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Wooden: A Coach's Life

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  519 Ratings  ·  83 Reviews
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
Hardcover, 608 pages
Published January 14th 2014 by Times Books
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Exapno Mapcase
Oct 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lter
Seth Davis provides a thorough look at a somewhat contradictory man. Wooden could be forceful and quiet, determined to win and happier when the team lost. I liked that Davis did not pull any punches while dealing with his revered subject, showing both a willingness to listen to others and a stubbornness that often worked to his detriment.

Free review copy.
Stephen Hoogerhyde
Oct 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fascinating biography of an interesting man. Wooden is one of the few people who is in the basketball hall of fame as both a player and a coach. Before reading this book, I had no idea how good Wooden was as a player, nor did I realize he was an English teacher and a pool shark. His relationships with various players over the years is interesting. What particularly struck me is how all of them, whether or not they got along with Wooden while they played for him, kept in touch with him and looked ...more
Hayden Shockley
Mar 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"Wooden" by Seth Davis is an intriguing biography by Seth Davis. A point that is obvious and mentioned throughout the book is hard work. One of the keys to success is working hard in everything you do, whether it's on or off the court. The court is the setting where the majority of things are "played" out. So much time, effort, blood, sweat, and tears are given up just so 18-22 year old men will have the chance to even be on the court.“Practice was Mr. Wooden’s domain. The game was the players’ ...more
Mar 14, 2014 rated it really liked it
Coach Wooden is a hero in our home. My husband, himself a journeyman basketball coach, loved the man. One of the high points of his life was getting to work at Coach Wooden's basketball camps in the summer. We have a packet of saved letters written by Coach in his perfect English teacher's penmanship. Our son memorized A Little Fellow Follows Me in elementary school for a project. Our daughter received a hug or two from the man. Coach and Mrs. Wooden are buried not too far from my husband's pare ...more
Nov 15, 2013 rated it really liked it
I received "Wooden: A Coach's Life" as part of a Goodreads giveaway.

As someone whose sports interest tends towards pro hockey and baseball, I didn't know a lot about John Wooden coming into this book. However, Davis' biography of the legendary UCLA basketball coach is through while remaining eminently readable. I got a sense of Wooden not only as a legendary coach, but also as a person--a devout Christian Midwesterner transplanted to the West Coast, followed by towering success and a bittersweet
Mar 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Well-written and thoroughly researched, Seth Davis' biography of John Wooden - "Wooden", A Coach's Story- is an honest appraisal of the great coach's life. Davis works with dozens of players, coaches, and others who were closest to the man to paint a fully-fleshed out portrait of a complex man. Wooden, the owner of the most men's NCAA basketball titles in history was a genius on the job, a doting husband, and a polished PR man. He also built one of the greatest dynasties in sport's history, let ...more
Nov 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
I received a free advance copy of this book in exchange for a review.

I was too young to be much aware of Coach John Wooden during his coaching career, but he is a familiar figure to me, as he must be to even the most casual fan of college basketball. He is “The Wizard of Westwood,” revered for his coaching prowess, wisdom and numerous national championships.

This book is a respectful and remarkably balanced portrayal of his life from beginning to end, as well as a fascinating window into the inte
Jim Serger
Dec 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this biography of Coach Wooden. Seth Davis did a superb job from the early years to the late years in coaches life. Indiana, Kentucky and California and a term in the US Navy -- All four of those defined what success is, it is not a straight line from A to B; it is a bunch of little things that make up ones life--and coach did that. A devoted husband, Christian, leader, teacher, coach, mentor and most of all a person who grew everyday to make others and himself bette ...more
Dec 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: first-reads
I was a advance reader winner.
Nearly everyone has heard of Coach Wooden but wondered what his life was all about. How could someone win that many National Championships in a row? Who really was Coach Wooden? How did he become a coach much different than the rest of his peers?

Seth Davis, the author, does a credible job in writting about this legend. Coach Wooden style and coaching ability comes from his childhood days where his parents instilled in him the value of life.
Any sports
Will Herman
Jan 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, sports
How can one not like a book about John Wooden? The man is a sports icon. Most of all, of course, he's a teacher, which is exactly what he wanted to be and prided himself on. He based his entire life on teaching basketball fundamentals and simple rules about life - almost always applied to basketball.

