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.

My shooting guard, John DeBrosse, died this past Wednesday after being in a coma for a week. I was in New Orleans when I talked to his wife Pam and she told me that their children had assembled in the room to discuss taking him off life support. I cried on the phone, but Pam was rock-like and spent her time comforting me. She and John used to come to Fripp Island to spend weeks in our summerhouse. Every time I’d see John, he’d bring up that god-forsaken season again and again. It especially galled John that Coach Thompson had named me most valuable player on that undeserving team when John had enjoyed a far better season than I had. With humor and some petulance, John would grab my tarnished trophy and walk about with it around the Fripp Island house.

“I’m taking it, Conroy. It’s mine. I earned it and you didn’t,” DeBrosse would say.

“I’ll let you sleep with it, DeBrosse,” I said. “Or you could take it for rides in Beaufort. But bring it back, loser. It belongs to me.”

“You, the most valuable player? The worst player on the team gets MVP. And you’re a Bolshevik who voted for Obama,” John would say, fuming. “How did you get to be a Communist going to a school like The Citadel, Conroy?”

“I met so many nice Nazis like you, John. It was easy.”

“That MVP award? That trophy still should be in my house and not yours.”

“You didn’t deserve it, DeBrosse. You missed that layup on purpose and got our poor coach fired,” I said, as John grabbed the trophy and held it in his lap.

In the time we were young men together, John and I were part of an American generation of males who had no clear ways to talk emotionally with each other. We had to invent a language that only we could understand and interpret. We would curse each other and knock each other all over the court and elbow our way to the basket and stick our forearms into the chests of those who came at us in the controlled fury of games. Even as adults, DeBrosse and I would pick at each other, mouthing off as we showed off to our wives and kids, and turning almost boy-like again when surrounded by our own teammates from that lost, ugly year. But I knew the secrets of how men communicate by observing DeBrosse and my teammates as we gathered ourselves together after My Losing Season came out. When we cuss each other out, call each other the vilest names on earth, and put each other down with thoughtless cruelty, it is the only way we know and the only language we have to express our ardent love for each other. John and I were men of a lock-jawed generation who lacked a specific language to communicate in the deepest places those hardest of things.

Dave Bornhorst and Doug Bridges are going to the funeral to represent our team. I’m on a book tour and cannot, to my shame and guilt, attend. But Dave and Doug are carrying up a memento from those days of anguish and friendship. They are taking a huge basketball trophy up with them to present to the family with a plaque that reads:

John DeBrosse
Most Valuable Player
The Citadel Basketball Team 1966-67
From his teammates in My Losing Season

Before John died, I asked Pam to do something for me as a favor. I asked her to kiss John for me, then whisper these words into his ear:

“Hey, John DeBrosse, your point guard says goodbye and he’ll love you the rest of his life. Thanks for giving me My Losing Season.

Pam did so.

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

  • June Folkes says:

    I am so sorrry that you must grieve……prayers for you!!

    • Sara says:

      Pat Conroy is such a wonderful wtrier that I don’t mind waiting years between books. I have an audio version of Beach Music, narrated by Frank Mueller, which includes an interview with the author. In fact I have 2 copies! I listen to it at least twice a year so when I saw another set on ebay I grabbed it so I could replace anything that may wear out :D I would give anything to meet him and tell him how much I love his work. He was in my city to promote My Losing Season and I was out of town!!!!!! I have my fingers crossed for the next book tour. His mastery of language and character development touch my soul.Thanks for all the great info everybody!!

  • Pam Thomas says:

    Pat Conroy, you can write, sir. You can write. What a moving tribute.

  • Tom Smith says:

    I loved The Losing Season and The Lords of Discipline, my two favorite Conroy books. I’m anxiously awaiting The Death of Santini. Thank you Pat Conroy for enriching my life through your writings.

  • Ron Whitehead says:

    John gave so much as an educator, a family man, a great citizen…a good man, and he lived a grand life…he leaves so much good in his wake. I will miss him. Ron Whitehead, ’64

  • mary beth marshall says:

    I am sorry for your loss. I loved the book. My husband got it for me as a Christmas gift as he knows you are my favorite author. Imagine my surprise when I read the book and saw Dick Esleek mentioned. I know Dick through business and called him to ask if that was him or someone else with the same name. Dick recalled a recent phone conversation you had. I’m glad you and John were able to reconnect. Thank you for giving so much of yourself in your writing. Bless you, Pat Conroy, and your friend John.
    Mary Beth Marshall

  • Kerrie Gleeson says:

    Hi Pat, What a lovely tribute to a good friend. I, for one, am very glad you met again in that bookshop. I think My Losing Season is one of your best books. In fact, I’ll read it again after I have read The Death of Santini.

  • Sharon Adams says:

    As usual this brought tears to my eyes– You are the best Pat Conroy!!!
    Maybe not the best basketball player but the best writer. Don’t tell me you’re lock jawed- you just express yourself in words. Thank yu for sharing them with the world!!!!

  • Tim Doke says:

    You shouldn’t feel badly, Pat, about missing John’s funeral. You paid him tribute in My Losing Season, and honored his memory wonderfully in this blog. I live in Fort Worth and my daughter is a junior at College of Charleston, which I try to visit whenever it isn’t insufferably hot and humid. We’re renting a beach house over on Sullivan’s Island for Thanksgiving from some of her friends in Charleston. I will drive people crazy citing stories from your books every time I see a place that you’ve mentioned. I have promised myself on one trip to borow a bike and retrace the paper route from South of Broad. Thanks for sharing John’s loss with us, and for bringing so many wonderful hours of your life into ours with books I’m now reading for a second and third time.

