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August 02, 2000|LARRY STEWART

What: "The John Wooden Pyramid of Success"

Author: Neville L. Johnson

Publisher: Cool Titles

Price: $30

The title of this 522-page book is misleading. A more fitting one would be "The Complete Book About John Wooden." Yes, it really is 522 pages.

Everything that anyone could possibly want to know about the legendary UCLA basketball coach is in this book, which Johnson, a Los Angeles entertainment attorney, began working on in 1984. He did his last interview with Wooden in 1991 and the book came out three weeks ago.

It took Johnson longer to write the book than it took Wooden to compile his famous Pyramid of Success, which he worked on from 1934 to 1948.

Johnson, who grew up in Westwood, first met Wooden in 1973, when Wooden came into a Westwood book store where Johnson was a clerk. In 1981, Johnson saw the Pyramid at a client's house, arranged a meeting with Wooden and later decided to do this book.

Johnson writes that when he was finished he brought in an editor because he couldn't decide what to use and what not to use. It appears the editor couldn't either. Less quantity would have meant better quality. The book is simply too long. Also, there are more typographical errors than there should be--even in a book of this length.

There are factual errors as well. Johnson writes UCLA lost in the NCAA semifinals in 1962 and won its first championship "the following year." It was actually two years later.

After a chapter listing Wooden's achievements comes a 68-page biography, which is the highlight of the book. Next is a chapter on the Pyramid and its origin, then a long chapter of more than 100 tributes, mostly from family members, former players, UCLA officials and others from Wooden's past.

Many of the tributes are nice. There are simply too many of them, and most are too long. They take up 364 pages.

The book is also arranged rather poorly. At the end are the acknowledgments, where Johnson explains who he is and how the book came about. This information would have been helpful in the beginning.

Johnson fawns over Wooden a bit too much, although he doesn't omit negatives such as Sam Gilbert and accusations that Wooden was a referee baiter. Johnson doesn't seem to omit anything.

You have to admire his drive (maybe it should be called obsession). And if you're a Wooden fan, and there are many in these parts, this book is worth the price.

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