Wooden: A Coach's Life

UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, the "Wizard of Westwood," was a gentle giant of wisdom whose reputation as selfless philosopher and teacher overshadowed the fiery competitor and mean taskmaster on court. Sports Illustrated writer Seth Davis has produced a fascinating biography of college basketball's greatest coach in Wooden: A Coach's Life.

The son of a poor, sports-loving Indiana farmer, Wooden was an athletic phenomenon, the perfect foil for Purdue coach Piggy Lambert's style of basketball. Lambert's strategy evolved into Wooden's coaching model, which revolutionized college basketball with dogmatic attention to player fitness grounding a game focused on fast breaks and zone defense. Wooden wanted glory, but felt handcuffed by the pressures that came with it. Behind that façade of invincibility lay a remote individual whose dogged Midwestern work ethic and strict adherence to rules left him unable to be the father figure his young charges sought.
"The ten championships aside, John Wooden's greatest victory may well have been his ability to emerge from all the tumult without losing sense of who he was," Davis writes. "Not a perfect man, but a very good one, a teacher more than a coach, a Christian, a husband, a father, anything but a wizard."

Davis does a good job of paralleling Wooden's story with the evolution of basketball from a half-court, jump ball game to the full court press that came to define professional play. Try as he might to expose Wooden's all-too-human flaws in his quest for basketball perfection and glory, Davis's biography helps solidify the myth and legend. --Nancy Powell, freelance writer and technical consultant

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