  • Carol Fischer says:

    So sorry to hear of your lost friend and teammate. I warm to think of your re-found friendship with him and his family, however, and how you were all rewarded from that renewal. Coincidentally, Mel Thompson was the father to two of my former students, both of whom you mentioned in your book. While they both played basketball, Mike, which you may or may not know, suffered some mental breakdown, leaving him very debilitated. A very sad situation, and I have wondered about him for years. Of course, after reading your book, I also wondered to what extent his father had a responsibility for that. May you find solace in your memories.

  • Rick Nicholson says:

    Hey Pat…..very sorry for your loss……beautiful words and tribute for your friend and teammate John DeBrosse.

    Brother Tom and Sister Nance would love to see you when you’re in Louisville…
    told them I would try to “reach out” to you.

    Haven’t seen you since your book signing in Capitola, CA ( Prince Of Tides) back in the early 80′s.

    I can only guess how busy you must be….if time allows drop a note and maybe you,
    Nancy and Tom could hook up in Louisville.

    they are both “retired” now….Tom (USMC Brig. Gen./Air Wing) and UPS Senior Captain……Nancy remained in finance and recently retired as well.

    Might be fun gettin’ together for dinner or wine….

    Take care…..

    Rick Nicholson
    Paso Robles, CA

  • Debbie Bolding says:

    Beautiful tribute!

    • Beverly Gilley says:

      You are an amazing man, Pat Conroy. I feel for you in your loss. Some griefs never leave us. Letting go of every shred of the pain is just too much… since even bearing the pain gives us a little sense of being nearer our loved one. I have loved and cherished every single word that has come out of your mind onto a printed page that could be purchased in a bookstore. I adore your soul, spirit, intellect, and great bravery evidenced in how you seldom censor your most deep and secret thoughts and values. Keep writing, and please live a long, long time.
      Beverly Berry Gilley
      Greenville, Texas

  • Dante Rebori says:

    I am so sorry for the loss of your friend and teammate. Thank you for sharing this with us. As always, when you write so eloquently about the emotions of relationships, you show us the beauty of expressing our feelings. Nobody does it quite like you.

  • Thank you for the beautiful article about your friend John. It was beautifully written and brought tears to my eyes. Bless you and his family and grant you Peace .

  • Nancy S. Cleland says:

    This was beautiful, Pat. Have loved you forever.

  • Karen Rauer says:

    My Losing Season was the first one of your books that I read. From that time on,I was hooked on your writing. You paid such great tribute to John and the rest of the team while he was living and I’m sure that he appreciated that very much.

  • Nancy Curl says:

    Loved hearing you talk about you how communicated with your teammate and friend. Grady and I are celebrating 39 years together in December. We have cussed at each other for years when we’re golfing cooking, fishing,hunting, or cooking dinner together. Big fan since our family saw The Great Santini, one of our favorite movies. Started reading your books after that. Currently re-reading The Lords of Discipline. Could watch and re-watch The Prince of Tides. My former para pro and good friend, Maria, and her better half, have a place on Fripp, and for one of my 50 somethings, she was able to get you to sign a copy of The Water Is Wide and made it a gift to me. I treasure it! Would love to drink some cold ones and share some time with you while fishing for big stripers in Clarke Hill Lake. I feel like I know you somewhat, through your writing anyway. Thank you for caring enough to write it down and sharing your life and times with us. Love the way you tell your stories. I look forward to reading My Losing Season. God Bless you and yours and your friend, John. I am sorry for the loss of your friend and teammate.

    • Rikiya says:

      that he was in the end stages of AIDS. Hearing the rltaiey of this disease was stunning and sad. What was sadder still was that in the waiting room were his only two friends. His family had disowned him because of his sexual orientation.At the time, I was involved in a conservative church that was quite frankly very judgmental towards homosexuals. This experience so transformed me that I returned home, stopped going to the church, went back to graduate school and have been working as a family, individual and marital therapist ever since.I know that Pat’s book will be filled with compassion and perhaps arouse more understanding around the issue of family alienation that has resulted in thousands of suicides by young men and women who are too afraid to tell their parents that they are gay.Thanks again for your comment.

  • simply beautiful.

  • Jamie Wyatt says:

    Your post made me cry for you and your team…all over again. John, however, is smiling in heaven. Thank God for good old friends. AMEN.

  • Elizabeth Jefferies says:

    I am sorry for your loss. I enjoyed reading about him. I pray that gaurdian angels will comfort his family and friends while granting their hearts peace and courage through their grief. Thank you for sharing your talent!

  • Bivens Rinehart says:

    Such a lovely tribute to your friend. I have read everything you have published and treasure every word. Thank you for sharing of yourself through your extraordinary words. My life is enriched.

  • Rick Gilstrap says:

    Well written – as always!

  • Mike Roberts says:

    I am sorry to hear of your loss of a friend and teammate. Your words about our unusual mechanism for sharing feelings with each other rings home. I hope to see you on my next trip to Beaufort.

  • Joan LaRosh says:

    I love your tribute to your teammate, John just as I’ve loved all your books. “My Losing Season” was especially interesting to me as one of my daughters was once married to one of Mel Thompson’s sons. I knew Mel pretty well and he raised a fine son. Can’t wait to read your newest book. Keep writing Pat, you have a wonderful talent. I’m sure John’s family will appreciate the trophy.

  • You made me cry, Pat Conroy. And not for the first time either. I’ve cried when reading several of your books- The Citadel and Beach Music especially. But this time my tears weren’t for fictional characters but for you and your buddy John. I saw how my husband related to his friends in much the same way and now I watch our son in laws who still have some of the same language. I’ve also seen them hug a buddy and say I love you. Thankfully, we’re moving forward. Blessings to you, all your team mates and to John’s family.

