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 their stories in their own words.

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

NFL 2012 Playoffs Third Round

by Tony Medley

         So I came within 9 seconds of having another perfect 4 for 4, putting my record so far at 7 for 8 this year. However, the only game I missed on, the San Francisco-New Orleans game, had such a wonderful ending it will probably be remembered as one of the five best games of all time, so I just sat back and enjoyed it. Unfortunately, it was marred by a dirty, but legal, helmet to helmet hit by 49er Donte Whitner on Saints Pierre Thomas on the 49er two yard line that knocked Thomas out and caused a fumble at the beginning of the first quarter. San Francisco took the ball and drove down the field for a touchdown. That completely changed the momentum and tone of the entire game. But with all the concussions in football, all helmet-to-helmet hits should be illegal, not just when the runner is "defenseless." How serious is the NFL about head injuries?

         I hope someone took my advice and put a bundle on the Giants taking the points. That game should not have been as close as the 37-20 shellacking indicated. In the first half Green Bay fumbled and it was first ruled a fumble, then overruled. The Giants appealed. The replay showed a clear fumble. The ref refused to overrule and Green Bay drove in for a touchdown. Then later when Green Bay was behind with time running out in the fourth quarter, Aaron Rodgers threw an incompletion on fourth down. But the referee threw a flag, alleging a hit to Rodgers head. There was no hit to his head. This led directly to another Green Bay touchdown. But for the inept or corrupt refereeing, the score would have been 37-6, or worse.

         The league should look into these calls because they weren't just wrong, they were blatantly wrong. Combined with a terrible spot the second time the Giants had the ball in the second half forcing them to kick and relinquish the ball, when a true spot would have given them a first down, and several late hits on Eli Manning that weren't called, it's incumbent on the league to investigate and release a full, honest report instead of the normal rubber stamp of the officials' actions that they generally release in such instances. There is too much evidence of wrongdoing by the officials in this game not to take action. At the least the officials should be openly chastised and suspended for several games next season, if not fired. The league's reputation is at stake.

         As I predicted, Baltimore beat Houston. But Houston was not only the better team, it played the better game. It was turnovers that killed them not their inexperienced quarterback, T.J. Yates, giving Baltimore a 17-3 lead in the first quarter. Yates was no worse than Baltimore's Joe Flacco, who threw a few good passes, but held the ball far too long and took some really harmful sacks when he could have thrown the ball away, one time taking them out of field goal range on third down (although it could be argued that Flacco did the right thing to hold onto the ball and not risk an interception or turnover). Despite his interceptions, Yates played a better game than Flacco. Houston is the AFC team to watch next year when they get their starting quarterback, Matt Schaub, back. Houston completely outplayed Baltimore both on the offensive and defensive lines, and that's generally where games are won. They made two bad turnovers, one truly horrendous fumble trying to field a punt on the first bounce with a defender right in his face, that gave Baltimore 14 points its offense didn't earn.

         Next Sunday's championship games are relatively easy to call, at least the AFC game is.

New England over Baltimore: New England's defense really stepped up against Denver, not a big chore anyway, and Tom Brady is at the top of his game. Good as Baltimore's aging defense is, it's unlikely to stop Brady and all his receivers like Wes Welker and tight end Rob Gronkowski, who has recently been well-nigh unstoppable. Further, Baltimore's offense is nothing to scare New England's worst-in-the-league-rated defense. I say "rated" because I think they are better than the statistics show. Unless Flacco finally steps up and plays a consistent game, New England will be able to flood the box to stop Baltimore's running game headed by pint-sized (5'8") Ray Rice. If Flacco can produce a good passing game, utilizing wide receiver Anquon Bouldin, who showed against Houston that he's recovered from his knee surgery, Baltimore could have a shot at this. But that's a real longshot.

Giants over San Francisco: Since I've been saying that the Giants are playing the best football in the NFL, I can hardly pick San Francisco to beat them, even if they are playing at home. The 49ers got a lot of breaks, as indicated above, to get a big lead against New Orleans and still blew the lead, so how good could their vaunted defense really be? Their defense couldn't hold a 17-0 lead and New Orleans scored 32 points! That's a great defense? San Francisco's offense was terrible from the end of their opening drive until the last 2-1/2 minutes.

         For all the accolades being thrown the way of their quarterback, Alex Smith, if you look at what he did it's not impressive. He couldn't even throw a simple out at any time during the game after the first drive. In fact, except for the opening drive, he's getting all this praise only because he threw two passes, a long pass with a half minute left and then a short pass over the middle for the winning TD, both to Vernon Davis, a very good receiver, and made one long run for a touchdown. Both were perfect passes, so you have to give Smith credit for making perfect passes under tremendous pressure. When Tim Tebow plays a horrible game only to pull it out at the end, all the talking heads take shots at him. But all these same talking heads ignore Smith's horrible game for 50 minutes, and give him oodles of accolades for two passes.

         The Giants have a much better defense than New Orleans, probably the best in the league now that their secondary has improved so much. One of the reasons Rodgers had to run so much was because his receivers were covered. If Smith couldn't move the ball against the Saints' pitiful defense, the 49ers don't have much hope against the much better Giants.  The bad news for the Giants is that they apparently lost one of their best defensive linemen, Chris Canty, on the last defensive play of the game. He was helped off the field and it didn't look to me like he'd be able to play in a week, but I was, after all, 2,500 miles away.

         Even so, even without Canty, the Giants' defense is much, much better and stronger than the Saints' defense. The chances of Smith and the 49ers' weak offense moving the ball against them are slim. And only a few weeks ago, in a big game, Baltimore beat the 49ers at Candlestick in San Francisco. Of course that was two teams with inept offenses with weak quarterbacks and good defenses. Past isn't prologue in football, but I don't think the 49ers have much of a chance against the Giants, who are playing the best football in the league (have I said that before?). Without turnovers, how are they going to score since their quarterback is mediocre at best (two passes do not a career make, although I guess it's possible that these two passes will turn his career around; he was, after all, the number one pick in a draft seven years ago that included Aaron Rodgers) and they don't have much of a running game. Their defense, while good, isn't good enough to keep Eli Manning and Co. out of the end zone.

January 17, 2012