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Showing 1-10 of 165 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 196 reviews
on March 6, 2015
This book gives a good balanced account of his life (as it should) but I was hoping it would also provide more of his philosophy and methods that made him successful on the court. I found that "Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court" is a good companion to this book. Reading the biography first gives you a perspective you wouldn't have otherwise when reading the "philosophy of Wooden" in the smaller book. The reflections book provides some of what I felt was incomplete in the biography in terms of the Wooden Philosophy. For example, the pyramid is printed in the biography, but isn't really explained at all. Hearing in his own words how he developed the pyramid and what it meant to him was important to really understanding the man in my thinking.
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on April 3, 2016
I did not have high expectations for this book. I knew Seth Davis' writing through SI and saw is commentary on CBS sports. Having finished the book today, I proclaim it not only one of the best sports books or biographies I have read but one of the best books period. The coach's life is both solidly reported and emotionally resonant. It is laudatory and balanced at the same time. I was a big fan of the Bruins as a child. Bill Walton is my favorite sports figure. I like dynasties and am not really for the underdog. Of course Coach Wooden had the players of a generation, but he also won with small lineups. Davis praises the teaching ability of Coach Wooden, but on personal relationships with players the Coach comes up short. Wooden is not really a wizard, he is a vulnerable human in the vortex of the greatest sports domination in history. I was fascinated by his relationship with J.D. Morgan, and Davis pulls no punches on the influence of Sam Gilbert. The portrayal of an aging Wooden in physical decline is touching and nuanced.
On the eve of the NCAA men's basketball championship, I am going directly to the Davis book on Magic and Larry.
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on October 13, 2014
A very thoroughly researched and well-written biography about a basketball coach who was "The Man" in college basketball when I came along. I loved discovering that Coach Wooden was, indeed, quite human like the rest of us and not always the angelic example that the press and basketball elite would have you believe during his days on the bench. I was very intrigued by the way he coached and developed relationships with his players. Although he chose to be more of a father than a friend to his players, he was able to effectively combined that inate Midwestern discipline with a flexibility that was particularly needed during the '60s and '70s when societal changes proliferated. And while I enjoyed the many chapters that focused on the talented players he continued to bring to UCLA -- from Walt Hazzard and Gail Goodrich through the Walton Gang years -- the essence of Coach Wooden was captured best in the closing chapters when you saw the respect that he earned from virtually all of his former players, even from those with whom he had serious conflicts during their playing days. This Duke University author did quite well (sometimes hard for a UNC-CH graduate to admit)!
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on June 16, 2014
Thought the book was well researched and probably pretty accurate in terms of his life, but also felt it was looking for
the negative side of Wooden throughout his life. Not sure if anyone was under that kind of microscope would come
out totally clean. Not saying that Wooden was perfect and he had his faults, but in general he was a person of high morals and
tried to live them daily with the people he dealt with both in coaching and life. As a coach myself, you will always have
people who thought they should have played more or got a bad deal from you and you have to learn to live with it. I think
in most cases Wooden was fair to those who played for him and generally looked at the team over the individual when
coaching. Since his impact seemd to be so long standing on many of those he coached, he must have influenced many
of them more than they thought. Have read almost every book on Wooden and this did bring some new light to who he was
and how he coached and lived. All I know, is that I wrote him once and I live in Ireland and he wrote me back. He didn't know me
and yet he responded with kindness and concern. Speaks pretty highly of him I think!
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on February 8, 2014
This is the third book I have about John Wooden, the other two were written by him. One explaining how to become the best person you can be and the other was directed more for young adults to introduce them to his rules on life and the pyramid of success. I bought the second one for one of my grandson's to enjoy, but his older brother just fell in love with it (he kept a copy of the pyramid on the front of his school binder, written by himself, for a whole year!) So, growing up in the high desert in California from 69-73, I fell in love with UCLA basketball and especially became attached to the Walton gang. I really had know idea this book would have the effect on me that it did. With a little imagination, I felt as if l was there, experiencing Wooden's life as it unfolded on the pages in front of me. All the warts and all, making him come to life and showing what a great teacher he was at basketball, and at life. It is as complete of a picture of a man as one can get. If anyone wants to know the rest of story of John Wooden, then this is the book for you. And it's nice to see the direct lineage from Naismith, to Wooden's coaches, to Wooden himself. You get to experience basketball from its' beginning to what the modern game has become. It's a fascinating look at the history of basketball as well as the lifetime of John Wooden.
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on March 6, 2014
The author makes clear that Wooden did not spend his entire life as the kindly old man that he was during the last 30 years of his life. While Wooden makes clear in his pyramid of success that winning is not the true measure of success, you don't win as much as he did without being very competitive. The book shows Wooden as he really was, riding the officials and even opposing players during games, willing to fight opposing players or fans who to him crossed the line of acceptable behavior. It brings out the issue of Wooden perhaps not giving enough credit to the assistant coach who pushed for using the press at UCLA. At the same time, Wooden is shown for what he is as a dedicated family man who always put his belief in god, his family, and his team ahead of himself. He worked under tremendous pressure, much of it brought on by his own success in winning year after year. He worked hard to achieve and achieve he did--winning championships at a rate that is unlikely to be equaled. You don't have to be perfect to be a great man. He was not "saint John" but he was a great man who stuck to his beliefs and knew at the end he did the best of which he was capable.
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on April 9, 2015
I remember watching Coach Wooden walking along the side of the basketball court with his rolled up program in his hand. He always looked like the father figure who knew everything about the game and how to handle his players. Seth Davis brought all those memories back but was willing to share some of struggles and shortcomings of Coach Wooden. He was not perfect but he did change and adapt as needed. Strangely I usually rooted against his teams back then but the book made me a supporter. UCLA never gave him the compensation he deserved but he remained loyal. I read the this book during the NCAA tournament and it made everything that happened more interesting. I found it to be an enjoyable and fast paced read.
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on February 25, 2014
I was too young when John Wooden coached his final game to appreciate him as an active coach. All my exposure to him has been as the kindly old man who would, occasionally, be interviewed on my television screen as he talked about the 10 championships in 12 years or some other aspect of his career. Most of what I read about him painted him as somebody far, far, far above the saints--an immortal who had descended Olympus for a time to slum it among mankind.

