Role of a Lifetime: Larry Farmer and the UCLA Bruins
by Larry Farmer ; Tracy Dodds
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Pub Date 21 Feb 2023 | Archive Date 30 Nov 2023
Role of a Lifetime is the story of the crucial role Larry Farmer played on teams that won three NCAA titles for UCLA under Coach John Wooden. Farmer’s record at UCLA was 89–1, the greatest winning percentage in NCAA history. (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was 88–2.)
Role of a Lifetime also details how Farmer, a self-taught player from the playgrounds of Denver, managed to secure a full scholarship, make the varsity team as a sophomore, and ultimately become the head basketball coach at UCLA at the age of 30—the first black head coach for any sport at UCLA.
The book chronicles the reactions of black leaders to his role as the first black head coach, as well as the inside politics that led him to resign after three years as coach, just days after accepting a two-year extension. Farmer also shares new insights about UCLA athletic booster Sam Gilbert and his role in the team’s NCAA probation.
Farmer’s insider perspective during UCLA basketball’s most fabled period, combined with his natural ability to relate entertaining and informative anecdotes about legendary figures such as John Wooden, Bill Walton, Jamaal Wilkes, Reggie Miller, and many other famous players and coaches from throughout the world of college basketball, makes Role of a Lifetime a must-have for all Bruin fans and fans of basketball everywhere!
A Note From the Publisher
Tracy Dodds was the beat reporter covering UCLA basketball for the Los Angeles Times during Larry Farmer’s tenure as UCLA’s basketball coach. Tracy was a pioneer among women in sports journalism during a 30-year career that began days after she graduated from Indiana University’s School of Journalism in December of 1973. Tracy has covered both college and professional basketball, college football, the NHL, Olympic swimming and diving, boxing, and auto racing. She is the only woman in the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame.
Bill Walton was NCAA player of the year at UCLA from 1972 to 1974, when UCLA set an NCAA record 88 consecutive-game winning streak. A former NBA champion and MVP, he was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame and selected as one of the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players ever. He has also had a successful award-winning broadcasting career with ABC, ESPN, NBC, MSNBC, CBS, Turner, and Fox, among others. He currently resides in his hometown of San Diego with his family. Visit him at BillWalton.com.
Jamaal Wilkes was a two-time consensus first-team All-American at UCLA, where he won two NCAA championships under Coach John Wooden. After being drafted by the Golden State Warriors, Wilkes won Rookie of the Year and his first NBA championship. He would go on to win three more NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, and have his number retired by both UCLA and the Lakers. He is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame.
“Larry became an integral part of what is regularly considered to be the greatest college basketball team of all time.”—Bill Walton, Basketball Hall of Fame
“Larry Farmer was an indispensable coach on my bench during my tenure at UCLA. Being the ‘new kid in town,’ Larry made me feel comfortable and helped me adapt to my new surroundings in Los Angeles, while also making my transition from the NBA to the NCAA seamless. Following in Coach Wooden’s footsteps was certainly a challenge, but also an incredible honor. Larry helped me handle both. Role of a Lifetime brought back many great memories from my time as head coach of the UCLA Bruins basketball team.”—Larry Brown, Basketball Hall of Fame coach
“Larry Farmer truly represented UCLA with fantastic passion and pride. He loved wearing those four magic letters: U-C-L-A. Role of a Lifetime will take you on a journey through his love affair with the Bruins!”—Dick Vitale, ESPN senior college basketball analyst
“I thoroughly enjoyed reading Role of a Lifetime and going on this basketball odyssey with the most successful player in college basketball history. I was particularly interested in Larry Farmer’s insights and honesty about his roller-coaster ride as the 30-year-old coach at UCLA. This book reminds us why Larry Farmer will always be one of the most unique sports personalities in Bruin lore.”—Marques Johnson, UCLA champion and five-time NBA All-Star
“In my dad’s Pyramid of Success there is a category entitled Team Spirit. My dad always thought Larry was the living example of team spirit.”—Nan Wooden, Coach Wooden’s daughter
“Larry Farmer’s journey is one we can all learn from. Role of a Lifetime is much more than a basketball book about UCLA, but rather a series of real life stories that teach the life lessons he learned through his experiences. Coach Farmer is a man of integrity, and the core values he developed throughout his life and career are a game plan for us all to follow. Taking lessons from this book will make us better human beings.”—Seth Greenberg, ESPN college basketball analyst and two-time ACC Coach of the Year
“Role of a Lifetime shares what it was like to be a Bruin back in the day when we dominated. It gives insight into the importance of Larry Farmer’s role on our championship teams. The pages with Farm’s definition of a role player should be required reading for anyone who plays or coaches the game.”—Henry Bibby, UCLA and NBA champion
“Larry Farmer was a key contributor and important part of our record winning streak and the two NCAA Championships we won together in 1972 and ’73 under iconic Coach John Wooden. In 1973, Larry was our senior team captain, helping to lead our team to a second consecutive unbeaten 30–0 record. His consistent offense, defensive tenacity, and tough rebounding inspired teammates and fans alike. Simply put, Larry was the consummate UCLA teammate.”—Jamaal Wilkes, Basketball Hall of Fame
“Larry Farmer has the greatest won-loss record of any person who has played college basketball. . . . I am blessed to call him my friend.”—Jim Harrick, coach of UCLA’s 1995 National Championship Team and 1995 Naismith National Coach of the Year
“The ultimate success of any team or organization rests in understanding how to play a role. For Larry Farmer’s entire basketball career, as both a player and coach, and in all circumstances, he has made sacrifices for the betterment of the teams around him. In this book you will be encouraged with laughter, given fond memories, and an understanding of just how Larry makes a Hall of Fame of difference for those around him. Enjoy!”—Ann Meyers Drysdale, Basketball Hall of Fame
“I was part of the coaching staff that recruited Larry to UCLA. We never saw him play except on the tape he sent us. We were convinced he could be an important component for UCLA basketball success. . . . We won three NCAA National Championships and had 89 wins with only one loss during his three years on the varsity team. Larry always gave his best effort, was an outstanding defensive player, and was an unselfish team player. I hired Larry as one of my assistant coaches. . . . Larry had a unique, successful career.”—Gary Cunningham, former UCLA player and head coach