The book gets a little long. It covers his entire life in chronological order. Most of the book covers his seasons coaching at UCLA, but there is enough outside of the basketball season to demonstrat
Michael Barone
Nov 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Thanks to Seth Davis and company for choosing me as a First Reads Winner. I'm certainly a better coach, and quite frankly, a better man for reading this. Though I must say, my motives for starting the book may not have been as genuine as the results. At 29 years old, I didn't live through this. Nor am I enough of a basketball historian to be familiar with all the details of this man's phenomenal career (Fact is, I'm a football coach and just a big basketball fan). But I did know about all the wi ...more
Nov 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: sports-biography
I can't really say I knew much about John Wooden before I read this book. Naturally, I knew he had coached at UCLA and won numerous NCAA championships, but little about his life or background. I realize many books have been written about his life and I have no reason for choosing this one over another except that this seems to be the first one written since his death. They way this book is written, I really felt like I knew Wooden vs just knowing about him.

I thought the author did an outstandin
Michael Montegut
Jan 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
John Wooden: A Coach’s’ life
Success is something that can’t be accomplished many times for the same thing. Winning doesn’t come easy in the world today, but one man found a way to pull it off one year after another. John Wooden is known to be one of the greatest coaches of all time. Through the good times and bad he never gave up, and because of that he was more successful than any other man to coach basketball. Wooden grew up with a poor family in the outskirts of Centertown, Indiana. Life was
Jan 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tom Sakell
Feb 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Seth Davis has written an exhaustive biography of John Wooden, a coach whose legacy is disappearing into the ether. Everyone who cares about college basketball needs to know about this man.

At 500+ pages, it's too much -- for me. Happily, I know plenty about Wooden (who's in the Hall of Fame as a player Wooden A Coach's Life by Seth Davisand coach. So, I jumped to the chapters that intrigued me the most: Lew Alcindor and Bill Walton.

Davis painted fine pictures of the lives these two centers led on campus and the double standards
An incredibly well researched look at the life of one of the greatest basketball coaches in history. Seth Davis has done a masterful job of presenting Wooden and doing it without any apparent agenda, as Wooden's flaws are on display as well as his good points. The problem with this book is there's just too damn much of it. Seemingly every game Wooden ever coached is dissected in minute,almost unbelievable detail. I can't imagine how a non-fan would be able to wade through this. (Disclosure: I am ...more
I won this book as part of Goodreads' First Reads programs.

I recently finished a biography on another legendary coach and was left feeling bored by it. It's hard to write a compelling biography in the sports world where each chapter chronicles a season, as the seasons and chapters tend to blur together in one repetitive jumble. As a result, I kept putting off this book in lieu of something else. Well that was my mistake. This is a very engaging, easy to read book on perhaps the greatest basketba
James P
The first thing I can say about "Wooden: A Coaches Life," is that it's the best biography I have ever read. But even that might be an understatement. Rarely can an author find so much information on a man who lived most of his life during the 1930s through the 1980s, but Seth Davis has the brilliance and the drive. He took Wooden's already interesting life and made a book that I couldn't keep my eyes off of. John Wooden lived a modest life, filled with joys, goals, and passion. He proves to be a ...more
Feb 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
Full disclosure. I love Coach Wooden. I was lucky enough to live in L.A. during part of the glory years. Myself and my best friend would even play some pick-up basketball games on the UCLA campus. That's sadly as I got physically to Coach, as I never actually met the great man.

There's a place in the book about how Coach used to answer all the letters and cards he received, personally. Even paid his own postage a lot of the time.I don't know about all, but he sure as heck answered mine! I can't e
J.b. Likeric
Nov 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book was a goodreads giveaway. I
remember when I was young, UCLA was winning record numbers of games. I asked for the book to get a more indepth look at John Wooden. The book, at first looked intimidating. 500 plus pages. After digging in, I really got going and enjoyed it very much.
Seth Davis covered his subject from beginning to end. Boyhood till death at 99 years of age. Most of the book dealt with his UCLA years, which was most of his life. All the people and players that came and went
Dale Stonehouse
Jan 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Davis had both the advantage and disadvantage of being unborn or unaware during Wooden's coaching career. That means his interviews with Wooden and others are fresh and unadorned with preconceptions. And even though plenty was written about Wooden during his life, most of his UCLA players were still living and willing to share their memories. Along with family members who trusted the author, those resources give the most complete view of John Wooden's life available. Perhaps a bit short on perso ...more
Alex Kartman
May 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
With Wooden: A Coach's Life, Seth Davis has taken a deep look into the life and times of the great basketball coach. The narrative structure breaks the career of Wooden into 4 seasons, from his childhood playing days, to his start coaching, through his long career at UCLA, to his twilight years. Every year at UCLA is meticulously documented to tell tales that shine a new light on the coach.

