Out of print for more than 30 years, now available for the first time as an eBook, this is the controversial story of John Wooden's first 25 years and first 8 NCAA Championships as UCLA Head Basketball Coach. Notre Dame Coach Digger Phelps said, "I used this book as an inspiration for the biggest win of my career when we ended UCLA's all-time 88-game winning streak in 1974."

Compiled with more than 40 hours of interviews with Coach Wooden, learn about the man behind the coach. Click the Book to read the players telling their stories in their own words. This is the book that UCLA Athletic Director J.D. Morgan tried to ban.

Click the book to read the first chapter and for ordering information.

The Grand (3/10)

by Tony Medley

This is an improvisational attempt at comedy. I emphasize the word “attempt,” because, like others of this genre (2003’s “A Mighty Wind” for example) I didn’t find it very humorous. These things stretch so far for laughs that they fail. The essence of comedy is for someone to be funny without actually looking like he’s trying to be funny, even though we know he’s trying very hard. Successful comedians make it look natural, like it’s not work. Does Jon Stewart look like he’s working up a sweat to be funny? Billy Crystal? Did Johnny Carson or Jack Benny?

To the contrary, these films look like everyone is working very hard, indeed. This film didn’t work from a script. The players had a detailed treatment and they took it from there.

The film follows six poker players, druggy One Eyed Jack Faro (Woody Harrelson), Larry Schwartzman (David Cross), LBJ “Deuce” Fairbanks (Dennis Farina), Lainie Schwartzman (Cheryl Hines), The German (Werner Herzog), and Dr. Yakov Achmed (Jason Alexander) as they vie to compete in a winner-take-all “Grand Championship of Poker” in Las Vegas.

The cast also includes some TV sitcoms icons, like Ray Romano, who plays Lainie’s husband, and Gabe Kaplan, who plays Seth Schwartzman, the father of Lainie and Larry. I thought that Herzog gave a pretty good performance, as did Hines and Kaplan. The characters of Alexander and Harrelson were just too silly to be funny. As to Romano, it’s difficult to figure out why he is in the film. His character has no purpose whatever.

This film can serve as a lesson that actors have lots of credit to give to directors and writers for their success. Kaplan, Alexander, and Romano were very funny in their respective sitcoms, “Welcome Back, Kotter,” “Seinfeld,” and “Everybody Loves Raymond.” Even Harrelson was effectively humorous in “Cheers.” Not one of them can inspire even so much as a smile here. Alexander’s character is particularly ridiculous. Maybe their humor is due more to material and brilliant direction than to inherent talent.

As with most of these things, this is too over the top to be really funny. In fact the first hour is almost interminable. If you like poker, the actual playing of the poker only occupies about the last twenty minutes. The rest of the film is trying to set up the characters. And the characters are so ludicrous that they just aren’t funny.

If you’re a fan of this type of thing, if you found humor in “A Mighty Wind,” you could enjoy this. If not, forget it.

March 4, 2008