Perhaps the least controversial sports honor in living memory was the selection of John Wooden as "Coach of the Century" by ESPN, honoring his ten NCAA basketball championships in a twelve-year stretch. His UCLA teams won with great centers and with small lineups, with superstars and with team effort, always with quickness, always with class. Wooden was a teacher first and foremost, and his lessons -- taught on the basketball court, but applicable throughout one's life -- are summarized in his famed Pyramid of Success.
Andrew Hill was one of the lucky young men who got to learn from Wooden in his favored classroom -- though that is hardly how Hill would have described it at the time. An all-city high school player in Los Angeles, Hill played -- a little -- on three national champions, from 1970 to 1972. Hill was left embittered by his experience at UCLA; he was upset at how unequally Wooden treated his starting players and his substitutes.
Hill went on to a successful career in television, rising to the presidency of CBS Productions, where he was responsible for the success of such popular series as Touched by an Angel and Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. Hill's job required him to manage many creative people, with the egos and insecurities that usually go along with such talents. And one day, some twenty-five years after he graduated, he was hit with the realization that everything he knew about getting the best out of people he had learned directly from Coach John Wooden.
With no small trepidation, Hill picked up the phone to call and thank his old coach and unexpected mentor. To his surprise, Wooden greeted him warmly and enthusiastically. A strong friendship, sealed in frequent visits and conversations, ensued, and endures.
Be Quick -- But Don't Hurry! tells the story of that friendship. But it also shares the lessons and secrets that Hill learned from Coach Wooden, which hold the key to managing creatively in the idea-driven economy of the twenty-first century. Among those lessons are:
- The team with the best players almost always wins
- Be quick, but don't hurry: there is never enough time to be sure (and if you are sure, you're probably too late), but you must always keep your balance
- Failing to prepare is preparing to fail
- The team that makes the most mistakes...wins!
Full of sound advice and warm reminiscence, Be Quick -- But Don't Hurry! is the management book of a lifetime.
When Hill, a television executive, played basketball at UCLA during the 1970s, he became one of only 200 men to play for Wooden, the winningest coach in college basketball history. The two constantly engaged in verbal sparring (e.g., on his first day, Hill suggested that Wooden cancel practice in protest against the Vietnam War, and Wooden retaliated that Hill could choose not to come to practice that day or ever, but only Wooden would decide whether to cancel a practice). Some 20 years later, Hill had an epiphany and began visiting his old coach, developing a deep friendship reminiscent of the one described by Mitch Albom in Tuesdays with Morrie. For Hill, it yielded new revelations based on Wooden's famous "pyramid of success," constructed of precepts such as "keep it simple" and "teamwork is not a preference, it's a necessity." Hill's writing is clean and clear, and his respect and admiration for Wooden are apparent. But as a tribute to a coach, the book will have limited appeal. As a life and business mentoring book, it falls short because the advice isn't particularly insightful or original. Hill neglects to explain to his readers how the principles build upon each other, and the examples focus only on Hill's professional life without discussing other business arenas. Although Wooden's name and the book's price make this an appealing gift, sports fans and business leaders interested in Wooden's "pyramid of success" will benefit more from Brian D. Biro's Beyond Success (Forecasts, Dec. 4). Agents, Christy Fletcher and Chris Silbermann, Carlisle & Co. (Mar. 13) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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Simon & Schuster
February 15, 2001
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Excerpt from Be Quick - But Don't Hurry by Andrew Hill
Growing up as a sports-crazed kid in Westwood, California, I had the chance to watch some of the nation's most compelling stars and teams compete in my own backyard. The Dodgers with Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, and the Lakers with Jerry West and Elgin Baylor were fun to watch as they battled for world championships, but they were not the most successful teams in town. That distinction belonged to a college team just a couple of miles from my house: During the 1960s and 1970s, Coach John Wooden's UCLA Bruins were the most dominant and successful sports program ever seen.
Coach Wooden's UCLA basketball teams were a high-speed, classy, Blue-and-Gold winning machine. While it's hard to imagine that integration was still an issue in college basketball back then, those Bruins were somewhat in the vanguard, with their perfect blend of black and white, urban and rural, big and small. The starters were a black center from Kansas, two white kids from Southern California, a black guard from Philadelphia, and a Jewish forward born in Brooklyn. UCLA won its first NCAA championship in 1964, two full years before an all-black Texas Western (now University of Texas El Paso) team beat an all-white University of Kentucky team and hastened the recruitment of black ballplayers at every school in the country. The Bruins played with a consistency and controlled passion that seemed a direct reflection of their coach. The culture of Los Angeles in the 1960s was so self-consciously hip that John Wooden's provincial Indiana roots made him appear to be from another planet. Unlike the style-conscious L.A. glitterati, he was very secure in who he was and where he came from. In a city where everyone wanted to be cool, this man clearly had no interest in imitating the world of movie deals, cutting-edge fashion, rock music, and air kisses. If Pat Riley was the quintessence of L.A. style as coach of the Lakers in the 1980s, Coach Wooden was its antithesis, bringing to the limelight the solid Midwestern values of substance over Showtime. Even as a young boy I could sense that there was something special about a man like this; John Wooden was "cool" simply because he didn't try to fit in and conform to the shifting tides of Southern California culture.
This is not to say his teams were boring. The Bruins were built on speed, quickness, a tough man-to-man defense, a withering zone press, and a relentless fast break. Now, there may be some kid in America who grows up dreaming of playing slow-down, highly structured, Princeton-style basketball, but I've never met that kid. There was something intoxicating and captivating about the pace and attacking style of the Bruins. Many of their games were close and hard fought, but then the Bruins would generate a blistering run that devastated the opposition, the basketball equivalent of a heavyweight boxer knocking out his opponent. I was already a fan before the Bruins won their first national title in 1963-64, but that season pushed my infatuation to new heights.
Though the players changed through the years, the sense of style and class that came to epitomize UCLA basketball always grew out of the concepts espoused by Coach Wooden. Central to those teachings was his Pyramid of Success, which is familiar to the tens of millions of sports fans who marveled at this remarkable sports dynasty. The Pyramid was Coach Wooden's attempt to diagram the key ingredients necessary for personal success (see diagram). With a foundation based on qualities like industriousness, friendship, loyalty, cooperation, and enthusiasm, the Pyramid builds to an apex that is capped off with patience and faith. To those who have never met Coach Wooden, it seems almost too corny to be true.