Local author, coach shares inspiration for book on John Wooden


Greg Hayes, a Valencia resident, has coached all over the SCV in myriad sports. He is a former head coach for Canyon boys basketball, a former girls soccer coach at Valencia and a former assistant coach for The Master’s University men’s basketball team, among other stints.

But the one coaching job that has stood above the rest for Hayes is one he held at UCLA where he coached alongside John Wooden at UCLA summer youth basketball camps. He was so inspired by his interactions with Wooden that years later, he wrote a book on them as a means of passing down the lessons that Wooden taught.

The Signal caught up with Hayes on Saturday, Jan. 13 at the annual Author Celebration at the Old Town Newhall library to talk about his book, Camp With Coach Wooden: Shoes and Socks, The Pyramid, and ‘A Little Chap.’”

Q: What made you decide to write this book?

A: I coached his summer camps and I would eat breakfast and lunch every day with (Wooden) at camp and take notes on it. And as years go by and you coach and you become a father and you get married and you have jobs and you see life in general, you think, Coach Wooden was brilliant. And you realize he had the most influence of anybody in your life except maybe your parents.

And I thought someone should write a book about this. About these camps.

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Q: It’s really interesting that you went that route … to kind of bring him back down to earth and make him seem like a normal person interacting with normal people. That’s a really interesting concept.

It’s really who he was. And that’s why anybody you talk to that has met him, it’s a defining moment in their life because he made you feel like you were the only person he really knew and you were special.

…When I first met him, I was like, “Oh my goodness Coach Wooden.” And by the end, it was like, Coach. He was like a family member and you just knew he cared about you and how as so comfortable and he told great stories and he was funny. But he was so, so wise. And so humble at the same time.

A copy of Greg Hayes’ book sits on a table at the Old Town Newhall library on Saturday. Haley Sawyer/The Signal
Q: The summer camps … who was all involved with those?

A lot of times they were at Cal Lutheran or Pepperdine or in San Diego at Point Loma and they were from Sunday to Friday. They were all day. They were staying overnight and a lot of camps, a guy shows up and takes pictures with the kids and that’s it. Coach was there all the time and he coached them like they were the UCLA teams. So we were the individual coaches that would have, we would have 15 kids each and we would coach them while coach coached from a stage.

Q: He was coaching in a different time. The kids today are obviously different from the kids he coached, but what are some lessons today’s modern kids can relate to?

Coach was all about the peace that comes from knowing you’re doing the best you can. And how you treat people is so important. He has all these maxims like be quick but don’t hurry, etc. His definition of success was basically peace knowing that you’ve made the effort to be the best you can become on a daily basis, moment by moment.

Q: What was the publishing process like, reaching out to publishers? You obviously know how to sell your book and sell john wooden as a person, so how difficult was it to get someone to put the words on paper in mass quantities?

I met Clayton Kershaw’s sister-in-law. And she was writing a book about him, she’s a really good author. I was so impressed with her as a person. When it was time, I contacted her and I said, I want to write this book and she put me in touch with Steve Lawson, who had co-authored books with coach wooden and helped in other books as well. And he took me under his wing and set up a team for me to edit the book after I wrote it, a manuscript writer, someone to put it in e-book form, someone to do the interior and exterior design.

Q: How accomplished do you feel, even three years later, to see your books in print and see you, yourself honoring john wooden with your book?

I don’t know that I feel accomplished as much as I feel honored and blessed and humbled to be able to write a story because to see how, remind yourself of how amazing Coach was and let his words enrich you because you’re writing them down from when he talked, and you react to the words so much and then to hear these other people and see what great people they are that I get to talk to  influenced by Coach Wooden and in such a small part of that and yet coach made every one of us feel special.

“Camp with Coach Wooden” is available on Amazon.com and at the UCLA bookstore.

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