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AU track coach and Olympian Matthew Centrowitz Sr. publishes memoir

Centrowitz shares stories of his running career and his son’s gold medal mile in new book

AU track coach and Olympian Matthew Centrowitz Sr. publishes memoir

Assistant track coach Chris Kwiatkowski, left, and head coach Matthew Centrowitz, Sr. pose with Centrowitz's memoir "Like Father, Like Son," which was published on January 19.

Google Matthew Centrowitz and the first page will be filled with results related to the younger Matthew Centrowitz, Olympic gold medalist, recent track star and the son of AU head track and cross country coach, Matthew Centrowitz Sr.

Search the name on Amazon, however, and the name brings up different results. The site instead displays a picture of a memoir, published on January 19, 2017 by Centrowitz Sr., who announced his plan in May to step down as coach in September.

An Olympian himself, Centrowitz Sr. said his recent project allowed him to share stories from a sport that molded him and his son into the iconic track figures that they are today. The book takes readers from Centrowitz Sr.’s childhood in the Bronx, a run in with the law and his first day on the track.

Centrowitz Sr. writes in chronological order as he describes his growth in the sport, and his decision to transfer to the University of Oregon from Manhattan College after his first year of collegiate running. The book hits on three main themes, running, coaching and parenting, but the majority of the book focuses on Centrowitz Sr.’s athletic career, offering bits and pieces of his parenting style at the beginning and end of the book and some of his own coaching anecdotes in the final chapters.

“I started writing [my book] three years ago, and things kept getting clearer and clearer,” Centrowitz Sr. said. “And then, of course, what changed things was my son’s gold medal, and I knew we were reaching a broader audience.”

The title of the book, “Like Father, Like Son,” matches a tattoo that the younger Centrowitz wears across his chest, and Centrowitz Sr. said that his son’s Olympic win served as a turning point in his own relationship with the sport.

“It was a lot to take in, the impact,” Centrowitz said. “Everything changed. When I go with him to a track event, we can’t just sit there and be father and son. He’s the gold medalist, he’s the Olympic champion. He’s not my son anymore, he’s a public commodity or a public celebrity.”

While the first chapter, last chapter and the title of the book focus on Centrowitz Sr.’s relationship with his son, the writing process of the memoir turned into a family affair, Centrowitz, Sr. said.

Each of Centrowitz’s three children, Lauren, Matthew and Marisa, had the opportunity to write a chapter, and while some parts of their writing didn’t make it into the final product, Centrowitz still happily discussed the original copies of the contributed chapters.

His youngest daughter Marisa, now a nursing student at the University of Pennsylvania, ran track and cross country for one season in high school before giving up the sport entirely. She wrote in her chapter that the family’s focus on sport and success “guided us to be goal oriented and competitive.”

“Growing up with a unique family like mine taught me that I can be Olympic equivalent in my personal and professional path,” Marisa Centrowitz wrote in her chapter.

Centrowitz Sr. said Marisa’s drive and passion brings him great pride, and that her story of academic success reflects the ideals that he wants his runners at AU to take with them in their own lives.

“The principles of how to work, how to have moderation, how to have balance in your life, all of these that you are learning, time management, all the things that apply,” Centrowitz Sr. said. “These are what make up the world.”

Once he steps down as coach, Centrowitz Sr. told AUEagles.com that he plans to use his time to promote his book and spend more time with his son.

The soon-to-be former AU track coach said he wrote his book with the hopes of passing on these lessons and others from his life to future runners who still want to be champions. Learning to think like a champion is key to success, he said, and he hopes he conveyed that lesson in his writing.

The process of putting words to paper required assistance, and Centrowitz enlisted the help of Chris Kwiatkowski, his assistant coach at AU and his son’s college roommate at Oregon. Centrowitz Sr. worked with Kwiatkowski at AU during the summers when Kwiatkowski was an undergraduate at Oregon and the two men developed a trustworthy relationship.

Kwiatkowski came to AU five years ago to take on the assistant coaching role, and he now has not only AU coaching experience on his resume, but he also has credit as an author of a memoir on the Centrowitz olympians. With the support of AU as well as the Oregon running community, where both men went to school, Centrowitz and Kwiatkowski interviewed alumni, former teammates and old coaches to include the perspective of those who ran with them for the book.

In the end, they produced a product that makes them both proud, Centrowitz said, and Kwiatkowski emphasized that the book truly was a team effort, a team effort that he is now ready to sell.

“We believe in it, the people who helped us believe in it, and all the feedback that we’ve gotten from people are really responding to it,” Kwiatkowski said. “It’s just exciting, really exciting stuff.”

In the pages of his memoir, Centrowitz offers up his own story in an honest manner, explaining that running saved him from a life of drinking, smoking and small crime. The sport propelled him forward, and through his own work and careful coaching, he found his way out of his hometown in the Bronx and onto the roster at the University of Oregon.

Several decades later, his son donned the same Oregon green, following his father’s footsteps into the sport, into college and into the Olympic stadium.

But the competitive genes and drive that propelled Centrowitz Jr. to success in Rio still linger in the father. The book allowed the older runner a chance to compete again, to push for the top spot on Amazon’s sports autobiography list.

“I was surprised at how athletically and competitive I get in selling the book. Don’t get me wrong, I want to make money, and I want people to read it, but more importantly, I like to be number one,” Centrowitz said. “I can’t believe how competitive I am, how much that matters to me.”

sscovel@theeagleonline.com