The USC groin kick: Wow, that was easy

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When the dark clouds move in and it start to sprinkle just the smallest of raindrops at a USC football tailgate party, an Easy-Up tent usually solves the problem.

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This time, it won’t be so easy.

Anyone surprised by a two-year bowl ban, 30 lost scholarships over a three-year period, vacating any victory where Reggie Bush participated and a four-year probation has been cowering in a parallel universe.

Although Trojan alums, boosters, followers, loyalists and Bruin antagonists are already in search of a silver lining to Thursday’s NCAA report that the skies have opened up and flooded everything that’s not near an ark.

Maybe they’ll start serving beer at the Coliseum again to make up for the lost revenue. Fans won’t have to arrive at 5 a.m. every Saturday for a 7 p.m. kickoff.

Former Trojan fullback and current sports-talk radio host Petros Papadakis suggests that the school un-retire the No. 5 jersey — the one Bush wore during his 2004 Heisman Trophy season — and “give it to a fat, white walk-on.”

The monopoly has ended. Boardwalk and Park Place don’t intersect at USC’s Heritage Hall. Monopoly money from deep-pocket sycophants won’t bail anyone out this time.

The NCAA doesn’t investigate four years and kill trees with a 67-page expose only to slap someone’s rear end, even if it means hitting itself in the wallet by sidelining one of the great revenue-generating programs in the country.

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There was already a 248-page book written on this in 2008, by Don Yaeger, called “Tarnished Heisman: Did Reggie Bush turn his final season into a six-figure job?” Let’s skip to the Cliff Notes.

The NCAA had to make a statement — short of the death penalty, and even that wouldn’t have been inappropriate in some circles.

The message, if anyone’s listening, is an absurd lack of institutional control. The euphoria of winning — too easy, to some — clouded the obvious.

USC is considered “a repeat violator,” the report says, noting infractions in 1986, 1982, 1959 and 1957, “all of which involved its football program.” History does repeat itself.

“The general campus environment surrounding the violations troubled the committee. . . .” started one paragraph. Troubled, as in, shocked.

More: “Universities may not hide their heads in the sand and purport to treat all programs and student-athletes similarly when it comes to the level of scrutiny required . . . In fact, the compliance director at the time reported that there were only two compliance staff members at the institution for most of his tenure, and it was ‘just myself for a couple of months.’”

Hey, we’re all cutting back in places. Heard of the economy?

On page 45 of the document, it’s pretty clear: “From December 2004 through March 2009, the institution exhibited a lack of control over its department of athletics by its failure to have in place procedures to effectively monitor the violations of NCAA amateurism, recruiting and extra benefit legislation” on football, men’s basketball and even womens’ tennis.

It takes pages 55 to 63 to list all of penalties. Not because the typeface is too big.

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Mike Garrett, if he had a conscious, would fall on Tommy Trojan’s sword for this. University president Stephen Sample could have done the same if he already wasn’t retiring.

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Pete Carroll, if he had any moral compass, would stop saying he’d be surprised if there were any penalties and offer a most humble apology — then donate his Seattle Seahawks’ paychecks to the school’s general fund.

That Tim Floyd has already been excused, and already found a new job, explains how little the USC basketball program has any bearing in this penalty. And how little the USC basketball program even matters.

But in the sum of it all, it very much does.

O.J. Mayo is just as much at fault as Bush. And Garrett. And Carroll.

But mostly Garrett.

Like no one could see any of that coming.

There’s not a lot of sympathy for USC unless you’re a Trojan alum, and even then, the bitterness for Carroll’s lax attitude toward detail can’t be ignored. He might have taken the football program to another level, but he’s embarrassed everyone in the process. His rah-rah legacy is as stained as red wine on a white carpet.

UCLA should get a pretty good laugh at USC’s expense. So should Tennessee, for seeing how Lane Kiffin has faired from all this.

Former Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers has already tweeted: “Looking forward to getting my PAC-10 championship ring from the ’04 season. Thanks @claymatthews52″

Just like Vince Young must be wondering when they’ll ship him his Heisman Trophy.

