten fired,” I said.

My long conversations with DeBrosse that night led to the writing of My Losing Season. I tracked down all my teammates and my coach and interviewed them about every single aspect of that disheartening year. I listened to grown men cry about their frustrations and failures and resentments of that long ago season. I ended up falling in love with their families and children and could feel that love returned in full measure. In the end, my team came together again because the book turned us into the team we should have been, but never could be. It might be the best book I ever will write. It all began when John DeBrosse walked into a bookstore for the first time in his life.

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