  • Carol Ryan says:

    Beautifully written. I wish I had known him. Thoughts for you and his family.
    Now, I will spend some time thinking of those who have been important to me.
    Are there ways in our short lives to let others know how they remain in our hearts?

  • Patty Potter says:

    Hi Pat,

    I am sorry to read about your friend, John; but I see you have many wonderful memories to share and to build on, for the rest of your life. We always take something away with us, with each person that comes into our lives. It is up to the individual to decide if they want to keep and cherish it or file it under “And WHAT was that all about!”? : ) It seems like John could be the subject of many interesting topics in the future.

  • What a wonderful tribute to your friend. You are one of my all time favorite authors and I feel fortunate to even be able to write something on your site.

  • Eleanore Brown says:

    I’m sorry for your loss. I hope for strength for you during the book tour. Surely, as you give a piece of yourself to every fan you meet, you will be challenged to be strong because you’ve already lost a significant part of yourself this week. Be good to yourself and enjoy your memories. My heart goes out to you and all your teammates.

  • Phyllis Ventresca says:

    So sad that you lost an irreplaceable friend. May your gesture,a loving one, help you through this time of loss.
    Betcha John rests in peace with HIS trophy.
    Your books,and I have read them all,are my favorites .i often take them off the bookshelves and reread. Just so you know,I live in DelawAre.
    Thank you.
    I am ten years your senior and attended a small private parochial school—-all girls.
    We still meet regularly -lunch or dinner and slide right back to our juvenile adgenda

  • Arnett M Peccini says:

    So sorry. I read your book, “My Losing Season” within the past year, so I know how much he meant to you. John DeBrosse will always be with you; his essence certainly has made its mark on you. I am in New England and the book is now with my daughter and her husband in Mt. Pleasant. Sorry you could not be there with his family. You and your teammates gave huge tribute to his family. Peace.

  • Rosemary Nance says:

    As always, your writing moves me to tears. One of the hardest parts of getting older is losing those special people in our lives. My Losing Season is one of your best. Thanks to John for giving all of us that gift through you. Prayers for all who loved him.

  • Naomi says:

    That’s a lovely remembrance of your friend and what he meant to you. You have my condolences.

  • Ed Albert says:

    “When we cuss each other out, call each other the vilest names on earth, and put each other down with thoughtless cruelty, it is the only way we know and the only language we have to express our ardent love for each other.”
    Thank you Pat, for this one sentence, which puts into words my family’s way of expressing our love for each other. Although we were raised without “a specific language to communicate in the deepest places those hardest of things,” you’ve given me a way to express it!

  • Dorene Shirey says:

    Thank you for capturing John in your words! I am so sad and stunned! John was not only my AP at Studebaker MS, but a man I highly respected and considered a friend! He “walked his talk” and so positively impacted the lives of so many young people as a principal and as a coach.

    I had long been a Pat Conroy reader and fan, so imagine my surprise when a few years after I had left Studebaker and moved to MI, I was in an airport, picked up”My Losing Season” and read about John. I had a great conversation with John about the book and the Citadel years.

    Knowing John was an honor, Knowing John and reading Pat Conroy’s reminiscences of him make me even more greatly appreciate Mr. Conroy’s ability as a writer as he is able to masterfully craft a portrait of John as a legacy.

    Condolences to John’s family and my heart joins with you in your grief.

  • Pat:

    This is a touching tribute to a man that you obviously loved to the core of your being. I have read every one of your books … several times … and am always moved by how artfully you craft a phrase. You write phrases that strike me like no other author, like a sip of fine wine to be savored. “She set the flags of all her tomorrows at half-mast.” Who else writes like this?? Only you. I thank you for the gifts you share with us and mourn the loss of John like the loss of a treasured friend because of “My losing season.”

  • Gayle Slagle says:

    You made a tough lady who usually refuses to cry do so once again with this tribute. You have a way of doing that in your writing. As a former English teacher and lover of words, I am eternally thankful for and appreciative of your writing. I send my condolences on the loss of your friend. My sympathy goes out to you and the family and friends of John DeBrosse.

  • Christina Turner says:

    As always your words move me. I am sure your friend is smiling down from heaven after reading your touching tribute to him. I am so sorry for your loss.

  • kathy says:

    Having a husband who was a high school coach for 32 years, a son who is a high school coach and athletic director, a son who is a college basketball coach, and a son who writes for the Sporting News, I have listened to the particular language that teammates alone can understand. It sets them apart as individuals and yet as part of one another. They have a particular dance that only they will understand, a comraderie that transcends space, place, time, and family. They become not only friends, but family to each other and sometimes enemies until later. And as in your case, years later, when they come back together and revisit what made them what they were at that time in their lives . . . teammates, something magical and real is reborn. You were blessed. Having lost my best friend at age 50, her memory is more precious to me today, 13 years later. Glad you were able to reconnect!

  • Carolyn says:

    Thank you for writing such a moving tribute to your friend John deBrosse. No one strings words together more beautifully than you. Anyone who can call you friend has a right to be proud. Your writing displays your heart for all the world to see even as you describe a time when men did not easily reveal their emotions.

  • Diane says:

    May your memories offer comfort and peace as mine have with our mutual friends JMR.

  • Jeff says:

    Sometimes it’s the cruelest events of the moment that bind us together for the rest of our lives. I love your books, Pat, because they seem so personal and real to me.

