Behind the Legend of UCLA Hoops Coach John Wooden

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Seth Davis, author of the recently released Wooden: A Coach’s Life, has been fascinated by the basketball great for a long time. There’s just something about the most legendary coach in college basketball—and maybe all collegiate sports. Ah, that’s it. The legend.

John Wooden, who brought UCLA 10 NCAA national championships and once ran off 88 straight wins, had, in a sense, gotten lost in his own allure, crowded by teams and players that have become legends in their own right. Davis, a writer at Sports Illustrated, wanted to peel back the layers.

“It was kind of amazing that nobody had really done the definitive biography of this guy,” said Davis, who hosts “The Seth Davis Show” on the all-digital network, “I was very lucky in a lot of ways. I was able to have the field to myself.”

So that’s what Davis set out to do. He chronicled Wooden’s life in 600-plus pages, which take a reader through his playing career at Purdue University to his success as a high school coach and early years as a college coach to his dominating run at UCLA, where Wooden earned the nickname “The Wizard of Westwood.”

“It wasn’t all peaches and cream for the guy,” Davis said of Wooden. “People would say that nobody every criticized John Wooden. Well, of course, they criticized John Wooden. He got a lot of criticism and dealt with a lot of complicated issues in the late 1960s and early 1970s.”

Some of that criticism involved a man named Sam Gilbert, a booster who allegedly provided gifts to UCLA players, which was in violation of NCAA rules. Davis also set out to out to illustrate Wooden’s unique approach to winning and his crazy attention to detail, even down to how players tied their sneakers.

“People are just so fascinated by this [John Wooden],” Davis said. It’s like they can’t get enough. It fueled my ambition to write what I think will be the definitive biography on this guy.”



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