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.

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Sports Medley: Enough of Kobe Bryant’s Farewell Tour! 22 Feb 16

by Tony Medley

Former UCLA assistant basketball coach Jerry Norman says nobody should be considered a “great” player unless he makes the people around him better. Bryant fails this test dismally. He was such a childish self-aggrandizer that he drove Shaquille O’Neal away after they had won three consecutive championships, solely because Kobe wanted all the credit and couldn’t stand to hear anybody say anything good about Shaq.

This year he stacks up as the worst player in the NBA with a shooting percentage under 35% (10 percentage points below the league average of 45%). Despite this he just keeps shooting, leading the team in shots attempted even though he is so weak he can only stand on the court for half the game. If it were not for Phil Jackson, Bryant would be known as just another selfish, talented player who couldn’t win.

The set of The Mary Tyler Moore show was known as a happy crew. She said, “If everybody is getting along they are obviously doing their best work. I don’t care if you’re a mechanic at a garage or an executive high above Park Avenue, if you like each other you work with each other. It can’t help but make the product good.”

Compare that with what Jackson said of Kobe about his first term as coach, “…quite often I could feel his hatred. I'm sure Kobe was (angry) when I wrote in ‘The Last Season’ that he was uncoachable. And, yes, we were often at loggerheads. He wanted more freedom and I wanted him to be more disciplined.”

His selfishness extended to his insistence that he take the last shot in every close game. All the opponents knew he was never going to pass the ball when there were only a few seconds left, so they would double- and triple-team him. It seemed as if half the time he couldn’t even get a shot off because he either dribbled the ball off his foot and lost it, or had it stolen from him. When he did actually get off a shot it was commonly a 40-foot fall away throw that often missed everything. His “last shots” have almost become comedic, akin to something out of a Keystone Kops two-reeler. But the Lakers coach is too weak to draw up a play for anyone else. Of course, to be fair, the Lakers haven’t been that close to winning many games this year so this hasn’t been much of an issue.

The fact that the three people running the Lakers allow themselves to be little more than marble statues for Bryant’s Pygmalion, merely asking “how high?” when Kobe says, “jump!” shows why the Lakers have fallen to not only one of the two worst teams in basketball, but maybe the worst managed team in the history of sport (and that’s saying a lot for a team in the same city as the Dodgers).

Has any sports figure ever made more foolish statements than the Lakers’ General Manager, Mitch Kupchak, when he said in January, the middle of the season, “This is a year that's dedicated to Kobe and his farewell.” And, “We cannot move on as a team until Kobe leaves.” What? What about winning, Mitch?

The legendary Branch Rickey, the greatest general manager in the history of sports, said, “It’s better to trade a player a year too early than a year too late.” The Lakers have held on to Kobe for three years after he was finished and destroyed their salary cap in the process by paying him $24 million for each of those wasted years.

Did the Lakers advertise before the season that winning wasn’t anything to be considered in order that they could spend 82 games saying goodbye to Kobe? Why hasn’t a season ticket holder filed a class action suit against the Lakers to get his money back?

A “farewell tour” for an athlete first saw light of day when Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken, Jr., threw himself one in 2001, his last year. Ripken was hardly a household word, but his ego dictated that he let everyone in the league know that this was it for him and to get people out to the park to say “goodbye.” Since then, others have thrown similar tours for themselves, and now Bryant. Enough! It’s bad enough that these people are grossly overpaid, but how full of yourself do you have to be to throw yourself a “farewell tour?”

Frankly, this seemingly interminable tour for a narcissist who has been washed up for three years, who is personally responsible for the fact that one of the most storied franchises in basketball history is now a laughingstock, and who hurts his team every day he remains on the playing roster, is nauseating.

Kobe was a key player for the Lakers, but he was one of a team, and he never won a title without Phil Jackson. He was a loser before Phil arrived and a loser whenever Phil was not his coach. Maybe I missed it, but I have yet to hear Kobe express any gratitude for Phil Jackson (or anyone else, for that matter).