Conversations with Coach Wooden : On Baseball, Heroes, and Life

Conversations with Coach Wooden : On Baseball, Heroes, and Life
Gary Adams
May 2013
Sports, Biography, Memoir

From legendary basketball coach John Wooden's life lessons and Pyramid of Success philosophy to musings on his favorite sport—baseball—this engaging account chronicles the friendship between Wooden and fellow University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) head coach Gary Adams.For nearly a decade, the two celebrated coaches shared an office and developed a close friendship that lasted thirty-five years, until Wooden's passing. Adams's heartwarming narrative details discussions they shared about heroes, history, life, and their mutual favorite pastime: baseball.

The book also reflects on Wooden's core philosophies and the guiding principles behind his numerous basketball successes, including his election into two halls of fame as a player and a coach, winning ten National College Athletic Association (NCAA) championships in a twelve-year period, and being named NCAA College Basketball Coach of the Year six times.

Recollections from Major League Baseball stars who learned the game under Coach Adams— including Eric Karros, David Roberts, and Chase Utley— are also featured, along with quotes from other athletes, coaches, and associates of UCLA.


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Author Information
Gary Adams

was the head coach of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) baseball team for thirty years. He is the school’s all-time winningest baseball coach and was inducted into the UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame and the American Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. At the time of his retirement, Adams was second in collegiate baseball history for sending the most players to the major leagues. He lives in Bear Valley Springs, California.


“Coach Adams, we know how much our dad valued your long friendship.Conversations with Coach Wooden brought us laughter and tears as we read it. Thank you, Gary, for sharing your memories of our dad, John Wooden.”
—Nan and Jim Wooden

“Coach Adams had a tremendous impact on my baseball career, but more importantly, he guided me down a path to becoming a better person. He set a daily example that all of us wanted to follow. To this day, I remember when he showed us John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success and suggested that we use it to navigate through life. As a new father, I couldn’t agree more with his advice. Thank you, Skip, you are a true role model.”
—Chase Utley, Major League All-Star for the Philadelphia Phillies and UCLA All-American second baseman

“Long before I became a Bruin, I learned all about the legend of John Wooden—eighty-eight consecutive victories and ten national championships speak for themselves. His Pyramid of Success became the blueprint for how I lived as an eighteen-year-old boy and, today, as a thirty-six-year-old husband and father of three. Thank you, Coach Adams and Coach Wooden, for the lifelong lessons I now will pass along to my children.”
—Eric Byrnes, UCLA All-American outfielder and twelve-year major-leaguer

“I had the blessing of not only playing for Coach Gary Adams, but also coaching against him at the college level later in life. I knew he was a man I wanted to follow when I was one of his players. Now, having been a college head coach for thirty years, I can honestly say he is one of the finest human beings I have ever known—a great teacher of the good, but more importantly, a great leader of young men!”
—Andy Lopez, University of Arizona Head Baseball Coach, three-time NCAA Coach of the Year, and two-time national championship winner

“Coach Adams changed my life by taking my average bat and slick fielding glove away from me during my senior year at UCLA and telling me I was only going to be a pitcher. He was honest with me—and from what I know about Coach Wooden, it was something he would have done, too.”
—Casey Janssen, Toronto Blue Jays closer and UCLA All-American pitcher

“Though he long stood at the top of college basketball’s pyramid and is revered for teachings that went far beyond the sport, Coach John Wooden had a little secret—a grand affinity for baseball. As a student of the game, he enjoyed discussing strategy and tactics with other knowledgeable enthusiasts, most notably an individual who’s been around the bases a few times himself. That conversational partner, former UCLA baseball coach Gary Adams, has captured the essence of both Wooden the man, and Wooden the fan, in this book. Two coaches, working their magic in distinctly different circumstances, bonded by America’s pastime. My thanks to Gary for bringing to life musings so powerful that I can almost smell the pine tar.”
—Dan Guerrero, UCLA Athletic Director and former Bruin Baseball Hall of Fame player

“When I first heard Coach Adams say, ‘Be quick, don’t hurry,’ I knew exactly where it came from. Coach not only enriched my UCLA experience, he also made me a better man. That is how Coach Wooden and Coach Adams were so uniquely similar; they felt it was their responsibility to make eighteen-year-old freshmen into upstanding young men who could function in life beyond the playing field.”
—Torey Lovullo, Boston Red Sox bench coach, UCLA All-American second baseman, and eight-year major-leaguer

“Gary Adams is the best coach I have ever had. He not only made me a better ball player, but also a better man! The confidence he had in me was the single reason I believed I could one day be a big leaguer. I am grateful to have played for him for four years, and I am proud to call him a friend.”
—David Roberts, first base coach for the San Diego Padres, UCLA outfielder, and ten-year major-leaguer