I got a call from Joe Keller the other day after he read the excerpt from Play Their Hearts Out in Sports Illustrated. I knew this call was coming, the conversation when Joe would curse and threaten me (with a lawsuit). I expected it to come after he read the entire book, but all it took was the excerpt. Joe is reading the book now, I assume, as I Fedexed a copy to him last week. It will be interesting to see if he calls me again.
Joe is not the same person today that he was when I started following him in 2000 or when he dropped out of the narrative in 2007, and I think that will contribute to his dissatisfaction with how he is portrayed in the book. He is calmer now, less competitive, not so blinded by his ambitions. He has reached his goals, and that has mellowed him. He’s likely to read PTHO and say, “That’s not me!” and he wouldn’t be wrong. But in the period of time covered in the book, when Joe rose up in grassroots basketball and found financial success, he was not always likeable. He got dirty on his way to the top, and I couldn’t sugarcoat that in the narrative.
I like Joe much more now than when I first met him – our conversations aren’t so one-sided and he’s more reflective – yet I doubt we will be talking much going forward. The book is filled with stories of Joe casting away players and other people he didn’t need anymore or who burned him.
Sadly, I think it may be my turn.