No. 759



Most every die-hard basketball fan and player in America knows whom you are talking about when you mention “The Big Red Head.” This moniker belongs to Bill Walton, four-year starter for the 10-time national champion UCLA Bruins and 14 years as a professional player in the National Basketball Association.
When Bill Walton was in high school in Southern California he had a bad stuttering problem, but he overcame it and went on to become a television broadcaster. Today, Bill gives much of the credit for his success to the late Coach John Wooden, who won 665 games during his coaching years. However, history will probably record that his greatest contribution has and will come from his mentoring and being the author of nine books that talks about success in life, even more important than success in basketball.
His latest book, written when he was 98 ½ years of age, is titled “A Game Plan for Life: The Power of Mentoring.” It is without a doubt his best work and will no doubt be the standard for motivational and inspirational books for decades to come. It is one of the two books that Coach Cliff Garrison is recommending for coaches, all across the nation to read, along with “Gifted Hands” by Dr. Ben Carson. These books can make a difference in any person’s life, and they will be read by countless coaches who never see or read “The Coach Garrison Challenge” but Cliff’s personal endorsement, and his purpose in doing it, will cause thousands more to get involved in mentoring young players.
Coach Wooden lists and talks about seven mentors in his own life, including his father Joshua Wooden; his grade school principal and coach Earl Warriner; his high school coach, Glenn Curtis, at Martinsville, Ind.; his coach at Purdue University, Piggy Lambert; and then Mother Teresa, Abraham Lincoln and Nellie, his beloved wife of 53 years who died in 1985. All of these played a great role in his life, but Nellie, his soul mate, was his greatest inspiration – she was the only girl he ever dated and ever kissed and was faithful to for all those years.
The second half of the book was written, for the most part, by just a few of those Coach Wooden had mentored, the most notable being Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Roy Williams (coach at North Carolina) and Dale Brown, who coached for many years at Louisiana State University. Each gave a tremendous testimony of what Coach Wooden had meant to them and the success they later enjoyed in life. There is a famous story about Bill Walton that has been printed many times that will give you some insights into this “Wizard of Westwood,” the coach who sat silently on the bench during the games with a rolled-up program.
Bill Walton came to UCLA as a freshman in 1970, and while a tremendous “big man” basketball player, he was also a free spirit. Our nation had just gone through the Vietnam War era and Bill had strong personal convictions. As a result, he and Coach Wooden had many disagreements, but the coach always had the last word. Bill was named MVP in the last two championship games, and during his senior year he decided to challenge the coach on his policy of no long hair and beards worn by any of his players. When Bill told him he felt his rules were outdated, the look the coach gave him was more sympathetic than stern. The coach said, “Bill, I acknowledge you have a right to disagree with my rules, but I am the coach here and we will miss you.”
Here’s a final question from me. Could we use more of that today? Read the book.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: Jim Davidson is a public speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034. To begin a bookcase literacy project visit You won’t go wrong helping a needy child.)