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.

Sports Medley: Who Bears Responsibility for UCLA’s Dismal Basketball Position? 7 Mar 16

by Tony Medley

Candidate #1: Don’t blame Coach Steve Alford. He is a coach of mediocre talent who couldn’t make it in the Big Ten and found himself coaching at the University of New Mexico, hardly a hotbed of college basketball, where he had predictably middling results (losing to Harvard, of all people, in the first round of March Madness). Alford showed a lack of integrity by breaching a commitment he had made to New Mexico for a long-term contract when offered a deal by UCLA. But who could blame him? He was offered a job that made him the highest-paid state employee in the State of California with unusual long-term security; it would cost the State of California over $10 million to buy out his contract before 2017, reduced by a couple of million each year until 2020. What person of unexceptional talent, character, and accomplishment would be strong enough to turn that down?

Candidate #2: Don’t blame UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero, either. He was underqualified for the job but it was offered anyway. A year after he was hired, in 2003, UCLA was looking for a new head basketball coach. Guerrero was contacted by a person extraordinarily knowledgeable about basketball in general and UCLA basketball in particular who advised that he knew Kansas coach Roy Williams and offered to talk with Williams about coaching UCLA because he knew Williams was going to leave Kansas. Guerrero turned the idea down, saying that he already had someone in line for the job and he didn’t want to lose him. So Guerrero didn’t even interview Williams, who took the job at North Carolina instead and so far has won two NCAA titles there.

Then Guerrero hired another mediocrity, Ben Howland, who was hardly being inundated with offers.

Howland was enormously unpopular at UCLA, coaching Bobby Knight’s slow down “motion” offense, calling timeouts every two minutes, and substituting players willy-nilly and constantly, and was finally fired and replaced by Alford, who, incidentally, played the same “motion” offense he learned as a player for Knight at Indiana that Bruins fans hated, which is a key to how out of touch Guerrero was. Guerrero had done so little investigation into his new coach that he was apparently clueless that Alford had scandalously supported Iowa player Pierre Pierce who was charged with sexual assault and pleaded out.

But you can’t blame Guerrero. He knows nothing about basketball coaches (or football coaches, for that matter) and he must have known he was unqualified for such a prestigious position (Guerrero apologists will argue that UCLA has won 21 NCAA titles, all in minor sports, during Guerrero’s tenure; but the proof of the pudding is in basketball and football where the money and prestige are, not tiddlywinks). But here was some doofus offering him a top job at UCLA that paid around $750,000 annually. What person of pedestrian talent would be strong enough to turn that down? The Peter Principle rules.

Candidate #3: The person who hired Guerrero was Pete Blackman, UCLA Vice Chancellor in charge of athletics. Like Guerrero’s opportunity with Williams, Blackman had the chance to hire a top flight executive who also happened to be an experienced UCLA veteran, Gary Cunningham, as Athletic Director. Blackman and Cunningham were starting forwards on Wooden’s 1961-62 UCLA team that went to the Final Four. Cunningham was the star forward and Blackman nothing more than a solid role player. Cunningham had been Wooden’s assistant coach, then becoming head basketball coach, 1977-79 (with a record of 50-8), before resigning to become Athletic Director at three Universities, the last being UCSB.

Cunningham wanted the UCLA job. But Blackman was less than interested. He did give Cunningham a pro forma interview (telegraphing his disdain by failing to even provide a parking pass for Cunningham who drove 125 miles from Santa Barbara for the interview), but gave the job to Guerrero, who was AD at UC Irvine. Cunningham was a Bruin and former coach; Guerrero had no prior UCLA connection. How could anyone not choose Cunningham over Guerrero? But Blackman apparently had other criteria by which to hire Guerrero that were more important than who was better qualified for the position as the Director of UCLA Athletics.

Some of the former UCLA basketball players sponsored occasional reunions for all UCLA basketball alums. I have attended most of them and have seen Cunningham at several, if not all. I’ve never seen Blackman attend even one. Had Blackman selected Cunningham as Athletic Director in 2002 instead of Guerrero I’m confident that Roy Williams would be coaching UCLA, that UCLA would have won at least two more NCAA basketball championships and maybe a lot more, and that UCLA’s football program would be on much better footing than it is.

Was Blackman jealous of Cunningham because he was a better basketball player? Or did he have other reasons more important to Blackman than selecting the most highly qualified person for the position of Athletic Director at UCLA?  Who knows? But that horrible decision burned UCLA and it continues burning to this day.