One of my big passions is sports, though I don’t talk about it much on this blog. John Wooden died Friday night at the age of 99. He was an amazing coach and an amazing man. One person said Wooden was “more like a Methodist minister than a basketball coach.” ESPN put together a tribute of former players, coaches, and announcers who know him well.
Wooden led UCLA to 7 straight National Championships, an 88 game winning streak, 38 straight NCAA tournament wins, and 10 NCAA championships in 12 years, before retiring in 1975. He was known as the Wizard of Westwood (a nickname he didn’t like.) Here are some excerpts from from that piece. (I’m not sure everyone that was interviewed, so if you know, please tell me and I’ll update the post.)
Dick Enberg, “John Wooden is about as perfect a sports personality as anyone I’ve met in my 40 years of broadcasting. The man was a sports Abraham Lincoln. He was a Winston Churchill. He was a scholar. He was a teacher, plus he was a good person.”
Walt Hazzard? “Wooden’s style was laid back, it was honest, it was direct.”
Jamal Wilkes, “He can say so much with so few words. For instance, he used to say this: ‘Be quick, but don’t hurry.'”
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, “It’s about what is correct, not who is correct.”
Wilkes, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”
Unknown, “Do not mistake activity for achievement.”
Bill Walton, “Happiness begins when selfishness ends.”
Unknown, “He might have been more like a Methodist minister than a basketball coach.”
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, “It was not necessarily wins and losses, but how he affected young men’s lives.”
Frank Deford, “Mr Wooden had this triangle, this pyramid of all the qualities: character, fortitude, honesty, truth, and if you lived up to the pyramid, then you won games.”
Unknown, “Winning and losing was not talked about during the year. There may be a halftime speech that revolved around the vocabulary word, enthusiasm, or industriousness. He would attack the situation by the pyramid’s success.”
Bill Walton, “All the human’s values, all the personal characteristics that he preached to us that we would need in our life to eventually be successful, that’s what the pyramid is all about.”
Dick Enberg, “John Wooden is a very religious man. In some ways, he treated the game religiously. It wasn’t just winning, you wanted to win the right way. You want your players to look the right way. You wanted them to behave the right way.
Unknown, “I think he’s going to be remembered as the curator of the traditional values, the man who took all those one-room school house values out of Indiana, took them to a place, UCLA, this campus that was in ferment in the 60’s and somehow not just safeguarded them through that time, but was able to win championships.”
I heard John Wooden speak to in around 1990. He was an amazing personality, and will be missed. He really was a wonderful Christian man. Don’t miss the video on Wooden’s love letters on the same page. His wife died 24 years ago on March 21, and he wrote a letter to hear on the 21st of every month after her death.