By Steve Wulf
Updated January 15, 2008 at 05:00 AM EST

Basketball may be the soul game, but, as Neil Swidey deftly reveals in The Assist, it’s often played and coached by wounded souls. Meet the Charlestown High Townies, kids from inner-city Boston who commute to a neighborhood known for racism to play for a white coach who cares as much about getting them into college as he does about winning — and Jack O’Brien wins a lot. Though the narrative slows a bit in Boston’s history of busing, Swidey quickly regains his traction, like the players who lick their hands to wet their shoe bottoms for better footing. There’s triumph, tragedy, and salvation in this story. Not to mention a movie. A-