Coach George Raveling — A Legend on Sports, Business, and The Great Game of Life (#332)

“I’ve always had this theory that, if you help enough people get what they want, you’ll always get what you want.” — George Raveling

Coach George Raveling (@GeorgeRaveling) is an 80-year-old living legend and Nike’s former Director of International Basketball. Coach Raveling was the first African American head basketball coach in the PAC-8 (now PAC-12), and he is often referred to as the “Human Google.”

Coach Raveling has held head coaching jobs at Washington State, The University of Iowa, and USC. Following a prolific basketball coaching career, he joined Nike at the request of Phil Knight, where he played an integral role in signing a reluctant Michael Jordan. He’s also been inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as well as the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.

In this episode we cover a lot of things including how he came to possess the original copy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, how his practice team ended up beating the 1984 US Olympic Dream Team in basketball, and much, much more!

I hope you’ll emerge from this conversation walking on air as I did!


#332: Coach George Raveling — A Legend on Sports, Business, and The Great Game of Life


Want to hear a podcast featuring mutual friend Ryan Holiday? — In this episode, we discuss the “big three” Stoics, how Stoicism applies to the modern world, and how to improve your decision-making when stakes are high (stream below or right-click here to download):

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QUESTION(S) OF THE DAY: What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.

Scroll below for links and show notes…


  • Connect with George Raveling:

Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | LinkedIn


  • It’s hard to know where to begin interviewing someone who’s lived as many lifetimes in one as Coach Raveling, so let’s find out how he came to possess Martin Luther King Jr.’s original “I Have a Dream” speech. [06:57]
  • Three men George considers his indirect mentors. [23:33]
  • A surprising fact about MLK that George didn’t discover until just recently. [25:13]
  • How has Dr. King inspired George and helped him make tough decisions and sacrifices throughout his life? [26:21]
  • To young George, his grandmother was as infallible as the Pope. How did he come to be in her care at age 12 and wind up going to Catholic school in Pennsylvania? [30:36]
  • What Grandma taught George and his brother about social graces — particularly how to treat women. [35:00]
  • How a remarkable nun encouraged George to be special and face life with a positive attitude. [37:48]
  • Why did George participate in every sport available in high school, and what made him gravitate toward basketball? [39:38]
  • An approach by a Hall of Fame coach and learning the meaning of the word “scholarship.” [42:24]
  • How did Grandma take the news about George’s scholarship offer? [44:56]
  • George talks about his rare collection of racist books, figurines, and postcards from the 19th and 20th centuries and why he keeps them on display in his home. [47:15]
  • What else does George collect? [51:12]
  • George looks upon relationships as a privilege and he always tries to be of service to his friends. [52:17]
  • Most of George’s best friendships started by mistake. Here’s an example that led him to seek out more associations with young people — and an examination of what this teaches George. [54:15]
  • Relationships as a “we” mentality, not a “me” mentality. [56:28]
  • George talks about the sometimes quirky scope of his voracious reading habit and its origins. [57:07]
  • What’s George’s search and discovery routine for deciding whether or not to buy a book when he’s at the store? [1:01:13]
  • Learning new lessons and discovering favorite authors at age 80. [1:03:37]
  • George proves you’re never too old to become a mastermind (even if it sends you to bed with headaches). [1:06:10]
  • What are the books George rereads and gives most often as gifts (and why does he call Tools of Titans his “China” book? [1:07:55]
  • We go over the books George brought as gifts for me and why he chose them. [1:11:11]
  • As note-taking fanatics, George and I compare notes about…notes. [1:18:35]
  • How George segments the information he takes in to avoid being overwhelmed and ensuring it sticks. [1:20:50]
  • What George does when he gets bored with reading on a long trip. [1:22:16]
  • No blank page ever goes to waste. Here are a few more secrets future archaeologists might use to decode our notes. [1:23:25]
  • What gets discovered on the second read of a favorite book. [1:26:07]
  • George’s notes get transferred to journals — which he has dating back to 1972. [1:27:01]
  • What George likes to ask himself at the end of every day. [1:28:35]
  • Why George feels it’s important to practice random acts of kindness. [1:30:15]
  • A motivational Bob Knight quote and winning gold at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. [1:32:19]
  • On leading the college practice team that beat the Dream Team during a scrimmage before the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. [1:35:23]
  • Three coaches that have had the most impact on George. [1:39:30]
  • How Bob Knight pushed George to write the first book on rebounds. [1:42:20]
  • George owes everyone who saw something in him along the way that he didn’t see in himself a debt of gratitude. [1:44:18]
  • While most people look forward to retiring by age 60, George’s most productive years so far didn’t begin until then. [1:45:25]
  • George talks us through his history with Nike and the job offer that seemed like a prank phone call. [1:46:52]
  • A story about visiting China in the late ’70s — when Beijing was still called Peking and westerners might as well have been from the moon. [1:50:05]
  • How much influence did George have on initially reluctant and self-professed “adidas guy” Michael Jordan signing to Nike? [1:52:59]
  • What does George mean when he says the most important conversation is the one you have with yourself? [1:57:55]
  • The only two choices George has when he gets out of bed in the morning, the number of things he limits himself to accomplishing in a day, and how he keeps office teamwork tight. [2:00:54]
  • A personal audit once per week. [2:03:18]
  • What George believes to be the biggest farce that’s ever been predicated on us. [2:03:55]
  • What is George most excited about working on these days? [2:04:31]
  • What would George’s billboard say? [2:05:32]
  • George’s challenge to the audience. [2:07:05]
  • Parting thoughts. [2:08:06]