Who wins the 2004 national title? Oklahoma, on the wrong end of that Orange Bowl? That makes sense.

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With USC now in the NCAA’s dog house, where’s Snoop Dogg to help explain all this? Make him part of the USC team that will now appeal this decision.

USC’s response, released Thursday afternoon, included senior vice president for administration Todd Dickey categorizing the penalties as “too severe for the violations identified in the report,” and then blamed it on “a systemic problem facing college athletes today: unscrupulous sports agents and sports marketers. The question is how do we identify them and keep them away from our student-athletes?”

He says USC has tried to protect “our student-athletes and their families from those who seek to violate the rules” by retaining the Freeh Group, headed by a former federal judge and ex-FBI director.

“We cannot and will not tolerate this,” Dickey added. “Our program must set the highest standards in the country.”

Tell that to Snoop while he’s on the sidelines. And bring the Easy-Up pooper scooper.

Read the NCAA ruling: Linked here

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Abby Sunderland update: Emergency rescue underway

UPDATE: == More from today’s Daily News (linked here)

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Andy Holzman/Staff Photographer

The wind is beginning to pick up. It is back up to 20 knots and I am expecting that by midnight tonight I could have 35-50 knots with gusts to 60 so I am off to sleep before it really picks up.

== The last paragraph of the most recent blog post from Abby Sunderland, Wednesday night (linked here).

A rescue effort has been launched in hope of finding Abby Sunderland, the 16-year-old Thousand Oaks resident attempting to sail around the world alone but set off her emergency beacon locating devices from the southern Indian Ocean early this morning.

Sunderland reportedly faced multiple knockdowns in 60-knot winds Wednesday (today local time) before conditions briefly abated.

Her parents lost satellite phone contact early this morning and an hour later were notified by the Coast Guard at French-controlled Reunion Islands that both of Sunderland’s EPIRB satellite devices had been activated. One apparently is attached to a survival suit and meant to be used when a person is in the water or a life raft.

“Everything seemed to be under control,” Laurence Sunderland said on Pete Thomas Outdoors.com (linked here). “But then our call dropped and a hour later the Coast Guard called.”

Abby was for several months one of two 16-year-olds attempting to sail around the world alone. Australia’s Jessica Watson completed her journey last month, just days before turning 17.

Abby’s brother Zac did a solo-circumnavigation last summer at age 17.

Photo: GizaraArts.com (linked here):

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== The complete post of Abby’s most recent blog on Wednesday night (linked here):

The last few days have pretty busy out here. I’ve been in some rough weather for awhile with winds steady at 40-45 knots with higher gusts. With that front passing, the conditions were lighter today. It was a nice day today with some lighter winds which gave me a chance to patch everything up. Wild Eyes was great through everything but after a day with over 50 knots at times, I had quite a bit of work to do.

For most of the day today I had about 20 knots. I had been hoping to get some lighter winds so I could patch up one of my sails. It was still a bit windy out but with more rough weather tomorrow I wasn’t sure when my next chance to fix it would be. I managed to take it down, take care of the tear and get it back up in a couple of hours. It wasn’t the most fun job I have done out here. With the seas still huge, Wild Eyes was rolling around like crazy. Of course not even half and hour after I got the sail back up the wind dropped from 20 to 10 knots!

My Thrane & Thrane (Internet) system is down again so I am not able to send in my blog. The problem seems a bit more serious than the last few times I have had trouble with it. There is something wrong with the terminal at the back. It is possible that water got inside of it because it has a rough ride back there the past few days with waves crashing right over it. Unfortunately, if that is the problem I probably won’t be able to fix it. At least I still have my Iridium phones so I can still call in to my mom and read her my bog for her to post.

The wind is beginning to pick up. It is back up to 20 knots and I am expecting that by midnight tonight I could have 35-50 knots with gusts to 60 so I am off to sleep before it really picks up.