  • Dear Pat,

    You touched my heart with your touching tribute to your friend.
    We all could wish for a good friend like you. I went to that Booksigning
    for BEACH MUSIC in Myrtle Beach just to thank you for writing THE WATER
    IS WIDE. Peace and Blessings and Winning Seasons to come…

  • Lynette Corder says:

    Mr. Conroy,

    I met you on that same book tour at the now defunct The Happy Bookseller in Columbia, SC. How I miss that store and how I treasure my autographed copy of BEACH MUSIC! I often share the story of meeting you with my boys, as our 3 minute conversation was one of my life’s highlights. My sympathies to you over the loss of your friend. I have experienced the pain you are feeling. Thank you for sharing your stories with the rest of the world, both the humorous and the bittersweet. Best wishes on your book tour.

  • Julie Horton says:

    Mr. Conroy, thanks to what could have been an unfortunate incident at your home this past summer, we actually found joy in meeting you and spending some time with you as your temporary neighbors. Beyond our love for THE LORDS OF DISCIPLINE (and the angst over leaving the Annie Kate storyline out of the movie), we also talked about MY LOSING SEASON and the tales of our mutual friend Tee Hooper.

    It is with great sadness that I now read about the loss of your teammate John DeBrosse. But you could not have given him any more beautiful tribute than you just did in this blog. Your words absolutely sing on any page, and on this occasion, I think you paid John the highest tribute possible, whether there at his funeral in person or not. He knew…and he knows….what is in your heart.

  • Lori Erwin says:

    I Loved your book Beach Music. It brought so much enjoyment to my life since my Mother grew up in that area. I could feel your passion through your writing. Thank you so much for that. And, please keep writing you are so good at it.

  • I am sorry for the loss of an integral part of your past. It is easy to see how important those memories and the place John Debrosse holds in them as both key and context. I think you are right, men do have a secret language of love and understand, but men like you provide a guide post for slipping past the lockjaw with the honesty you speak with in your written word. There the hiding is minimized and the warted truth displayed. Your friend has left to discover his tongue, just as you continue to share yours.

  • Sandy Traub says:

    What a gift! to write what you feel, to embrace life and friends to the fullest, and be willing to share! Saying goodbye is never easy, especially to winsome friends who light up our lives. Sincere condolences.

  • Jo Thornburg says:

    Thank you Mr. Conroy for sharing this about Mr. DeBrosse. Mr. DeBrosse did his student teaching at James Island High and I was in his class. I think I probably remember his beautiful blue eyes more than the history he taught ! All of the girls had a huge crush on him! I remember reading another of your books in which you mentioned a blue eyed basketball player from central Ohio and smiling as I read and the memories it evoked. My sincere sympathy to his family and extended family.

  • Lynne Witham says:

    Oh, I am so very sorry about John’s death. I just finished listening to My Losing Season on audiobook and was shocked to see this post. My thoughts and prayers will be with you and his family.

  • Virginia S. Streetman says:

    Mr. Conroy, Thank you sir for the courage it takes to write as you do. You may have missed your friend’s funeral, but you did not miss his life and we are all richer because of it.

  • Pat,
    I love and have read everything you have published. I have gifted to friends Beach Music at least 12 times over and they all agree it’s one of the best works of fiction ever written. I was so sad I missed you in Savannah at the book festival and hope you return. We live in Roanoke VA but spend time in Tybee Island an our Paws & Paddles Cottage as often as possible. I credit you will creating a desire in me to me near some sweet smelling Pluff Mud! Great rememberance of your friend.

  • Susan Walker says:

    Dear Pat, I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing those wonderful memories with all of us. What a lovely tribute to John!

  • Nora Westcott says:

    The loss of a good friend from youth often is more devastating than that of a family member. Please accept my sincere sympathy.

  • Kelly Price says:

    Dear Pat,

    I’m so deeply sorry for your loss. My heart goes out to you and your family during is time. You’re book signing isn’t in vain and I’m sure your dear friend would want you to push forward as you’re doing. The ache and emptiness does go away in time, but you know all this. I hope that everytime you reach for “My Losing Season” you have nothing but fond memories and a smile on your face. I’ll send a prayer to heaven. All will be well. You’ve done a fantastic job of everything!

  • LINDA MACKY says:

    Tears are shed reach deep into your soul to share with others through your written words & touch other souls…peace to your long time friend’s family & to you, Conroy.

  • Nina Angela McKissock says:

    A big hug to you.

  • Adrianna says:

    Dear Mr. Conroy. The loss of the good friend is like a light going out in your peripheral vision – it throws you off. It dodges your every move, and is a constant source of pain. It takes you off balance and the grief in your loss, is also a reminder that our own mortality is a subject we cannot take lightly. My most sincere condolences on the loss of your MVP . . .

  • Carol Flowers says:

    Such a beautiful tribute to your good friend, thank you. I am actually about 1/3 of the way into reading “My Losing Season” and every day I want to give you a big hug. You were a great talented basketball player and I wish more people had told you that even when you were a little boy. As I read the remaining 2/3 of your book, I will read it with a different view knowing that John is no longer physically with us.
    Pat, you are my favorite author and I’m sorry I missed Cassandra’s book tour when you two were in Dothan (my home town) recently.
    Prayers sent your way.

  • Dear Pat,

    Expression is one of the greatest healers. Thanks for sharing your grief; being with those who grieve is an increadible lesson in love.

