Book review: 'A Game of Character' by Craig Robinson

Sunday, April 25, 2010


A Family Journey from Chicago's Southside to the Ivy League and Beyond

By Craig Robinson with Mim Eichler Rivas

Gotham. 256 pp. $26

To college hoops fans, Craig Robinson is a former Ivy League basketball star and the current standout head coach of the Oregon State University Beavers. But others know him only by relation, as the older brother of first lady Michelle Obama. In his first book, "A Game of Character," Robinson lays out enough family history to keep Obamaphiles sated -- he mentions Michelle about every 10 pages -- while using most of the book to relate his philosophy of life, love and, above all, basketball.

Given chapters titled "Luck Is Just Another Word for Hard Work" and "A Strategy for Change Starts with the Belief That You Can Win," readers shouldn't expect Robinson to dish dirt on his little sister from their days sharing a bedroom in the Southside of Chicago. The closest Robinson gets is when he offers his father's initial reaction to Michelle's would-be suitor, a lanky Hawaiian named Barack: "She'll eat him alive."

Robinson's journey to Princeton University, a position with Morgan Stanley and, after a drastic career change, the coaching job at OSU -- all this makes for an uplifting read. As for that philosophy, he sums it up in round-ball terms: "You don't have to be a basketball player to look for your open shot and take it. That's the secret of the game of character."

-- T. Rees Shapiro

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