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Former Montana State coach O'Brien to release book
He’s married, he runs his own business and he’s coaching again. Most of all, he’s remorseful.
Former Montana State University assistant football coach Joe O’Brien, who spent nearly two and a half years in federal prison for his role in a methamphetamine distribution conspiracy, has written a book about his life that is due out later this summer.
In the 192 pages of “Busted Bronco: From Addiction to Redemption,” O’Brien covers topics ranging from his dysfunctional upbringing and unlawful behavior to his incarceration and “triumph over the demons that have haunted him throughout his life,” according to a press release from publisher Bootleg Books.
The Pittsburg, Calif., native has been out of prison since September of 2006 and recently completed his first season as a paid football coach since his arrest seven years ago. He is also a motivational speaker.
During a phone interview on Monday, O’Brien said he wanted to tell his story in order to guide others into not making the same mistakes he did.
“I just think it’s going to help people,” the 38-year-old said from his home in Great Falls. “I’ve made some decisions in my life that I wished I would have changed. Hopefully people can learn from the bad decisions that I made.”
In September of 2003, during his fourth season as an assistant coach at MSU, O’Brien was arrested in Townsend on methamphetamine charges. He resigned two weeks later. In October of that year, he pleaded not guilty to felony drug charges, claiming he was set up.
He later changed his plea to guilty, and in October of 2004, O’Brien was sentenced to four years in jail. He wound up serving 28 months at a federal prison in Pennsylvania.
Another motivation for writing the book, O’Brien says, is “to set the record straight. The media puts out all the things that people want to read - a lot of the bad stuff - and I want to tell the real story of what happened.”
Asked for specifics, he replied, “You’re going to have to read the book.”
According to Bob Evancho, who wrote the book with O’Brien, Busted Bronco is scheduled to be released in late July or early August.
Evancho has written four books, including “Pokey: The Good Fight,” about former Boise State head football coach Pokey Allen, who led the Broncos to the 1994 Division I-AA championship game, where they lost to Jim Tressell’s Youngstown State team.
O’Brien was the Big Sky Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year and a first-team All-American that season and Evancho had interviewed O’Brien for his book on Allen that came out in 1997.
O’Brien sought out Evancho via email in August of 2008, inviting the author to sit down on the morning of Boise State’s season opener at a coffee shop a month later. They spoke for two hours.
“I didn’t even know he was out of prison when he first contacted me,” said Evancho, a former sports writer who lives in Boise, Idaho. “The journalist in me was interested right away. Before I left (the coffee shop) I knew I wanted to do this book with him because the stuff he was telling me was so compelling.”
The book chronicles O’Brien’s rough California upbringing in graphic detail.
“It’s very raw and unvarnished,” Evancho said. “He didn’t pull any punches when he was telling me about his childhood and the things that happened to him. The word I would us is no-holds-barred or honest. He tells it in very stark, candid language. There’s a lot of vulgarity. It’s not a book for the uptight.”
Says O’Brien: “Obviously I got myself into some bad situations and I’m extremely sorry for a lot of those things. There’s going to be negative backlash from this book, I’m sure. There’s people that hate me and I’m okay with that. All I care about is the people that are going to read the book and how it’s going to help them. That’s my goal. It’s not to make money; I don’t care if I make a dime.
“I’m sure there will probably be some people nervous about me throwing them under the bus. It has nothing to do with any names.”
O’Brien says he has stayed in touch with former MSU assistants Pete Kwiatkowski and Rob Christoff, who were on the Bobcat staff when he was arrested, but hasn’t spoken to Mike Kramer, who was Montana State’s head coach in 2003.
“In due time I’ll talk to coach Kramer,” O’Brien said.
When asked what he would say to Kramer, O’Brien said, “That’d be between us. I have nothing to but good things to say about him and the university.”
After giving his first motivational speech at Carroll College in Helena in 207, O’Brien got married the following year to MSU alumnae Gracie Duffy. O’Brien still gives talks, mostly at high schools and colleges.
He became a volunteer assistant in 2009 in Fresno, Calif., for the Central Valley Coyotes, an arenafootball2 team. This past spring, he served as associate head coach and defensive coordinator for the Wenatchee Valley (Wash.) Venom of the Indoor Professional League, his first paid coaching job since his Montana State days.
He owns Get the JO’B Done construction company in Great Falls.
Evancho says once the book is released, the plan is to have O’Brien make public appearances around the state.
Busted Bronco is yet another in a long line of athletes who fall from grace, then seek redemption - with football as a background.
“This is about helping people of all ages. That’s all I’m trying to do,” he said. “I’m sure there will probably be some people nervous about me throwing them under the bus. It has nothing to do with any names. Even if you’re not a sports person at all, I think it’s a great book.”
By Tim Dumas, The Bozeman Daily Chronicle