  • Bobbi Hahn says:

    Dear Mr. Conroy,

    I am so very sorry for your loss; my condolences to you, his other friends, and his family. Your reconnecting with Mr. DeBrosse was serendipity, leading to your writing a book I absolutely loved – and I’m not a huge sports fan! Of course, I’ve read (and reread) all of your books, and have been known to purchase a book just because you wrote the forward, or even a blurb. Your sorrow comes shining through this moving tribute to your friend, and your sending the trophy brings tears to my eyes. I had the joy of experiencing your kindness first hand, when I met you at the fundraiser for The Green in Beaufort. May your book tour bring you fulfillment and more words of gratitude from others like me, who consider you to be an incredibly gifted writer and, more important, a thoughtful, passionate man. God bless . . .

  • Tinker Fegans says:

    What a wonderful tribute! I’ll say it again: You’re a treasure.

  • Suzanne Hershey Ford says:

    Dear Pat, At our age we have moved into the stage of experiencing grief more frequently due to the loss of our peers. Today, we remember them all with the love they deserve. Your moving tribute not only brings gives us a real sense of John, but explains a bit better to me the “specific language” that men, most particularly atheletes, lack. I’ve often been baffled by it watching my own husband interact with childhood friends and reading what seem to be your “substitute insults” in your books. (Thank you for not extending the same to women!) My condolences to you today. “Sue” BHS ’62

  • Linda Underwood says:

    I cried all the way through this tribute. Thank you for writing my favorite books. Now My Losing Season means even more to me. So sorry John is gone.

  • Elesa Brandenburg Dillon says:

    Pat, by far My Losing Season is your best book to date. Perhaps because it let me inside my fathers coaching life at the Citadel. My mother and father always spoke highly of you Pat. I’m sorry for your loss.

    Be well, God Bless-Jean and Paul Brandenburg’s daughter Elesa-

  • Paul Collett says:

    I wish to express my condolences to the family and to John’s close friends. I am sorry for your loss! I am touched by your recounting your relationship and will certainly get a copy of your book to see if I can fill in many blanks.
    I knew John as the consumate competitor and determined opponent way back in high school (Piqua Catholic vs Piqua Central). I lost track of John after knowing that he enrolled and played at the BB Citadel. He must have served in the military? I was drafted while attending UC and 3 yrs. later resumed my education.
    I hope to learn more about John’s life and his family. I am saddened that he lived in Dayton and I did not know it.

  • A very moving tribute to your friend, teammate and classmate. I have not read “My Losing Season” yet, but I will. I suspect that like most, if not all, of your books, “My Losing Season” will speak to me. You seem to have a gift for touching a place that resonates within the soul and helping others to heal or come to resolution through your words.

  • Roger Tripp says:

    Dear Mr. Conroy, I am sorry for your loss. I have read and reread every one of your books. Each one has made me laugh and cry and enriched my life immeasurably. I am sorry for your loss. As a former athlete, I know exactly what your are talking about how teammates express their love for one another and how that changes as we age. Now that I’m in my sixties and have started losing friends to death I’ve started telling the living ones how much I love them. If that’s being less of a man then so be it.

  • Kent Weitkamp says:

    Thank you for putting into words what so many of us struggle to express.

  • Terry Berkeley '66 says:

    Pat, Another moving tribute from The Boo on to others! Even equalling your best sentence: “I wear the ring.” Thank You!

  • John Starks says:

    Good men are only boys that refuse to ever grow up. You are a good man Pat. I share your grief along with John’s extended family.

  • Beverly Soholt says:

    Sorry about your friend. I missed “My Losing Season” somehow, but will remedy that immediately. Waiting for my copy of the “Death of Santini” to get here.I appreciate all your phenomenal writing.

  • Angela Amburgey says:

    Mr.Conroy I have not had the pleasure of reading any of your books but I will be looking for them now after reading this beautiful memories of your friend. I also feel blessed to have known john for the last 4 years only. I actually babysit for his daughter Katie and I just love this family. They are the nicest family. John and Pam have come to get their grandchildren here lots of times and I feel blessed to have been so included in bday parties and celebrations. I enjoyed hearing of your days playing ball with him and the wonderful friendship you both had. I also agree that you should not have that guilt/Shame for not being able to attend his funeral. You will be there to him. God bless.

  • Jamie Bell says:

    Your writing is outstanding! I to have lost a close friend that I made at The Citadel. I am sorry for your loss, good friends are hard to come by in this day and time. Thanks for all your books. (The Lords of Discipline is my favorite)

    The Citadel
    Class of 1995

  • Laura Lusso says:

    So sorry to hear of the passing of your dear friend. From your heartfelt words of tribute the love you had for him shines through.
    I would like to take this opportunity to tell you how much all your books have meant to me. You have long been my favorite writer. As a voracious reader, I seldom take the time to reread a book when there are so many out there to experience. An exception to that rule is my favorite, ” Prince of Tides”. Thank you for the many enjoyable hours you have given me.

  • Shirley DeBrosse Kuchta says:

    Pat and Readers;

    I am John DeBrosse’s youngest sister. Thank you for your tribute to John. You have captured his essence masterfully. John often sparred verbally with me. He liked to get me “fighting mad” at him and you would know it when you saw the glint in his eye and what we called the “shit eating ” grin on his face. He did however, the last time we got into one of these matches tell me, ” You know I only do this with you because I love you” So, there is hope for all you “lock-jawed” men

    Thanks too for the rosary. I always told him he needed as many prayers as he could get and I know that after all these years you will also be blessed in return.

    You’ve become a part of our family may God bless you on your journey.

