A provocative and revelatory new biography of the legendary UCLA coach John Wooden, by one of America's top college basketball writers
No college basketball coach has ever dominated the sport like John Wooden. His UCLA teams reached unprecedented heights in the 1960s and '70s capped by a run of ten NCAA championships in twelve seasons and an eighty-eight-game winning streak, records that stand to this day. Wooden also became a renowned motivational speaker and writer, revered for his "Pyramid of Success."
Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated and CBS Sports has written the definitive biography of Wooden, an unflinching portrait that draws on archival research and more than two hundred interviews with players, opponents, coaches, and even Wooden himself. Davis shows how hard Wooden strove for success, from his All-American playing days at Purdue through his early years as a high school and college coach to the glory days at UCLA, only to discover that reaching new heights brought new burdens and frustrations. Davis also reveals how at the pinnacle of his career Wooden found himself on questionable ground with alumni, referees, assistants, and even some of his players. His was a life not only of lessons taught, but also of lessons learned.
Woven into the story as well are the players who powered Wooden's championship teams – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Walt Hazzard, and others – many of whom speak frankly about their coach. The portrait that emerges from Davis's remarkable biography is of a man in full, whose life story still resonates today.
Seth Davis is the author of the New York Times bestseller When March Went Mad: The Game That Transformed Basketball and the memoir Equinunk, Tell Your Story: My Return to Summer Camp. In 1995, he joined the staff of Sports Illustrated, where he is currently a senior writer. He is also an on-air studio analyst for CBS Sports and CBS Sports Network during coverage of college basketball and the NCAA tournament. A graduate of Duke University, he lives with his family in Los Angeles.
"When I’m looking for a smart perspective on college basketball, I look for Seth Davis."—Dan Patrick
"There are only a few perfect combinations in the world. Peanut butter on toast, scotch on ice, and Seth Davis on basketball."—Rick Reilly
“Mr. Davis beautifully captures the ties that bound a strong-willed coach and his players. His biography is superb--readable, well-reported and savvy in its understanding of basketball.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Neither a hatchet job nor a hagiography but a meticulously researched and evenhanded assessment.” —The New York Times Book Review
“Superb . . . Surprising as it seems, Wooden, arguably the most influential coach in basketball history, has never had a definitive biography until now. . . . [Seth Davis] has written a virtual cutaway view of the history and evolution of basketball in the form of a biography. Davis takes us on bus rides over snow-covered roads to Friday-night high school games, puts us in the frantic and precarious whirl of semi-pro basketball barnstorming in the Midwest and, finally, gives us a courtside seat in the high-stakes pressure cooker of big-time college basketball.” —Los Angeles Times
“Finally, John Wooden has a biography that's worthy of its subject.” —Buffalo News
“A clear-eyed look at a flawed but extraordinary man.” —Dallas Morning News
“An unusually rich and illuminating portrait…In this hefty but well-paced account, Sports Illustrated scribe Davis provides entertaining play-by-play and color commentary on Wooden's dynasty-building, key games, and the grueling, authoritarian methods… he used to impart his innovative fast-break system.” —Publishers Weekly
“[Davis] has provided a multidimensional, nearly cradle-to-grave portrait of a highly successful and revered coach and teacher, in the process delivering a history of the evolution of college basketball and profiles of many of its stars.” —Booklist (starred review)
“This is a superb biography, worthy of its subject. With deep research, clear writing, and objective thinking, Seth Davis has cut through the mythology to present John Wooden and his UCLA dynasty in a fresh and compulsively readable way.” —David Maraniss, author of When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi
“Wooden: A Coach's Life is a truly remarkable achievement. Seth Davis has produced the most authoritative, comprehensive, and entertaining book ever written on John Wooden. He immerses us in every area of Wooden's life and provides a detailed and rich picture of this complicated and iconic man. I simply couldn't put it down. Wooden is a master work.” —Jay Bilas, ESPN college basketball analyst and author of Toughness
“Relentlessly researched and written with devastating detail and texture, Seth Davis has delivered the definitive biography on the most important figure in college basketball history. There are complexities in the simplicity of Wooden and his UCLA dynasty, and Davis peels back the myths to bring light to the truths. This is Wooden, in full.” —Adrian Wojnarowski, author of The Miracle of St. Anthony and Yahoo Sports NBA columnist
“Who knew that John Wooden was a pool shark? That's just one of the many fascinating revelations in Seth Davis's insightful bio of the man who remains the gold standard for basketball coaches. No one needed humanizing more than the Wizard, and Seth figured out how to do it. Goodness gracious sakes alive (as Wooden would say), this is a terrific book.” —Jack McCallum, author of the New York Times bestseller Dream Team