Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

MC Weekly

June 18, 2014

A revealing book about a revered coach

Book humanizes the man from Martinsville who won 10 NCAA championships

Here’s a sentence from a new book about a famous basketball coach:

“During one game, (the coach) became so enraged at the officials, he refused to bring his team out for the second half.”

Who was that coach?

A. Red Auerbach

B. Bob Knight

C. John Wooden

E. Mike Krzyzewski

If you said John Wooden, you’d be right.

The sentence is from “Wooden: A Coach’s Life,” an engrossing biography written by Seth Davis of Sports Illustrated and CBS Sports.

The biography has caught heat from some Wooden-lovers. In 525 heavily sourced pages, there’s plenty of negative stuff about the great UCLA coach, which might tarnish his iconic image.

In my view, any damage will be minor. In fact, I’d argue — and I don’t think I’d be alone — that Davis’ book has done Wooden a favor: In exposing his faults as a person and a coach, Davis has humanized the man from Martinsville who won 10 NCCA championships, seven in a row.

At the same time, Davis provides examples on why Wooden has won — deservedly, I believe — such wide acclamation.

The book has an extra dimension for me — Davis’ insights about Wooden’s first UCLA teams when I was a teenager in Los Angeles. Those teams featured such players as Eddie Sheldrake, George Stanich and Jerry Norman, who would later form a foundation of fondness for Wooden.

Davis is generous to Norman, and rightly so. After his playing days, he became an assistant coach for Wooden. Davis confirms what I had heard: Norman convinced Wooden of the need to broaden recruiting and scout opponents, which Wooden had put little stock in.

And Davis writes that Norman convinced Wooden to use something Wooden became noted for: the zone press. Over the years, some people have felt that Wooden didn’t give Norman enough credit for that defensive scheme.

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