  • Dan Glass says:

    Hey Pat!
    Hated to hear this news. I had to put up with your yacking on the court as well as John did but we both understood your unworthiness to be participating against or with us! LOL
    It seems so sudden for John’s demise. He sounded youthful the last time I talked to him and I was looking forward to seeing him again. Guess I am forced to wait like the rest of us. However I do look forward to our next “practice” when we are all back together, not sure you will make the qualification stage to join us up on the golden court! But keep trying just the same.
    As for John….we lost a great friend and a warm human being. We suffered all together but it ,The Cid, gave us backbone! God Bless! The other walk-on!

  • Lou Perella 66' says:

    Pat..your tribute brought back such fond memories I had of John. Thanks for your words.

  • Tim Jones says:


  • Ellen Wiser says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. What a lovely tribute you wrote!

    I read My Losing Season and loved it enough to share it with our son who was in college at the time. I used to think The Prince of Tides was your best work until I read My Reading Life. It enriched my reading habit immensely.

    Thank you for sharing your gift with us!

  • Laura Barajas says:

    Thank you for the moving tribute for John. I was one of Pam’s friends at the book signing and at their house when you were there. I know you mean a lot to the whole family.

    • Luan says:

      Mary, the clues that Pat shared with you about his next book have got me more axonius than ever to get my hands on it. It sounds like a very moving book. I know from experience how difficult it is to watch someone die from aids – an employee of mine, a very young man, did so almost 20 years ago and I still think about what he suffered.I haven’t seen the cookbook but it sounds as if I should take a look. Thanks.Please stay in touch.

  • Regan Butler says:

    I had read all the books you had published by the time I met and had the opportunity to work with John DeBrosse. The tough talker had us fooled for a time but he and Pam became dear friends. One of the best jokes he played on me was when I was reading about My Losing Season. I knew you went to the Citadel and that John did too. I asked him, “Did you know Pat Conroy John? I love his stuff and would love to meet him.” John replied, “Who are you talking about? No, I don’t. Citadel is a big school.” A couple of days later he brought me an article about the Citadel to read. He handed it over [it had a picture of the infamous basketball team]. I glanced at the picture and looked up at John and he just let loose with laughter. He was a good man and I will miss him.

  • Jennifer says:

    Beautiful, painful, loving- what a wonderful tribute to your friend & teammate. I have loved every one of your books- My Losing Season is no exception. I am so pleased that you reunited with your friend and created such a great book- I loved sharing it with my father & grandfather, great men- and great lovers of sports. As the mother of three growing boys, I recently had the urge to re-read…the tale offers a meaningful glimpse into the unique and endless bonds of friendship shared by young men…
    Thinking of you, favorite author!

  • henni corbin says:

    I wish I could invent some new, fabulous word that would replace all the oft used praises about your writing ability. I am a College of Charleston grad and the good friend of a Citadel graduate. We both have followed you since “The Water Is Wide” and “The Boo”.

    I wish I could see a sneak copy of the eulogy someone will deliver over you one day. I hope they come close to saying all the best and most appropriate remarks about the man, husband, father and author that you are. Most importantly, I hope they emphasize your pride over “the ring, Bubba. The ring”. Henni Corbin

  • John Gibbons,1968 says:

    I knew JOHN DEBROSSE to always be a gentleman. John will surely be missed at this year’s reunion. Sure sounds like Pat Conroy has taken charge over John’s trophy?
    I love the sound and style of this old fashioned wrangling between two friends and fellow team mates. This was a compelling read for me like ‘The Lords of Discipline’ and the many other Conroy novels I have read down through the years. Thanks for the memories!

  • Joe Thomas says:

    Pat, I played ball at PCHS with Red and Pony (aka Johnny and Barney) and must say you captured the essence of John. Funny, without ever having thought about it, I just assumed John would be the last man down; such was his determination and will power. My first reaction was I heard he was seriously ill was, “unbelievable!” The second unanticipated reaction was the impact and effect John had on all who knew him and especially those of us who only played ball with him. He left a mark … a very positive mark.
    You are good man Pat. Only good men see what you see.

  • Tom McKavitt, Sr. says:

    Pat… Have always enjoyed your books…especially your reference to your “dazes” at Gonzaga High School in Washington DC since I am an alum of the class of 1953… and as you wrote, your English prof there was a great inspiration to you, so was my English prof… my sympathy goes out to you and the DeBrosse family… good friends are sometimes hard to come by and then to lose them at such an early age… as the Jesuits would say… AMDG

  • Tony Gianforti '68 says:

    Absolutely wonderful tribute to John. We were classmates in D Co and John was a real stand up guy and great role model, on and off the court. While I haven’t seen John since graduation, I always feel a sense of loss when one of our class passes. You are a very gifted writer and if you book signing tour leads you near Harrisburg, PA, beware I will be coming with an arm load of your books to sign. Keep up the marvelous work and God bless.

  • tous les ans je surveille la sortie d’un nouveau livre car je les ai tous adorés. Je vous trouve un peu paresseux a quand le prochain? J’ai vu que vous allier sortir ‘la mort de santini’ mais sera t’il traduit en Français? Un petit effort s’il vous plait. De la part d’une famille entière qui dévore vos livres.

  • Bob Heidkamp says:

    I was lucky enough to see John when he was a senior at Piqua Catholic. I also saw Van Evans of Urbana and Belmont’s May and Hosket that year– DeBrosse was as good as any of them. I’m a Huber Heights boy, and in the mid 70s there were some terrific Wayne kids trying to establish themselves as players. Coach DeBrosse had just taken the Fairborn Baker job, inheriting a team that had gone something like 1-17 the year before. He had those kids sold in a very short amount of time the value of working 7/24/365 on improving their game. We didn’t go to any open gyms without seeing Baker guys wherever we went in Dayton, and of course in the outdoor Fairborn Summer League. In one of the most amazing turnarounds in high school hoops, Baker was an absolute bitch the next few years. They possessed the same qualities their coach had… heart and smarts. I’ve witnessed a lot of high school coaches in the Dayton area. This guy was one amazing competitor, and his players mirrored his passion and enthusiasm. It was very sad to hear about Coach DeBrosse’s passing. Prayers go out to his family. Conroy, you got no idea how good your point guard was as a high school coach. There’s your book on a winner, right there.