== Abby’s website: http://www.abbysunderland.com/

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A screamer: Dodger Oz-fest will help team set some kind of loud record, related to his loud record

The Dodgers announced today that Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne will appear during the fifth-inning break of their game Friday against the Angels at Dodger Stadium and …

Thankfully, not sing the fifth-inning stretch “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

But scream.

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The Guinnes World Record for holding the longest and loudest scream will attempt to be shattered by the two — leading the fans in the stands to help.

Of course, there’s a reason for this. One, it’s something to attract attention to the Dodgers’ “third annual ThinkCure! Weekend,” and Sharon Osbourne is a cancer survivor. Also, Ozzy has an album called “Scream” that’s coming out in a couple of weeks.

Bring ear plugs.

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Our sources keep telling us your sources don’t know Schad

For the last three weeks in a row, someone from ESPN – the latest, being “insider” Joe Schad - insisted their sources told them that USC would be not only receiving the findings of an NCAA infractions report but going so far as to having a press conference set to address the findings.

It follows up on this ESPN.com sourced report (linked here) that didn’t happen. That’s after a Yahoo! report back in early May (linked here) said the report was coming out. So all everyone else does — even fair and balanced Fox News (linked here) — is keep chasing everyone else’s sourced sliced baloney.

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The ESPN report today about a Thursday press conference dominated some segments of “SportsCenter” — to the extent that USC finally issued a press release within the hour disputing “erroneous reports” about a press conference tomorrow.

In this continued rush to judgment and using “sources” that don’t seem to be accurate, why does ESPN and everyone else “in the know” keep tripping over itself to provide all the commentary possible on something that hasn’t happened?

Why not read the latest ESPN.com ombudsman piece on unnamed sources (linked here).

So far, Schad’s “my bad” hasn’t beed updated his Twitter account (linked here). The story remains up on the ESPNLosAngeles.com site (linked here).

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2010 World Cup TV primer I: Why an American sports network needs a British-sounding guy to carry its World Cup coverage — and why he’s a big fan of Vin Scully

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By Ronald Blum
The Associated Press

PRETORIA, South Africa — Standing on the sideline — er, touchline — at U.S. soccer practice, Martin Tyler looked on. After more than three decades of broadcasting in England, he was getting ready for his American debut on ESPN.

Enough of the vague soccer commentary by much-maligned Dave O’Brien. For this World Cup, ESPN and ABC brought in the best English-language soccer announcer in the business.

“We have the NFL, we have the NBA, we have the Stanley Cup, all your major sports events are broadcast in this country,” Tyler said by telephone from his home in England before heading to the World Cup. “Nobody has ever sent an Englishman over to do it.”

So just as U.S. sports have American broadcasters much of the time in Britain, the game invented by England will have an all-British flavor for its play-by-play men on U.S. broadcasts this time around.

Authenticity is the buzz word.

ABC and ESPN got bashed for their coverage of the 2006 World Cup and responded by hiring the 64-year-old Tyler, an acclaimed broadcaster for Britain’s Sky Sports, as its lead announced for the tournament in South Africa that opens Friday. He will be joined by Adrian Healey, Derek Rae and Ian Darke to create an all-British play-by-play crew for the 64 World Cup matches.

“The decision is a strange one in some ways to me,” said former ABC and ESPN analyst Seamus Malin. “I don’t think you have to be a cheerleader for Americans, but I think you have to a lot of reference places.”

Continue reading

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LeBron to Clips with Geffen … life is but a Dream(works)

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Baseball Hall of Fame writer Peter Vecsey’s “Hoop de Jour” in today’s New York Post (linked here) explains his latest reason to thinking LeBron James and the Clippers isn’t so far fetched:

An impeccable source reveals David Geffen is hot to buy 51 percent of the Clippers. Friday night, the billionaire co-founder of the zaftig film-making company, had dinner in Los Angeles with Donald Sterling to discuss just that.

Anybody who knows Sterling can’t imagine him selling controlling interest of anything he owns, much less turn over the decision-making of his showcase property.

