Book review: John Wooden: An American Treasure


John Wooden: An

American Treasure

by Steve Bisheff

Foreword by Bill


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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