  • Allan Lacsamana says:

    A loving tribute. Thank you for honoring your friends, Pat. God bless you and your teammates. God bless you John.

  • Tom Allingham says:

    Mr Conroy, I had the priviedge of caring for John in Crossville TN, When he was a patient in our hospital here, prior to his transfer back to Dayton. As an intensivist, I often do not get to know my patients well. Unfortunately that was the case with John. I did however get to speak frequently with Pam and the kids. Through them I feel that I got to know him. We spoke of The Citadel and my time in Charleston as a Navy physician. It was a particularly interesting period since I was in town for the admission of the first female cadet. As you might expect that sparked some conversation among the family. I only wish I could have known him better. Sorry for your loss, and those who knew and loved him.

  • Betsy Tipton Grise says:

    Your post made me cry as do all your books. I have read them all, and love the laughter, the tears, and the intimate snapshots of your life. You make us feel as if we are sitting across the coffee table from you. I’m sorry for your loss. What a tender heart you have. Please keep writing and sharing these wonderful stories with us.

  • Julie Mickel Schott says:

    Your “My Losing Season” is my favorite Pat Conroy book. Thank you for sharing another story here about friendship, heartache, and healing. Thank you for sharing more of your inspiration and imagination. Most of all Thank You for Sharing. May God Bless the family of Mr. John DeBrosse, your Citadel basketball family, and you. J

    • Wilbur says:

      What great stories, Mary. I relaly appreciate you taking the time to share your experiences with us.Pat is one of my very favorite writers, too, and my perception of him has always been that he’s a nice guy, someone who would be a good friend.I can well imagine how much fun that first visit was and how much you appreciate he and his wife’s friendship.Do get back to us if you hear anything about timing on the next book. I get more hits on this website from people searching for info on Pat than from any other single subject, so I know that people are very interested about his plans. Thanks.

  • Claire Tomlin says:

    Looking forward to your visit to the Miami Book Fair – thank you for sharing so much.

  • Sean Boyce says:

    Dear Mr. Conroy,
    Let me start off by expressing my condolences for the loss of your teammate and friend, John DeBrosse.
    After that opening and unoriginal salvo, I’ve no idea what to say. I guess I can start by saying your novels have been a security blanket to me since my childhood. Yes, my childhood. I didnt know you were a writer and I hadnt read anything you wrote, but something about the film “The Great Santini” struck home. My father was not a physically abusive man, but he was emotionally distant and extremely short tempered. I learned to avoid him when he was home in order to avoid his temper. While I was only hit a few times, I learned young enough that I didn’t really care to feel his anger. I am the youngest of seven children. A blended family by todays definition.

    We lost my father to a heart attack when I was eight. I cried twice at that time. Before dad died I was forbidden to cry. I have cried only a handful of times since. I would watch Robert Duvall bring my dad to life again when I watched Santini.

    When I joined the Marines after my senior year of high school I discovered that novel in the surprisingly well-stocked base library. I have probably re-read that novel in excess of ten times. I followed it up with “The Lords of Discipline” and my mother introduced me to “Beach Music” and “The Prince of Tides” after that. Your novels have been cathartic to me in how I deal with my past. I just recently finished “My Losing Season”.

    Thank you for introducing me to your world, fictional and real. I have just given my wife my Christmas list and I have requested “South of Broad” and “The Death of Santini” as the only gifts I need. We have four kids, so two books at one time is both a rich treat as well as an escape from the chaos that encumbers my home. I’m looking forward to Christmas to say the least.

    Take care Mr. Conroy, and please take care of Will, Jack, Ben and all those souls who inhabit your world…

  • bob wright says:

    Dribblin” Man,
    I enjoyed your words about your teammate John Debosse, your inspiration for My Losing Season. The book was a Christmas gift in 2003 from one of my best friends. We were the guards for Grace College in 1964-65. And I always figured that we could beat you and Debosse in a game of 2on2. My friend Mike Grill(Dr. Edward Michael Grill) loved you and all your books. He died of leukemia on March 26, 2013. He, too, was from Dayton, Ohio. My wife and I are looking forward to meeting you Nov. 7 to have you sign a couple books for his grandchildren and his friend.

  • Bill Park...Class of 1968 says:

    Pat…it is a good thing that your reunion with John happened and that it turned into My Losing Season. It was even better to hear of your exchange with him in the bookstore.
    Could have been on the quad or In Mark Clark Hall, even after all those years. That a great thing about Citadel relationships, no many how many years have passed.

    Thanks, too, for honoring my friend and classmate, Carl Peterson, in My Losing Season. Carl was one of the smartest and kindest men in the class of 68. Wish we could run into him somewhere. Thanks again.

  • Malinda Wilson says:

    Pat, your books are all American literary treasures but My Losing Season is, in my opinion, the best of the lot. You so beautifully and completely described the young men of our generation who for reasons you’ve eloquently explained weren’t allowed to express fear, affection, or tenderness. Instead, through the camaraderie of a high school basketball team, you showed us how boys became men in spite of their stiff necked, taciturn fathers. Thank you for letting your love for those men shine through the remarkable book.