“He’ll take the Clippers to the grave with him,” is the considered opinion of one and all. “They’re his entree to Hollywood’s galaxy of stars. You have no idea how Donald gets off swaying on the sidelines with demi-celebrities 41 nights a year.”

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For the sake of argument, surely Sterling must understand, by giving way to Geffen, his constellation, which often IS dying in the corner of the sky, would greatly illuminate and increase in value — should the record-company big shot be able to recruit LeBron like he signed Bob Dylan and the Eagles.

In fact, Geffen has been deep in the hunt for quite some time. My source claims he told Sterling he can deliver LeBron as long as he’s calling the shots.

Maverick Carter, who sits at the right hand of James in all business ventures, was next to the Lakers’ bench alongside Geffen.

Meanwhile, Saturday night, (Commissioner David) Stern and Sterling had dinner. The first topic of conversation had to concern the owner’s payment stoppage to Mike Dunleavy after he was fired as GM long after being let go as coach.

Geffen, who in 2004 told Barack Obama to run for president (linked here), can make things happen. If only a rumor, then chew on it for awhile before making your own conclusions about the Clippers’ bizarre ownership.

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Your NBA TV companion … aka, your new best friend

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Your faithful companion wouldn’t let you down. Nuture him. Feed him. Trust him.

Now let him help you help him.

To watch tonight’s Lakers-Celtics Game 3 on the ABC telecast (Channel 7, 6 p.m.) without the accompaniment of the NBA.com’s “TV Companion” (linked here at nba.com/tvcand also here, but go to this direct link when the game’s on tonight) would like flying a 747 without a control panel in front of you.

Actually, this has been out since the start of the season, but we’ve been wearing of all the bells and whistles actually locking out computer up, so we’ve avoided clicking onto the device (which isn’t all that easy to find on NBA.com) until we gave it a real test drive during Sunday’s Game 2.

It passed with flying purple, gold and green colors.

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Here’s the deal: When sportswriters go out to cover NBA games, they’re sitting next to a monitor that has updated, to-the-second stats. Every time there’s a foul, a rebound, a change of possession, the graphic is updated. It can be presented as a full-screen, side-by-side box score – not the easiest to read, but all the essential info’s there.

With NBA TV Companion, it’s there, and more, for the viewer not just at home with Wifi access, even in an arena, to check out and stay engaged with everything that’s going on.

Bryan Perez, the senior vice president of NBA Digital, explains the thinking behind it:

“Watching a game on TV is often like, ‘Sit back and let us do the driving,’ but these days, with so much information that never hits the screen and the viewer’s ability to multitask, they can say, ‘We want to drive ourselves. So we had to figure out how to marry it all.

“We don’t want people to have this intense flipping between webpages with small statistics. We wanted to distill it to the essence of what you’d want – who’s leading, who’s hot, where are the points coming from, play by play – even though you can still see all that. Here’s your companion.”

During the regular season, when you’d go to the Lakers’ website, this would be the actual home page – the NBA Companion and its statistical presentation. Same with the playoffs.

There are four basic presentations to decide on what to toggle back and forth on during a game:

1) Box score: The regular, full stat page, with players bold faced when they’re in the game. Not the easiest to read when focusing back and forth from computer screen to TV, but the most all-encompassing delivery.

2) Play by play: In larger typeface, 10 plays at a time, reflecting a turnover, missed shot, made shot, rebound, etc.

3) Stats: A mug of each player in the game, their number, their minutes played, points, rebounds, etc. You can also vary what stats you want to see of each person – in order of leading scorer, etc. Always the five on the floor, but with a link to who’s on the bench.

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4) Shot chart: Not just a blackboard with Xs and Os on who’s taking shots, but a 3D court graphic filtered by team, player or what kind of shot (layup, dunk jump shot, tip-in, alley oops, or everything).

There’s also the social media interaction – direct links to Twitter, Facebook and MySpace that allow people to talk to each other as they’re watching – a distracting thing for us, but something that again keeps the viewer engaged.

