Book review: John Wooden: An American Treasure 

John Wooden: An American Treasure

by Steve Bisheff

Foreword by Bill Walton

Cumberland House Publishing, cloth $24.95

3 stars

John Wooden, diminutive in stature, has been larger than life for half a century. Anyone with any interest in basketball knew John Wooden was "The Coach" who developed a concept of team discipline and spirit over individual stardom. His 4-point concept of learning and teaching a skill: demonstration, explanation, correction and repetition, along with his "Pyramid of Success," are relevant on and off the court. Within days following Wooden's death on June 4, sportswriter Steve Bisheff's 2004 definitive biography was back on the publisher's "now available" list. Re-reading this new copy one is struck by the relevancy between the names in current news and the people through whom Bisheff chose to tell the story of the then 92-year-old Wooden. Bisheff's no-nonsense prose style and insider story line move you into the events leading to Wooden's amazing success as a player, teacher, family man and coach. Nothing is glossed over — including loss of all of Wooden's savings when the Martinsville, Ind., bank failed in 1932. Wooden had to borrow money to go through with his marriage to Nell Riley. It never really got financially better, because Wooden was the lowest paid [winning] coach in collegiate sports history. The book is presented in five parts, with some repetitions as different individuals relate their "take" on the same points about Wooden. Lovers of the game will find Parts II and III most revelatory as Bisheff takes us through "Building A Dynasty" and "The Boys of Wooden," the seven most amazing of the 500-plus players touched by "the wizard" of UCLA's Bruins. On its own, this biography gives a fully balanced picture. Read along with Wooden's own half dozen titles, one gains a nuanced understanding of selectivity in memoir writing. —Rita Kohn


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Rita Kohn

Rita Kohn

Rita Kohn has been covering craft beer and the arts for NUVO for two decades. She’s the author of True Brew: A Guide to Craft Beer in Indiana.

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