Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites


Seth Davis' 'Wooden' is a biography of a legend

Check out this book from the West Linn Public Library


How do you humanize a legend?

In the case of famed basketball coach John Wooden, it’s no easy task. Wooden’s achievements as basketball player and coach almost defy belief. From his humble beginnings as an Indiana farm boy, Wooden developed into one of the era’s best high school and college players, lauded for his fearlessly physical play, deadly accurate shooting and visionary embrace of the up-tempo game.

Wooden started his collegiate coaching career at Indiana State in 1946 and, two years later, he took the head coach position at UCLA. During Wooden’s 27 seasons at UCLA, he posted a 620-147 overall record and led the Bruins to an unprecedented 10 NCAA championships in 12 years (including seven straight championships between 1966 and 1973). Wooden is one of only three people to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as both player and coach.'Wooden'

Wooden’s success did not end after his retirement from basketball. In later years, he emerged as a respected inspirational speaker and beloved homespun philosopher. His “Pyramid of Success” — a self-developed roadmap to personal achievement — has been embraced by athletes, business leaders and countless others from all walks of life. Wooden died in 2010 at the age of 99, having inspired millions both on and off the hardwood.

In his new biography of Wooden, author Seth Davis unsurprisingly (and rightfully) celebrates these accomplishments, but the strength of the book is the author’s willingness to examine the whole of Wooden’s personality, career and life. In doing so, he paints a more complete, and more human, portrait of John Wooden than has been presented previously.

We learn, for example, that despite his popular image as a kindly, grandfatherly figure, a number of Wooden’s players found him rather unapproachable and seemingly unconcerned with their lives and problems off the court.

We find out that despite his reputation as a tough-but-fair disciplinarian, he could play favorites, allowing top players more latitude than their less-talented teammates. We discover that Wooden could be merciless in his verbal haranguing of referees and opposing teams, and that many of his coaching peers resented the disconnect between his public persona as “Saint John” and his on-court behavior.

We learn that Wooden likely minimized the role that Jerry Norman, his assistant at UCLA for nine seasons, played in the Bruins’ phenomenal success. We learn that the man who publicly preached the gospel of strength through overcoming adversity was very nearly destroyed by grief over his wife’s death.

Make no mistake, this is a respectful and even-handed biography, not a hatchet job. Davis’ examination of the whole spectrum of Wooden’s character and personality is by no means an attempt to discredit or demonize the great coach. Rather, by portraying Wooden as a complex and sometimes flawed human being (rather than the mythical “Wizard of Westwood”), Davis allows readers to more fully appreciate Wooden’s talents and struggles and to marvel that much more at his extraordinary accomplishments and impact.

— Greg Williams is a librarian at West Linn Public Library.



Local Weather

Cloudy

55°F

West Linn

Cloudy

Humidity: 83%

Wind: 0 mph

  • 26 Nov 2014

    Mostly Cloudy 60°F 52°F

  • 27 Nov 2014

    Showers 56°F 51°F