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. This is the only book that gives a true picture of the character of John Wooden and the influence of his assistant, Jerry Norman, whose contributions Wooden  ignored and tried to bury.

Compiled with more than 40 hours of interviews with Coach Wooden, learn about the man behind the coach. The players tell their stories in their own words.

Click the book to read the first chapter and for ordering information. Also available on Kindle.

When the Game Stands Tall (3/10)

by Tony Medley

Runtime 117 minutes.

OK for children.

This cliché-ridden biopic of high school coach Bob Ladouceur (Jim Cavaiezel) and how his 2004 team coped with the ending of De La Salle’s (a small school just outside of Oakland) 151 game winning streak is so preachy it robs itself of entertainment value.

The point of the film seems to be to emphasize Ladouceur’s character. He allegedly feels it is more important to build men than to win games, but the entire theme of the film is winning. The film defines success by showing the team coming back from two defeats to, what? Win!

Abounding with platitudes, the script is by Scott Marshall Smith but with “story credits” to David Zelon and Smith even though it’s based on a book by Neil Hayes. Why does a script need a “story credit” when it’s based on a non-fiction book? Could it be that what we are seeing on the screen is less than factual?

It’s hard to buy the piffle that lasts for almost two hours. Almost every time Ladouceur says anything it’s backed up by music (John Paesano) so maudlin it eventually becomes laughable, as if everything Ladouceur says should be carved in marble.

Cavaiezel plays the role woodenly, as if he’s an already canonized saint, never cracking a smile and going around looking as if he’s George Washington incarnate (if not Jesus, De La Salle is a Catholic school after all).

Directed by Thomas Carter with an astonishing lack of pace, one of the scenes that is obviously intended to be shocking was so telegraphed that I almost said to my friend, “he’s going to be shot,” a few minutes before he is. Carter also had a try at directing another sports movie, Coach Carter (2005), and he hasn’t learned from the faults of that film how to do sports. He still has far too many close ups of the action. He falls prey to what burdens many sports films, especially football and boxing, in that the audio is so amplified that when there’s a collision, like between linemen, it sounds as if World War III has broken out. Sports just don’t sound like this in real life. Worse, he injects innumerable extraneous plays into the two hours that have no relation to a competition because one doesn’t know the scores or the situations, until the end, that is. They are just isolated plays from various games (although some are scoring plays that have at least a little relevance).

The end credits include films of the real people who were the characters, showing Ladouceur low key and unemotional as Cavaiezel played him. Had the film generated any interest in the characters, these shots might have been fascinating. Unfortunately, the characters and their dialogue are so contrived I was exhausted from having to sit through it and all I wanted to do was scoot.