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Former hoops coach writes a tale based on game

July 19, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The high school basketball coach idolizes his freshman star. But the coach's daughter falls in love with the player, gets pregnant and everything changes.

The player signs a contract with an NBA team. His former coach becomes ill.

Then...

Paul Swartz wants you to keep reading.

Swartz, a former Washington County commissioner now living in North Carolina, has written the book that's been sitting in his mind.

"Love Above All Else" was printed last month by AuthorHouse, a self-publishing company.

"I did something I always wanted to do," Swartz said.

A longtime coach, Swartz relies on a topic he knows well -- basketball -- to tell a bigger story.

For an extra layer of drama, he made the coach and his daughter white and the star player black.

He's thinking of a sequel, but hasn't committed to writing it yet.

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Swartz, 71, was a Washington County commissioner from 1998 to 2002 and lost when he ran for re-election.

He ran again and lost in 2006.

By then, he knew the story he wanted to write.

Swartz said he had written five or six chapters of his book before he and his wife, Shirley, moved in 2007 to Shallotte, N.C., between Myrtle Beach and Wilmington. But he was discouraged by his wife's critique of the first chapter, so he put the book aside.

Later, she encouraged him to write again. This time, "things just started falling into place," he said.

Swartz set the story in and around Martinsburg, W.Va. -- again, writing about what he knows.

He graduated from Musselman High School in Inwood, W.Va., in 1956. He said he still holds some records from his days playing basketball and baseball.

In 1960, Swartz started coaching high school basketball in Harpers Ferry, W.Va. He later coached at North Hagerstown and South Hagerstown high schools.

He briefly coached a freshman team at West Virginia University, but his family wanted to move back to the Tri-State region, so Swartz took a coaching job in Clear Spring.

Swartz, who comes back to Washington County a few times a year, said he won more than 350 games as a coach, mostly in basketball.

Jerry Smith, the teenage superstar in "Love Above All Else," is a composite of several people, including LeBron James, who jumped to the NBA from high school and became one of the league's top players.

Swartz said the only disappointment of the book was the number of errors of punctuation and grammar error made it into print.

He said he thinks AuthorHouse made changes to his writing and created errors, but Kevin A. Gray, AuthorHouse's public relations manager, disputed that. Without knowing the specifics of Swartz's book, Gray said AuthorHouse only prints a book after the author approves the final version.

Swartz joked that he used to get A's in English, but he might flunk now.

AuthorHouse is selling the book online for $9.95 for a paperback and $14.99 for a hardcover version.

The Amazon and Barnes & Noble Web sites also are selling the book, although at higher prices.

As of Wednesday, Swartz said, about 50 copies of the book had been sold. He said he needs to sell about 2,000 copies to break even.

With little money for marketing, Swartz is trying on his own to tell as many people as he can about his book.

He's aiming high. "I sent one to Oprah," he said.

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