Winning a Day at a Time

By John Lucas with Joseph Moriarity


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         This is a unique book.  It's not so much about a basketball life as it is overcoming drug and alcohol addiction.  Lucas was an amazing athlete.  He was the first point guard selected with the first pick in the NBA draft.  He also was a great tennis player:  He won the North Carolina State Tournament twice; he was the first black ever chosen for the U.S. junior Davis Cup team and the 2nd youngest.  He won 31 consecutive matches in high school and won 186 games and lost only 28, an unmatched feat in the history of North Carolina High School Tennis.  He was a 2-sport All-American in high school, and chose Maryland over UCLA because he could play tennis there.  He also broke Pete Maravich's high school scoring record.

        After a successful college career, he reached the NBA and found he had a lot of free time on his hands.  He was an ultra-competitive person to the nth-degree and without the year-long challenges of basketball/studies/tennis, he had a void in his life and he filled it with drugs.  It ended up ruining his career.  He did have a good NBA career, but he never achieved what he should have.  He admits his own failures in an honest way.  At the beginning, the way he tells of his athletic endeavors, almost sounds like he's bragging.  However, he is setting you up so you can see how he wasted his athletic potential.  It's a rather self-humbling book.
        He finally gets kicked out of the NBA by the drug-abuse policy.  From there, he finally gets his life in order and kicks his habit.  He is still an ultra-competitive person with a lot of energy so he funnels his energy into developing a fitness plan for recovering alcoholics and drug addicts.  (He has a degree in exercise fitness).  The Houston hospital where he was at develops a wing to this project and it becomes the John Lucas rehab center.

        From there, he goes into his energy at helping others kick their habits--players such as Richard Dumas and Lloyd Daniels.  He runs the Miami Tropics:  a team in the United States Basketball League made up of players who are recovering from addiction.  He tells how out of nowhere, he is offered the job at the San Antonio Spurs after Jerry Tarkanian is fired and he goes into detail about his 2 years there and his unique coaching techniques and philosophies.

        The book is told by Lucas and others in his life, such as his wife, mother, and other coaches (they have paragraphs where they tell their stories about him--good and bad).  This book isn't about basketball as it is about the man.  You finish this book with a heightened respect for him.  He really cares about helping people who went down the same road as he did.  Helping them is his passion.

Introspection:  5
Insight:  2
History:  1978-1994
Readability:  4

Winning a Day at a Time.  John Lucas with Joseph Moriarity.  Hazelden.  1994.