John Wooden remains one of the cornerstones of the monument that is college basketball, but this book prov
Jul 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Never had a read a bio on Wooden despite the numerous books on his life. Seth Davis goes through Wooden life from his beginnings in Indiana thru his final years in Los Angles. Shows the many facets to his life and holds nothing back on his strengths and weakness. His relationship with his players during their playing years was many times strained but afterwards, most players reflected on his life lessons and came to apppreciate his long distance love and the messages he was trying to convey. Dav ...more
Roger Smitter
Sep 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
This bio is much more than a story about a young boy in Indiana who falls in love with basketball. John Wooden saw in his 90+ years the growth of a simple game (when they actually had a tip off after each basket) to a national phenomenon every winter and early spring.

Author Seth Davis tells us how Wooden managed to have success in a time of major change not just in college basketball but in how we define success in college sports.

We get some insights along the way, especially of people like Le
Gil Bradshaw
Sep 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I was constantly surprised at the detail of this book. Seth Davis would tell you what Wooden had for breakfast on random dates in the 1960s. This was a very thoroughly researched book and since I didn't have very much exposure to Wooden, I was gripped by the storyline.

This book is well written and definitive. He also digs into the Samuel Gilbert so thoroughly that this book is practically a biography of Gilbert as well.

This book didn't give me the "Pyramid of Success" like I thought it would, b
N.T. McQueen
Jan 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
As a basketball fan, the hallowed name of John Wooden evokes genius, multiple NCAA titles, and perfect seasons. The personality associated to Coach Wooden also maintains a mystique of altruism and wisdom. In Seth Davis' book, we see all facets of the legend and his evolution from a young, obstinate, hyper-organized, and fierce competitor who distanced himself from his players to a gregarious, humble, avuncular man accepting of his mistakes and eager to teach and love. The biography is an enlight ...more
Tom Gase
Mar 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
About as good as a sports biography gets. Seth Davis does a great job writing this so even though it's very detailed it flows very well. Talks about Wooden's childhood, his high school days, college days and then him taking over at Indiana State. But of course the bulk of the book is what the reader want - stuff about his legendary coaching career at UCLA. Davis talks about each and every one of his seasons and all the big games and players are in here. You'll read not only about Wooden, but als ...more
Nov 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a great book for a pretty narrow audience. Even though the book is full of tips for living a successful life there is way too much basketball for a typical reader to wade through. However, if you are a coach, player or UCLA fan this book is very, very good. It is not a whitewash job that tells about only the great things about Coach Wooden and the UCLA basketball program over the years. There were improprieties over the years and Seth Davis is pretty fair giving a balanced view. He even ...more
Mar 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
As someone who wasn't alive while Wooden was dominating the sport unlike any coach has ever dominated a sport, this biography does an excellent job of exploring in depth the character of the man, the historical context in which he dominated and really provides every little detail worth reading about in his 99-year life.

The story is of a man perceived of as almost flawless, when in reality, he was far from perfect. Then again, who truly is? The last few chapters were touching, and reinforced what
Ben Waymouth
Mar 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
Not a Purdue or UCLA fan. UCLA dynasty ended when I was born. Intrigued by the man I'd heard so much about. Intrigued by Seth Davis as the author - can't stand him as a CBS commentator - he hates the Big Ten. Was curious to get a fresh perspective on the legacy and the historical element to the facts and personalities surrounding Wooden. I thoroughly enjoyed the linear fashion Davis put to the text and how he blended the main characters to the era in which they played for Wooden. I found it inte ...more
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“Whenever the story of John Wooden’s life gets told, his years at UCLA before he started winning championships are usually characterized as a period of struggle. Wooden didn’t view them that way. He was a diligent, persistent man. He enjoyed developing his craft, one small lesson plan at a time. “Little things add up, and they become big things. That’s what I tried to teach my players in practice,” he said. “You’re not going to make a great improvement today. Maybe you’ll make a little bit. But tomorrow it’s a little more, and the next day a little more.” 1 likes
“There was, however, one aspect to teaching that bothered him—the parents.” 0 likes
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