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THE INSIDE TRACK | THE HOT CORNER

June 18, 1997|MIKE PENNER

A consumer's guide to the best and worst of sports media and merchandise. Ground rules: If it can be read, played, heard, observed, worn, viewed, dialed or downloaded, it's in play here.

What: "Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations On and Off the Court"

Price: $14.95 (Contemporary Books)

Common sense, doled out by the teaspoon, is a fundamental cornerstone of this book, to borrow a phrase from John Wooden.

Little bits of advice, little parables, little anecdotes, little life lessons--one by one, page after page, they pile up, forming what co-author Steve Jamison describes as "Coach Wooden's personal philosophy of achievement, success, and excellence" as it applies "to living one's life."

Many of these two- and three-paragraph snippets of inspirational and motivational verse are ready-made for photocopying and tacking up on a high school bulletin board or next to the computer terminal at work.

A sampling of item headings:

"Personal Glory Is Secondary"

"Make The Most of What You've Got"

"Failure Is Not Fatal, But Failure to Change Might Be"

"Adversity Makes You Stronger"

As a coach, Wooden was obsessed with details, all the way down to showing his players the proper way to pull on a pair of socks.

"This may seem like a nuisance, trivial, but I had a very practical reason for being meticulous about this," Wooden writes. "Wrinkles, folds and creases can cause blisters. Blisters interfere with performance during practice and games. Since there was a way to reduce blisters, something the player and I could control, it was our responsibility to do it."

Likewise, Wooden says he insisted his players keep their hair short because long hair, and sweat dripping from long hair, can impair a player's vision.

Wooden's suggestions on how to improve the game of basketball ought to be forwarded immediately to David Stern. Wooden proposes raising the basket to 11 feet, moving the three-point line farther out and reducing the value of the dunk to one point.

The objective: To reclaim the concepts of teamwork, ballhandling and outside shooting from the NBA's endangered species list.

Wooden's basic message--winning isn't everything, but total effort is--feels like a splash of ice water in the bottom-line 1990s. Wooden writes that he was never a fan of Al Davis' slogan, "Just win, baby!" because it implied that the Raiders were "more concerned with the end than the means. To me, the means is very important."

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