  • I wasn’t going to comment, but the opportunity to be the 100th reply was too appealing to pass up. My dad, Bruce Whitney, Jr. overlapped his time at the Citadel with yours (’64). He was a huge fan of your writing as am I. I am excited to find your blog and look forward to the book release on Tuesday. God bless and keep bleeding on the page/screen.

  • Sandy Woody says:

    Pat you are by far my favorite writer. I always have a mini breakdown while reading your books. That is a compliment. I too suffer from depression and your writing has saved me many a time. I’m still here and cannot wait to read your latest book. Thank you……

  • Walter Barnes says:

    Mr. Conroy,

    I express my condolences on the passing of your good friend, John DeBrosse.

    Of all the books I have read in my life, I think the most meaningful book I have read has been “My Losing Season” which I read last year (Over and over). Your attention to detail and remembrances of so many wonderful and painful memories involving your experiences with friends, family, and other people passing through your life had me mesmerized. Your description of the South and it’s lush beauty make me think that you are secretly a romantic!

    I too was a basketball player as a young boy, who had one time thought about writing, but was never able to follow through like you did. I joined the Navy, did my time in the military (20 years worth) but wasn’t subjected to anything close to what you had to suffer at the Citadel. Your ordeal there, combined with dealing with your Father’s temper, and having to defend your family from him is one of the most difficult situations I’ve ever heard described by anyone.

    Thank God that you were able to survive and then thrive.

    I am currently reading your book “The Death of Santini” and it’s amazing how much
    information you were able to find out about your relatives. Your family history is as interesting as any I’ve heard about in my life.

    I haven’t read all your books (Please give me some more time!) but I think I’ve seen all the films that came from your books. The Prince of Tides is just an outstanding film. It blew me away. That scene with Nolte and Nelligan where they reconcile is powerfully emotional and brought me to tears.

    Back to the Death Of Santini.

    My father, Irish, like yours, had that Santini-like temper and I was not exactly spared the rod myself. It’s your words and memories that forced me to deal with the realization that I hated my father and didn’t know if I could ever forgive him. He was absent for a good portion of my life and his job required him to be on the road a lot. (He was a truck driver for Mayflower Moving Co for many years and at one time in the 70′s was the 3rd most senior employee). He divorced my mom the same year I joined the Navy, in 1980. He passed away last year.

    A few years ago, my sister, brother and I went up to see him at his home in Cape Cod, (You should visit that place sometime sir!) and we were able to resolve a lot of questions involving why and what happened to Dad and it was just amazing. Forgiveness is a beautiful thing.

    I will read D of S all the way through and maybe read it again later. It’s my bible for now.

    Love your writing! So honest and true!

    Thank you Pat! Please keep writing!

    Your fan,

    Walter Barnes

  • Nyuushin says:

    Sue, I love the quote, it really describes Pat Conroy. I also love Beach Music — it is my favorite book. Because you are so familiar with it, I have a question. I listened to Beach Music for the first time years ago — I checked it out from the library. Recently, I downloaded the book from There is a section I remember from my fist “reading” that is not in the downloaded version (which is not abridged). It is a story of the male characters getting lost on a raft and floating at sea until they almost die. Am I remembering this from another book?

  • Shelley McMackin says:

    I’m in the middle of The Death of Santini, and I can’t put it down! It’s my family story–I thought we were the only ones! So many parallels! Boy, do I have some stories!
    This is the cheapest psychoanalysis I have ever stumbled upon. What is most incredible to me is how you were able to forgive . . . . Not so in my family (nor my personal) history. Thank you for opening up, and sharing so much. It has touched me deeply.

  • Frank Chaney says:

    I was a freshman when John was a senior at our little (4 year enrollment 285) Ohio high school. That year, 1964, the basketball team streaked to the state finals, along the way beating big school teams from Columbus and Cincinnati. John and Dave Bornhorst were like Gods to me then. John was the most extraordinary all around athlete I ever personally knew. Reading this tribute made me laugh and cry at the same time. Thank you.

  • My latest book is about teammates, and I know it must be like losing a body part, to lose one. My family also spent several Memorial Days in Beaufort, and my mom a Christmas on Fripp. You really captured Mr. DeBrosse in your work, and I enjoy your Low Country chronicles.

  • Rick says:

    Pat (I’d call you Mr. Conroy but the last time I did that you grabbed my neck and said, “Mr. Conroy is my father! I’m Pat!”), I’m just seeing this post now and I apologize for not seeing it sooner. I’m so sorry for your loss. Having been a member of “Corps Squad” myself I know that the connection you shared transcends that of a mere teammate. The bonds we formed at that school are indescribable to those who have not experienced it. My condolences.
    Golf 96

  • Cheryl Polito says:

    Waiting to hear from you

  • Al Vocke says:

    Hi Pat,
    John DeBrosse was quite a character. I played against him in high school and he always let it be know that they beat us. He was a senior and I was a sophomore. We beat his school the next year, but according to John it didn’t count. While he was at Bethel Schools I was the computer tech there and we had many long discussions about sports and especially basketball. I miss him very much. I participated in the foul shooting thing for charity and John was at my basket. I made 93 out of a 100 and he said that if he didn’t see it with his own eyes he would not have believed me if I told him I made that many. At his funeral I told Pam that I expected him to sit up any time and say “GOTCHA”. He is missed by many people, but the memories will be there forever. He got you to autograph a copy of My Losing Season for me when I had to be the substitute AD when he went to the Citadel for a reunion. I enjoyed the book immensely. I was just thinking about John and ran across this website and had to share with you my experiences with Mr. DeBrosse. Thank you for writing such a great book. Al Vocke

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