On top of this, Perez notes that the new iPad app has many of the same elements but is more interactive and probably easier to use because of its light weight and ability to do things quicker and with more finger pushing.

“We took the TV Companion and really beefed it up for iPad,” Perez said. “And then there are the mobile aps where you can still pull your gadget out of your pocket, turn on Gametime and listen to the radio broadcast, home or away.”

Enough to make your eyes gloss over, or widen with delight.

“The phrase we use is ‘go wherever the fan takes us,’” says Perez. “Instead of a wild-garden approach, it’s simpler: Take us to your kids’ soccer game, to the man cave, and we’ll have all the tools.

“What we’ve also discovered with this: It’s easier to raise your TV ratings by keeping the audience longer than by getting a larger audience. If a viewer watches another 20 or 30 minutes because he’s become fully engaged, that’s easier, and better, than trying to add viewers as the game goes along.”

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As for the feedback so far: “They love it,” says Perez. “We’ve seen photos posted on Flickr of someone holding their iPad next to the TV screen to show us how excited they are to use it. That’s fun for us, too.”

You mean, like this:

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SI has only had Wooden on its cover twice? Here’s No. 2

This week’s issue of Sports Illustrated features John Wooden on the cover — only the second time the magazine has had him on the front.

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His only other appearance: Dec. 25, 1972, when he was Sportsman of the Year — sharing it with Billie Jean King.

Curry Kirkpatrick did that story entitled “The Ball in Two Different Courts” (linked here), and wrote about Wooden:

UCLA Basketball Coach John Wooden, now 62, won his sixth straight college championship, an accomplishment dwarfing anything his sport has ever known. …

Wooden (who last week was recovering from a mild heart condition that will cause him to miss a few weeks of the season) was asked what makes UCLA basketball so overwhelmingly successful.

“There is no easy explanation,” he said. “What we do is simple: get in condition, learn fundamentals and play together. I don’t buy the proposition that UCLA has risen above the general level of college basketball. We’ve been more consistent, come closer to our natural ability more often than others.

“We’ve had a great run, and each season I can see this certain carryover to the new players. Subconsciously, they are almost afraid to fail. This encourages them to give more in practice and accept some things in the way of discipline that they wouldn’t otherwise. I get away with methods other coaches have trouble defining to their players, but I have no delusions. It’s not me; it is because UCLA wins that the players don’t give me more guff.”

Wooden spoke about the college game. “There is room for improvement in several areas of our sport. I advocate the 30-second clock to cut down on inactivity and the stall games. Jump balls should be eliminated, along with the offensive rebound basket. A rebound should be passed off before another shot goes up. This would take away the advantage of the unusually big player, cut down on fouls and make for some pretty play around the basket.

“There are more important changes to be made in college athletics,” Wooden went on. “Illegal recruiting is the bane. I know cynics question my stand, but I don’t like recruiting. That’s why I’ve stayed at UCLA for a lot less money than I could receive many other places. I can soft-sell in Los Angeles, which I couldn’t do in, say, Pullman. Wash. But I’m not in Pullman, and I would never coach there because of that.

“I say abolish all paid visits of high school players to campuses. Do not permit coaches or representatives of athletic departments to visit a youngster’s home. Do not allow sports brochures, halftime introductions for prep players. In short, stop recruiting altogether. A high school athlete can get all the information he needs through academic catalogs furnished by the school. Our universities should stand on their own merits.

“We have a good game,. but there are things like the redshirt and the freshman-eligible rules that leave us open to the pros, who then feel justified in taking away our players. Because of the money Bill Walton can command after his junior year this spring, I would never talk him out of signing with the pros. But I think it would be a mistake; I’d be very disappointed. Had Johnny Neumann or Julius Erving or Spencer Haywood or Ralph Simpson and the rest stayed in school they would be far better off today–better for their maturity, the learning of business sense, the educational values and their entire future. I’ve told Walton this. It all depends on which week I talk to him whether he thinks he will leave after this year.”

Alexander Wolff does this week’s piece on Wooden, culling interviews he’d done with Wooden in two previous stories.

