Top positive review
34 people found this helpful
on April 12, 2006
To me, the words "Wooden" and "leadership" are synonymous. On and off various basketball courts, first as a player and then as a coach, John Wooden demonstrated talents, skills, and qualities of character seldom found in a single person. He led others by example but also by the force of his convictions. After reading this book, some may conclude that he was "idealistic,' "naive," "corny," "old-fashioned," etc. Not so. In fact, he was a strict disciplinarian with non-negotiable values who had zero-tolerance of attitude and behavior he perceived to be selfish, rude, unsportsmanlike, or indolent. He invariably accepted his team's defeat with grace but was saddened - sometimes so angered he exclaimed "Goodness gracious sakes!" -- by anything less than a best-effort, not only by his assistant coaches and players but also (especially) by himself. It should be added that, according to those who know him best (including coaches of opponents' teams), he has always been an exceptionally thoughtful, caring, and decent person.
What we have in this volume is an on-going narrative provided by Coach Wooden during which he shares everything he learned about achieving and then sustaining excellence. Of special interest to me is the series of "On Wooden" commentaries which include those provided by Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Denny Crum, Gary Cunningham, Gail Goodrich, and Lynn Shackleford. Although the specifics vary from one to the next, all of their authors agree on Coach Wooden's greatness both as a coach and as a man. One of the most interesting anecdotes is provided by Eddie Powell, who played on the South Bend Central High School varsity team which Wooden coached. The bus was about to depart for a game against Mishawacka High School. The co-captains were absent.
Coach Wooden asked the driver what time the bus was scheduled to leave. "6 p.m., Coach, same as usual."
"Well, what time is it?"
`It's exactly 6 p.m., Coach Wooden."
"Well, that's what my watch says, too. I guess it must be 6 p.m...Let's go."
The bus left without the two most important players on the team. One of them was the son of a vice principal at South Bend Central, "the kind of a person who could create job problems for Coach Wooden. From that, we learned that Coach wasn't kidding: Be on time." Indeed meet all commitments to the team and especially in the classroom and to one's family. "We found out later that the co-captains had skipped our game with Mishawaka to go to a dance." Presumably everyone who played on U.C.L.A. basketball teams also soon learned that, when he explained what he expected of them, "Coach wasn't kidding."
With all due respect to his extraordinary success in basketball, I am convinced that John Wooden could have become a great leader in almost any other profession. Fortunately, as Steve Jamison observes, "The qualities and characteristics he possesses and has taught to his teams -- those good habits and how you teach them -- are available to everyone." Hopefully, decision-makers in the business world, public service, and the military will read this book so that they, also, are at all times a "leader" worthy of service to those entrusted to their care.