There’s nothing better than a good book to bring you closer to the game and to learn about life. As a writer and coach, I appreciate what it takes to weave a person’s history into an inspiring story. So I’ve put together a list of must-read memoirs by basketball coaches. The memoirs are filled with heartwarming and thought provoking stories that will also help you be a better coach.
If you don’t have time to sit down and read, then give an audiobook a try. Most of these are available through your library and online book sources. Download them and listen while you walk your dog, clean out your garage or sweep the basketball court before practice and learn a few more things about life and the game.
Written by: Coach Pat Summit with Sally Jenkins
Pat Summit was the all-time winningest coach in NCAA Division 1 basketball history (women or men) until just last year. She became head coach of the Tennessee Vols when she was just 22 years old, and then over 38 years went on to win 1098 games and 8 National Championships. She played on and coached Olympic Women’s Basketball teams, was Sports Illustrated “Sportswoman of the Year,” and is in the basketball Hall of Fame. She graduated 100 percent of her players, and because of her influence, 74 of her players have become coaches. Her memoir Sum It Up shares how coach Summit faced her greatest challenge, early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The book details her journey, starting with her “tough love” upbringing through her diagnosis and how she became such an influential coach. Other powerful books by Pat Summit are Reach The Summit and Raise The Roof.
Written by: John Wooden with Jack Tobin
They Call Me Coach is a classic. Coach John Wooden taught young men about life as well as the game of basketball at UCLA. During his time there he brought the UCLA Bruins Men’s Basketball team to 10 NCAA Championships. In They Call Me Coach, he talks about his life, his players, and his coaching philosophies. Coach Wooden covers on-court and off-court wisdom that will benefit all coaches. Learn more about John Wooden and books like Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organization and My Personal Best: Life Lessons From An All-American Journey at JohnWooden.com.
“Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best you are capable of becoming.” – John Wooden
Another great book about coach Wooden is Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50-Year Friendship On and Off the Court by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who played for Coach Wooden at UCLA in the late 60’s. Abdul-Jabbar is a former professional basketball player who played twenty seasons in the NBA, was NBA’s MVP six times and an NBA All-star nineteen times.
Written by: C. Vivian Stringer with Laura Tucker
C. Vivian Stringer was The first coach to lead three different women’s basketball teams to NCAA Final Four appearances. She is the 6th winningest coach in women’s basketball history. She is in the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame and the Basketball Hall of Fame. Coach Stringer has been the head women’s basketball coach at Rutgers University since 1995. In her memoir Standing Tall, Stringer shares her personal and professional experiences of facing challenges, overcoming loss, and standing up for what’s right. The book inspires readers with lessons from on and off the court.
Written by: John Thompson with Jesse Washington
I Came As a Shadow is Coach John Thompson’s unfiltered and honest autobiography. He became head coach of Georgetown University in 1972 and coached there for twenty-seven years. Georgetown became national champion in 1984 and won seven Big East Championships. He was four-time national coach of the year and his athletes had a 97 percent graduation rate. He was an outspoken and strong character, and his memoir is no different. It shares experiences with coaching as well as his work as an educator and black activist.
Written by: Mike Krzyzewski with Jamie K. Spatola
Coach Mike Kryzewski has been the head men’s basketball coach at Duke University since 1980. Coach K (as he is commonly called), has lead the Blue Devils to 5 national titles and 12 final four appearances. The Gold Standard is the story of coaching the 2008 US Olympic Basketball Team. It shares his thoughts on leadership and team building and how he learned from the experience. Learn more about Coach K’s coaching philosophy with books like Leading with the Heart: Coach K’s Successful Strategies for Basketball, Business & Life, Beyond Basketball: Coach K’s Keywords For Success and Coach K’s Little Blue Book: Lessons from College Basketball’s Best Coach.
Written by: Roy Williams with Tim Crothers
Hard Work shares Coach Roy Williams’ story of building championship programs at Kansas and the University of North Carolina. His upbringing taught him the importance of dependability and hard work, which he brought to the game as a player and coach. Coach Williams has the highest winning percentage among all active college coaches. His memoir gives insight into what makes him so successful.
Written by: John Calipari with Michael Sokolove
Coach Calipari has guided six teams to the Final Four, won a national championship, and is in the Basketball Hall of Fame. His book Players First takes you on Coach Calipari’s journey to Kentucky and follows his first four years as the head men’s basketball coach. The book focuses on his “players first” coaching philosophy and how to create a winning culture and improve players’ lives both on and off the court.
Written by: Phil Jackson with Hugh Delehanty
Phil Jackson covers a lot of ground in his book Eleven Rings. After all, there are eleven championship seasons to write about, six NBA titles as head coach for the Chicago Bulls and five titles with the Los Angels Lakers. The 384-page book is worth the read. As is Coach Jackson’s Sacred Hoops: Spiritual Lessons of a Hardwood Warrior. One of the most successful basketball coaches of all time, Coach Jackson gives insight into coaching, leadership, and the Zen mindset that has been the hallmark of his career and success.
“Not only is there more to life than basketball, but there’s also a lot more to basketball than basketball.” -Phil Jackson