I was sent “Wooden: A Coach’s Life” two months ago and it took me quite awhile to finish the 608-page behemoth. I usually avoid books this length, not because I hate reading, but I often read a few books at a time. I thought this would be a pain to read due to its length, but I found myself really looking forward to my time with the book.
John Wooden is the best basketball coach of all-time. Not just the best college basketball coach, but I believe he is the best basketball coach at any level. His X’s & O’s were great, but he made boys into young men. His ‘Pyramid of Success’ is more about life than it is about basketball.
CBS Sports college basketball analyst Seth Davis really made a work of art. He was able to get inside the mind of Wooden. He’s a talented author and this book is on par or better than his great Larry Bird/Magic Johnson book, “When March Went Mad”.
When Coach Wooden was hired as the college basketball coach at UCLA, the program was barely on the map. He implemented regimented practice schedules and a strict code of conduct that included the way a player should wear their hair. Bill Walton had to shave his beard and cut his hair if he wanted to play a minute at UCLA.
Davis captured Wooden as a human being and not just a rose-colored view that an icon is often painted. He was often difficult to play for and despite what many say, Wooden cared about winning. In fact, at times, it was the only thing he cared about. He was distant from many of his players during their college career.
Davis doesn’t go into game-by-game analysis, but rather uses stories from players to move the book along. He even used excepts from his interviews with Wooden before his death in 2010.
This book is neither a hatchet job nor puff piece. Davis captured an honest portrait of a man. Nobody is perfect and it helps humanize such an iconic basketball coach.
Bobby Roberts (otherwise known as Sweetbob) is the creator of ‘America’s White Boy’ and contributor at Project Shanks. His writing has been featured on ESPN’s ‘SportsNation’, Sports Illustrated’s Hot Clicks, Guyspeed, and various other sites. You can follow him on Twitter at @Sweetbob.