Reviewed by Marshall Hughes
Coach Wooden by Pat Williams
Despite 50 or so books having already been penned by or about John Wooden, this book manages to bring fresh insight into the motivations that drove UCLA's legendary basketball coach.
John Wooden, named by The Sporting
News as "The greatest coach of
all time in any sport, college or professional," had seven principles
upon which he lived. When Wooden graduated from eighth grade, his father,
Joshua Wooden, gave him a card with these life principles and said, "Son,
try to live up to this." The son spent the rest of his life trying
to honor his father and trying to live up to the principles.
He succeeded wildly in both endeavors.
Readers concerned about lacking knowledge of sports terms and history (ie Wooden led UCLA to 10 national championships in 12 years, and he is one of only three people named to the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and coach) need not worry. The main focus of the book is on these seven principles, and they can be used by every day Joes just as easily as by legendary sports figures. These seven principles are:
1. Be true to yourself.
2. Help others.
3. Make friendship a fine art.
4. Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.
5. Make each day your masterpiece.
6. Build a shelter against a rainy day by the life you live.
7. Give thanks for your blessings and pray for guidance every day.
The book has eight chapters,
the first explaining the background of the seven principles, and each
succeeding chapter giving more detail and depth
of one of the principles. The first chapter gives a detailed background
not only of John Wooden’s younger days, but also his relationship
with his father, whom he so adored.
The appendix has Wooden's year-by-year coaching record in college and three pages of Woodenisms, his most famous pat phrases such as, "Be quick, but don't hurry," "what is right is more important than who is right," and "never mistake activity for achievement." There are other (what the book calls) "formulas" that you will come across such as: Talent is God-given: be humble. Fame is man-given: be thankful. Conceit is self-given: be careful.
Interestingly, if you prowl around the internet you will find his principles listed on various websites, but the words "especially the Bible" is sometimes removed from #4 and the words "and pray for guidance every day" is sometimes removed from #7. Surely, that is not by accident.
Pat Williams, the author who is the senior vice president of the NBA's Orlando Magic, uses lots of quotes from famous basketball players and coaches to give the reader some more breadth. There are a few too many quotes from the always hyperbolic Bill Walton for my taste, but that is a personal thing.
Also, a few times Williams injects the books with a few hard-to-believe and sometimes self-aggrandizing statements. For example, I question his boast that he reads "roughly three hundred books a year" and his claim that "anyone with a high school education can read a book a week." He also calls this book "controversial."
Still, Williams keeps the book mostly on Wooden and the seven principles.
Wooden, who died in June, 2010, at the age of 99, was by all accounts a great man who touched thousands personally. You can feel his love, strength and undeniable godliness while reading through this book. Readers might also somehow feeler "cleaner" after reaching the end. If so, that might be John Wooden and his (father's) seven principles rubbing off of them.
Wooden, if he weren’t so humble, might have told you that “Coach Wooden” is one of the good books that you should drink from freely (see principle #4).
Hughes is a former sports writer for the Honolulu
Advertiser. For most
of the past 22 years he has taught English in Japan. He has taught at the university
level in America, Japan and China. Among his hobbies are sports, traveling and
photography. He has been to 41 countries and is always hoping to go somewhere
new. He is an award-winning photographer in both Japan and America. His bi-lines
include The Washington Post, The Pacific Daily News (Guam), The
Times and several sports publications.