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!


You can find the transcript of this episode here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#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):

Episode 4: Ryan Holiday

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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]


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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

  1. Interesting episode.

    Just a heads up.. his quote “I’ve always had this theory that, if you help enough people get what they want, you’ll always get what you want.” is almost exactly what Zig Ziglar said many years ago… “You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.”

    Not sure if that counts as a theory, or someone passing on another’s words as their own.

  2. I think you asked the least amount of questions in any Podcast! Truly an Amazing Journey and Person. Great Interview…. as always.

    I always love your “what book do you gift and why”

    The Jordan story was telling, how to never give Up on an opportunity. His favorite coaches and why also. Lefty, if you have never heard of him, was one of the greatest coaches in my generation. GBU

  3. Hey Tim,

    Your an inspirational guy but how about thinking about and commenting on the state of our shared planet ? You have a huge amount of influence why not use it towards this largest of problems that everyone seems to be skirting. It’s very nice to have a nice lifestyle but sooner than later if the planet is fucked that stuff won’t mean too much. I hope to see you include this issue on your podcasts and on your blog, you more than most people could actually have a impact on the state of our collective consciousness, all the best Tim.

  4. Comment for 8/10 Five Bullet Friday. Love the quote- going to give it a try. I’m also a Will & Ariel Durant fan. I’ve got the complete Story of Civilization set.

  5. Hello Mr. Ferriss, a while back you recommended a CBD Oil in one of your 5-Bullet Friday emails. I have tried to find it on your website, but can’t. Could you re-post that? I’m looking for a quality oil.


  6. +1000 on the recommendation of 12 Rules for Life. Dr. Peterson would be the ultimate guest on the podcast.

  7. I finished the Tribe of Mentors and found it to be a great read and a good source to learn the role that mentoring plays in growth and development. [Moderator: promotion removed.]

  8. One of my personal favorite episodes. I particularly liked the reason why Coach Raveling began and continues to read so many books.

    Thank you for the interview,

    Reece Guyon

  9. Thanks Tim, favourite quote must be “grandmother was as infallible as the Pope”… very recignizable… Sure miss my grandmother and her grace too…

  10. Great episode!! I’d love to see more episodes with older guests….so much wisdom to be unpacked from great lives before it is to late. Keep up the good work and thanks again for all your work Tim.

  11. Great episode. Easily one of my favorites. A truly remarkable man. I learned a lot of things from him and have already incorporated some of his practices into my routines.

    I even used his experience in obtaining Dr. King’s speech as a teaching moment at work; Never be afraid to ask. You have no idea how great the answer could be.

  12. This is an episode I enjoyed deeply. It reminded me of the system of notes and marking I had and had forgotten to use.

    Lately, you are interviewing very interesting people. Bravo!

  13. What an excellent podcast….definitely makes my top 5. I have recommended it already to two friends, who listen on and off. The questions really opened up the discussion and it was enlightening on many levels. I liked the fact it was back to you interviewing great people talking about their personal drivers and exploring their achievements, (rather than promoting stuff). The motivation for reading and staying young, love that.

    Great job, never would have known anything about him.

    It brightened up my commute this morning and energised my day..thanks Tim.

  14. Dear Coach and Tim,

    It is 02:40 in the morning in Warsaw, Poland and you guys were keeping me awake listening your podcasts.

    It is one of the best, I’ve listened so far.

    Coach is very open, sincere and humble, it would be a miss not hearing that. The way he talks and explains is so pure so it has a big impact.

    I’ll connect with him through LinkedIn.:) I hope our roads will cross somewhere:)

    Congrats to you Tim and Ryan,one more time, to bring him in. The way you lead interview with respect he deserves is perfect and make him open up so nicely.

    Best regards


  15. Thank you George (and Tim)! Loved hearing about the wisdom from your Grandmother; especially the story that got you reading, how the slave owners hid their money in the books.

  16. I couldn’t learn much from this podcast.

    I recently heard Kai Fu Lee say that people should take mentorship from people only 5 years older than them.

    I couldn’t relate much to this podcast.

    The Michael Jordan story about Nike was a good one though.

  17. An interesting fellow, great talker and storyteller, with a good story to tell.

    I have below zero interest in Basketball, or was it Baseball, I’d go out of my way to avoid it taking my attention, and really wasn’t expecting to like this anywhere near as much as I did.

    I downloaded it anyway, being as how it is what it is, and I’m mighty pleased I did.

    I’d love to hear more from him.

  18. Had the pleasure of meeting this great humble man and received a gift of three books. They Cleared The Lane , The WORD OF THE LORD IS UPON MEt , the righteous performance of Dr Martin Luthur King and the lives of 100 People who impacted the World .This was an awesome indept interview. He is so genuine. I thoroughly enjoyed this podcast. May he enjoy many more years in good health

  19. This conversation is firmly in my top podcast list easily up there with Jamie Foxx, Stewart Brand et al. Thank you for allowing Coach Rav to plough his own furrow on this.

  20. Tim,

    Thank you for bringing Coach Raveling to your podcast.

    As a 15 year old I attended the WSU Cougar Cage Camp which was run by Raveling. It was a week long basketball camp, but in reality it was more of a LIFE camp. I attended Washington State when Raveling was there, whenever he gave a talk on campus I made sure to attend.

    Until he talked about it in your podcast, I didn’t realize that Raveling had been a mentor to me my whole life, although we never met personally. He was one of the true influences in my life. I bought his motivational speech from basketball camp, on cassette, and listened to it over and over in high school.

    I have never heard a speech or interview with Coach Raveling where I didn’t leave fascinated and motivated.

    I would love it if you would follow up with more interviews with Coach Raveling.



  21. Great Podcast. It’s interesting how both George Raveling and Jamie Foxx (‘Workout routines, success habits, and untold Hollywood stories’ episode) mention that their grandmas had a profound influence on their life.

  22. Thanks for an excellent podcast. I’d like to nominate Jordan B. Peterson, author of the above mentioned “12 Rules For Life” for a future podcast guest. I’m reading this now and am about halfway through it. I’ll re-read and take notes as soon as I finish. Highly recommended reading and would love to hear him within the context of a Tim Ferris interview.

    [Moderator: additional text removed but appreciated.]

  23. Wow, such a rich episode!! I listened in the afternoon, came back to make notes and add some books to my reading list later, and here I’m recapping the notes of the episode before to sleep. Thanks Tim!!!

  24. Captivating as always Tim.

    Debatable attribution but the phrase “I find the harder I work, the luckier I get” springs to mind.

    What an inspiration, and still learning a great volume!


  25. Did you get any samples of his method of taking notes that you could post jpgs of? I was very curious about the way he circled and highlighted sections.

  26. Please *don’t* get Jordan Peterson* on your podcast. That type of person should not be amplified with your platform. Bad enough you’ve got the Walmart CEO on 🤢.

    Will you be returning to the format where you dig into specific routines, tactics etc? The best episodes have been the ones where you most closely guide the content rather than just letting people kinda ramble on.

  27. Hi Tim, I’d really love to contact George Ravelling just to send him a couple of photos of our young gymnasts from Jets Gymnastics in Australia wearing singlets with the slogan “If it is to be, it’s up to me” We use this as our motto for our gymnasts aiming to reach the top in our sport. I just thought he would like to know his mantra has spread across the world even 🙂