Wednesday, January 29, 2014
John Wooden- New Book by Seth Davis
From Indy Star....
The coach is portrayed as distant from players, resented by colleagues, loathed by referees and permissive about cheating.
The coach, John Wooden, also happens to be the most revered figure in college basketball and perhaps all of sports. So how do you separate man from myth?
Seth Davis, a Sports Illustrated writer and CBS analyst, took on that task in his recently released book "Wooden: A Coach's Life." The book debuted in 20th place on The New York Times bestseller list in hardcover nonfiction.
Davis chronicled Wooden's journey from humble Martinsville, Ind., roots to the pinnacle of his sport as the coach who guided UCLA to 10 NCAA championships in 12 years. The author spent four years on the project, building on others' research. There are 65 pages of notes from books, newspaper and magazine stories and interview transcripts.
But Davis said he found much of what was written to be superficial. He expanded on it by interviewing about 200 people, including three sessions with Wooden himself. Wooden died in 2010 at age 99.
It was "a deep dig," as Davis put it. "I didn't want to leave any stone unturned."
There were incidents under those rocks that conflict with the image of the Wizard of Westwood – a nickname Wooden detested. Davis said he didn't set out to tear down Wooden but to paint a complete portrait.
The author said he hasn't received any phone calls or e-mails from Wooden's family complaining about the biography.
"He was not a perfect man. He didn't live a perfect life," Davis said. "But he was an extraordinary man. He lived an extraordinary life."
Wooden lived such a long life that he had time to repair many of the fractured relationships he had with players he once coached. Former UCLA stars who thought their coach was detached or uncaring frequently called or met with Wooden during retirement years.
Even the timing of Wooden's retirement was a source of dispute. He has asserted that he didn't decide to retire until he was walking to the locker room following UCLA's 75-74 overtime victory over Louisville in the 1975 NCAA semifinals.
In fact, Davis discovered, Wooden had told athletic director J.D. Morgan before the season that he would retire. In February of that year, Morgan interviewed then-Illinois coach Gene Bartow, who ended up taking the job.
That wasn't as troubling as two other inconsistencies.
One is that Wooden often claimed never to have had a losing season as a coach. He actually had two in high school, one in Dayton, Ky., (6-11 in 1932-33) and another at South Bend Central (8-14 in 1936-37).
The other is that Wooden, who was otherwise progressive in racial equality, misrepresented his role in desegregating the National Association of Intercollegiate Basketball (later the NAIA) tournament. The NAIB forbade black players, and Indiana State had one in little-used reserve Clarence Walker. Rather than speak out against the ban, Wooden kept the Sycamores out of the tournament in 1947.
The next year, Indiana State was again invited and accepted before the racial ban was rescinded. The NAIB relented not because of anything Wooden did, but because the U.S. Olympic Committee threatened to take away the NAIB champion's invitation to the Olympic trials. According to the biography, only then did Wooden decide to bring Walker, who was lodged separately.
"It was surprising for me to find that, frankly," Davis said.
It would be surprising to many that Wooden was a ref-baiter and directed trash talk toward opposing players. Because he did so while seated on the bench with his trademark rolled-up program, most spectators never would have known. Opposing coaches resented Wooden's wholesome image, and the fact they called him "St. John" was no compliment.
It has been widely reported that there was friction between Wooden and former Indiana University coach Bob Knight. That stems both from Knight's allegiance to former Cal coach Pete Newell, who had a fierce rivalry with Wooden, and the influence of UCLA booster Sam Gilbert.
Davis said some of Gilbert's transgressions seem "almost quaint," given the cheating that has subsequently plagued college sports. Gilbert wasn't involved in recruiting, and there is no evidence of cash payments to players. Morgan feared Gilbert's alleged connections to the Mafia — fears that gained credence when Gilbert was indicted in 1987 for racketeering and money laundering.
Wooden complained to Morgan about Gilbert and asked players to stay away from him, but the coach didn't pursue the matter and knew virtually nothing about players' lives away from the gym. Those who want Wooden exonerated or implicated will be disappointed, the author said.
Whether it was pettiness or neglectfulness, Wooden seldom referred to contributions by UCLA assistant Jerry Norman, who persuaded the coach to introduce the zone press and understood how important recruiting would become.
"Like a lot of high achievers, he was very insecure at his core," Davis said of Wooden.
Paradoxically, Davis found that the 12 years of the Bruins' dynasty were among "the unhappiest years" of Wooden's life. Pressure became unbearable and influenced the coach to quit when, as Davis put it, Wooden "was still on top of his game."
The author credited the coach with navigating the politically turbulent 1960s and '70s and continuing to produce championship teams. For those who seek to diminish Wooden's accomplishments by stating anyone could have won with centers Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton, Davis retorted:
"That's five. You've got five to go, buddy."
Wooden didn't always have the most talent, Davis said, and won with different kinds of teams. The book's release coincides with the 50th anniversary of Wooden's first championship team, the 1964 Bruins, who had no starters taller than 6-5.
Davis unhesitatingly called Wooden the best coach in the history of sports. Wooden often said it's what you learn after you know it all that counts.
"You have to say he really walked that," Davis said.
Posted by Massey Basketball