Seth Davis is one of my favorite sportswriters/commentators. When I heard that he was attempting a new, more complete biography of Coach Wooden, I knew I wanted to check it out. This is a very enjoyable, well-written account that paints some of the warts on that portrait of the coach that people of my generation may never have seen.

The book is not a take-down. Davis does not set out to make a demon of the hero. He simply acknowledges where the man is deserving of some criticism. I didn't always agree with Mr. Davis' criticisms, but found them to be enlightening.

There was an obvious affection the author felt for the man as he interviewed him and grew to know him. He did not allow that affection, however, to dominate the narrative. We see a man who was a ferocious competitor, driven, disciplined, full of a desire to teach who was also protective of his image and, perhaps, a little vain or thin-skinned at times.

This is not a book for casual or non-basketball fans who want to learn about the Pyramid of Success or some other things the man was known for. This is a biography for the basketball junkie. The descriptions of some of the games in coach Wooden's career are very detailed. A knowledge of, and love of, the game is imperative to really get the most out of this book.

This is one of the two best sports biographies I've ever read--the other being David Mariness' account of Vince Lombardi's life, "When Pride Still Mattered".

Those two biographies, it seems to me, are the best ones to discover and explore the two giants of coaching from the 20th Century.
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on March 1, 2014
This is an excellent piece of sports history, not to mention a fine biography. The author traces UCLA basketball coach John Wooden's life from his high school playing days in Indiana, through his early, difficult days at UCLA to his record ten national championships to his final days as college basketball's elder statesman. In between Davis covers a variety of interesting topics including why the state of Indiana became the hotbed of basketball in the 1920s; how Wooden's personality and values were molded by growing up in rural Indiana; and why the coach stayed at UCLA in the early 1950s despite bad facilities at the school, a lack of interest in his sport, homesickness and offers from more compatible places like Michigan and Purdue.

The book is balanced, well written, well paced and insightful on issues like how John Wooden's rural values from the 1930s made it difficult to coach during the tumultuous 1960s and how a college basketball team could go undefeated, win the national championship and have absolutely no fun along the way.

The author points out that Wooden was never a saint and discusses how he needled referees and opposing players at every opportunity and how he refused to give credit to assistant coach Jerry Norman who was the architect of UCLA's famous zone press. Davis even includes several sections on the long shadow of businessman Sam Gilbert, who probably violated a ton of NCAA rules in helping make UCLA a national power.

I enjoyed the author's portraits of Bruin players like Edgar Lacy, Lew Alcindor and especially Bill Walton. There are a few minor factual errors in the text (George Raveling coached at Washington State not the University of Washington) but these are minor. As someone who has written about sports history (Hoop Crazy: College Basketball in the 1950s) I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in college basketball or anyone who enjoys the fine art of biography.
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on April 5, 2014
I grew up in Los Angeles and lived there from 1965 through 1972. I am primarily a Baseball fan but will never forgot the great UCLA Basketball teams. This book reads like a novel at times. This book portrays Wooden as a real human being with flaws and weak points but also many positive and outstanding traits. Deep down he was a kind and decent person. As a coach he was somewhat distant and not close to his player outside the Basketball court. Yet after he retired many player became good friends including some who had serious conflicts with him when they played for him. After he retired he became a much kinder wiser person. Reading about the last few years of his life was very emotional and moving. The Sporting News named him the greatest coach in the history of American sports. When he was in his 90s he said that change was not always progress, but there could be no progress without change.
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