Tony DeMeo

The Greatest Coach Ever by The Fellowship of Christian Athletes

I have been a big fan of John Wooden ever since his undersized UCLA Bruins won the NCAA National Championship in 1963. Since then I have read just about everything I could lay my hands on that was about Coach Wooden. They Call Me Coach was one of my early favorites, I read it cover to cover numerous times and absorbed great coaching lessons. And another favorite of mine that I reviewed earlier was Wooden on Leadership by John Wooden himself. Again, I would highly recommend this book. If you are a coach or a teacher, it would be hard to find a better role model than John Wooden.

Whether John Wooden was the Greatest Coach Ever or not can be debated forever, but there is no debate that he was a great coach. What makes this book special is that The Fellowship of Christian Athletes gathers testimonies from other outstanding coaches and players who were influenced and inspired by Coach Wooden. The surprising aspect of this is that some contributors didn’t even play for Coach Wooden and they were still inspired by his philosophy and wisdom.

Regardless of your coaching background or religious beliefs you will also be inspired and moved by these compelling stories from highly successful coaches and players. Wooden’s philosophy and wisdom carried a lot further than the basketball court.

The following are some of my favorite chapters.

  1. “Good Things Take Time” by Les Steckel. Few people realize that it took Coach Wooden 16 years before he won his first National Championship. When Coach Wooden got to UCLA they didn’t even have their own home court. Yet Coach Wooden turned UCLA into the greatest college basketball dynasty of all time. Having the patience to endure was the key.
  2. “Active Duty” by David Robinson. David Robinson the great basketball player from the Naval Academy and later an NBA hall of famer said what impressed him the most about Coach Wooden teams is they never went “Hollywood” despite being located in the glitz capital of the world. They played with humility not glitz. Robinson felt that Wooden changed the environment and didn’t let the environment change him.
  3. “Giving Up Control” by Joe Girardi. Joe Girardi has developed into the highly successful manager of the New York Yankees the greatest baseball dynasty of all time. So Joe knows something about leading a great team. Girardi points to Wooden’s faith as the key ingredient of his success. Wooden wanted the University of Minnesota job but it didn’t happen so he went to UCLA and turned that into a basketball power. The Lord puts you where He wants you to be not where you want to be. Wooden trusted God.
  4. “The Real Deal” by Pat Williams. Pat Williams authored the book How to be Like Coach Wooden so is obviously a huge fan of Coach Wooden. Williams said Wooden’s presence made you feel better. His favorite book on Wooden was Essential Wooden which had many great lessons in it. Williams felt Wooden was the same guy on the court as off.
  5. “Legacy” by John Maxwell. John Maxwell is one of the most popular of the current leadership gurus. I’ve read numerous Maxwell books and reviewed two on this website (The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork and The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. His favorite Wooden Principle is “make each day your masterpiece”. This is one of my favorite “Woodenisms” as well. You have to go all out every day.
  6. “The Greater Good” by Keith Erickson. This chapter is interesting because Keith Erickson played on Coach Wooden’s first National Championship team. Erickson was 6’5” and the tallest player on that under-sized squad. His favorite quote epitomized that team: “Co-operation is working with others for the benefit of all” John Wooden. The team was the star of the National Championship team. They played as a team and loved each other. What a great lesson for all of us. There is great power in teamwork.

There are thirty chapters in The Greatest Coach Ever and you won’t be disappointed in any of them. This book was so good; I went out and bought the CD set so I could listen to it over and over again. I would strongly recommend this book or CD set or both to rev up your engines during pre-season. The principles in this book will never age or go out of style and are applicable whatever your occupation might be.