More than a dozen biographies have been written — and deservedly so — exploring John Wooden’s enduring influence around the globe. His legendary Pyramid and, perhaps even more important, his quiet and powerful example of a selfless life well lived continue to inspire people from all walks of life. 

Including children. Schools around the country boast colorful renditions of the Pyramid on their walls, reminding students of the qualities needed to advance in life. There’s even an entire K–12 curriculum based on it. 

It doesn’t end there. In addition to being a legendary coach, Wooden was also a gifted author of children’s literature; he was the sports equivalent of Mister Rogers. Through his impish characters Inch and Miles, he opened young readers’ minds to a world of possibility through the lens of these enduring values. 

 


Inch and Miles

Introducing the impish critters Inch and Miles, the book starts with school principal Wooden the Owl (natch) asking his pupils to use their summer vacation to answer the question “What is success?” Employing a magic silver whistle, Inch and Miles set out on a journey and discover that success “isn’t having trophies or toys. It isn’t a medal or friends of your choice. What is Success? That’s easy to see. It’s trying to be the best you can be!” 

Inch and Miles: The Journey to Success (2003) 

 


Heroes of Beesville

With their open house only three weeks away, Inch, Miles, Pepper and Lily — a cuddly assortment comprised of a mouse, a caterpillar, a hippo and a bear — can’t agree on a group project. They need a lesson in cooperation; they find it in the Pyramid of Success. 

Heroes of Beesville: Coach John Wooden for Kids (2006)

 


Adventure Underground

Feeling blah, Inch and Miles require a large dose of enthusiasm, and once again employ their magic whistle to whisk them away to find it. The pair go on to demonstrate their personal best as they band together to help Axelrod the Ant combat a life-and-death situation. 

Adventure Underground: Coach John Wooden for Kids (2006)

 


Fiesta

Inch and Miles cannot conceive a clever idea for a project to celebrate International Day. With the assistance of the trusty magic whistle, they head to Mexico, where they find inspiration for a lively fiesta. 
 

Forgotten Teams

Though not written by Wooden, this tome is a tribute to him, a collection of poignant reminiscences from kids and camp counselors who experienced his beloved summer camps for student athletes ages 8 to 18. 

 


Read more from UCLA Magazine’s Winter 2024 issue.