In “The Coach and His Champion” (April 3, 1989, linked here), Wolff wrote about how Wooden should return to the game following the death of his wife, Nell, four years earlier. And in “Birth of a Dynasty” (March 19, 2007, linked here), it was a look back at Wooden’s first title-winning team at UCLA.

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In this story, Wolff writes:

“Right from its beginnings on a farm in rural Indiana with a three-hole outhouse out back, the path of Wooden’s life alighted on touchstone after touchstone of Americana. He learned to shoot at a hoop his father had forged of iron. He gained confidence in a speech class at Martinsville High that his sweetheart (Nellie, of course) urged him to take….

“When he took a job at South Bend Central High in 1934, he regarded coaching duties as secondary to teaching English. Wooden regarded the classroom and the gym as serving essentially the same purpose. Explanation, demonstration, correction and repetition–his notion of pedagogy lent itself equally well to English grammar and fundamental basketball.”

On Sept. 9, 1994, Wolff also did a piece on Wooden (linked here) as part of the “40 For the Ages” on SI’s 40th anniversary. Wooden was at No. 16.

Part of what Wolff wrote:

“Wooden was a wizard not a saint. Uneasy with the world beyond his gym, he let a renegade booster sink fingers into the UCLA program and compromise its integrity. But those corrupting influences never broke the seal of the capsule that encased Bruin basketball for those hours each week that Wooden spent alone with his players. Although he made possible the cult of the coach, which only a decade later began turning many of the dandified men who work the sidelines into millionaires, Wooden was making only $32,500 a year when he retired in 1975. Any reservations about his decision to quit evaporated when an alumnus came up to him after his final game, in which UCLA defeated Kentucky for–what else?–an NCAA title. “Great victory, John,” the booster said. “It makes up for your letting us down last year.”

“It seems that his unmatched record is worthy of unstinting acclaim but for one thing. In spite of all the players he turned into champions, and the example he set for his profession, Wooden helped institutionalize that bane of all players and coaches, the thing that turns fans and administrators into ingrates and monsters: great, debilitating expectations.”

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Another Wooden tribute book put on fast track

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A follow up from yesterday’s post (linked), “The Greatest Coach Ever: Timeless Wisdom and Insights of John Wooden,” from Regal publishing (a division of Christian book seller Gospel Light), will come out next month rather than its release slated for the fall, the company said.

The book, from the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, has 52 tributes to Wooden from people such as David Robinson, Tony Dungy, Tom Osborne, Bobby Bowden, Joe Girardi, Napoleon Kaufman, Keith Erickson, Ruth Riley, Pat Williams, Mike Singletary and Denny Crum.

Regal has published three titles authored by Wooden and Jay Carty, including “Coach Wooden One-on-One” “Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success” and “Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success Playbook.”

To preorder “The Greatest Coach Ever” (linked here).

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‘The Wisdom of Wooden’ book moved up to July release

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What will probably end up as John Wooden’s final co-authored book, “The Wisdom of Wooden: A Century of Family, Faith, and Friends,” a commemorative of his life written with his longtime collaborator Steven Jamison, has been given an early July release rather than its original mid-September date, which was closer to his upcoming 100th birthday in October, McGraw-Hill said.

The book is “filled with fond personal memories, warm fatherly advice, and beautiful color photographs–some never before seen, it is an unforgettable tribute to a life well lived,” the publishers said.

It can be preordered here on the company’s website (linked here) and at Amazon.com (linked here).

Philip Ruppel, president of McGraw-Hill Professional books, said that the seven titles Wooden had publish by his company between 1997 and 2009 “provide a unique look at the principles, insights, and lessons that guided his life and continue to serve as powerful and inspiring examples to people in all arenas–including business people, teachers, and parents.”

Some of them were written for those in business looking for structure and ethics. Others were inspirational. A couple were pure memoir. Until very recently, Wooden made regular appearances at bookstores where his events drew hundreds of fans who stood in line for hours to meet him.

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