Tag Archives: John Wooden

He Said That? 1/13/17

From John Wooden  (1910–2010), basketball coach; nicknamed the “Wizard of Westwood,” he won ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period as head coach at UCLA, including a record seven in a row A Game Plan for Life (2009):

Mistakes come from doing, but so does success.

He Said That? 4/4/16

Congratulations to Villanova for winning tonight one of the all-time great NCAA basketball tournament final games. The following quotes are from the greatest college basketball coach, John Wooden (1910-2010), who won 10 championships at UCLA:

“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”

“Never mistake activity for achievement.”

“Adversity is the state in which man mostly easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then.”

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

“Be prepared and be honest.”

“Be quick, but don’t hurry.”

“You can’t let praise or criticism get to you. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.”

“You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.”

“What you are as a person is far more important than what you are as a basketball player.”

“Winning takes talent; to repeat takes character.”

“A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.”

“I’d rather have a lot of talent and a little experience than a lot of experience and a little talent.”

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”

“It isn’t what you do, but how you do it.”

“Ability is a poor man’s wealth.”

“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”

“Consider the rights of others before your own feelings and the feelings of others before your own rights.”

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

“Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.”

“It’s not so important who starts the game but who finishes it.”

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”

“Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”

“The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.”

“Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”

“Success is never final; failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.”


University of Kentucky 83, UCLA 44 by Robert Gore

The number one Kentucky Wildcats basketball took a 24-0 lead en route to a 41-7 halftime lead over the UCLA Bruins and the 83-44 final score. There’s a lesson in ethics here.

In 1948, John Wooden was coaching basketball at Indiana State Teachers College (now Indiana State University) and was being wooed by both the University of Minnesota and UCLA. It was Wooden and his wife, Nellie’s, preference to stay in the Midwest.  Wooden had received an offer from UCLA, and he was supposed to receive one from Minnesota as well. However, inclement weather prevented Minnesota’s phone call from going through. Thinking Minnesota had lost interest, Wooden accepted UCLA’s offer. Minnesota got in touch right after he accepted the UCLA offer, but Wooden had given his word to UCLA. Two years later, the Purdue head coaching job was his for the asking. Wooden was sorely tempted to return to his native Indiana, but he had signed a three-year contract and he again honored his commitment.

The rest, of course, is history. Wooden went on to become the most successful collegiate basketball coach of all time, winning 10 national championships at UCLA. However, he regarded himself first and foremost as a teacher, and he said his primary assignment was to teach the values embodied in his Pyramid of Success, turning his charges into responsible, honorable men. Virtually everyone who played for Wooden, even the bench-sitters, said he had a profound impact on their lives and development.

Steve Alford is UCLA’s current coach. Before UCLA, he compiled a fine record at the University of New Mexico and was in the third year of a ten-year contract. He and UNM had just agreed to extend his contract (although the new contract had not been signed) and raise his compensation when UCLA came calling. Alford accepted a seven-year, $18.2 million contract with UCLA and eventually paid UNM a “buy-out” as part of a settlement for his breach of contract.

Nowadays, of course, such breaches, and the subsequent buy-outs and settlements, are routine, and nobody casts them in moral terms. However, there’s a connection between John Wooden’s belief that he was bound by his word and the terms of a contract he had signed, and his success as coach. Coaches are teachers, and that is about much more than Xs and Os. The great ones, like Wooden, teach the values of honesty, hard work, sportsmanship, and integrity, and they know that they must lead by example. When coaches cut corners their players know it, and that becomes the standard they live down to.

So although UCLA is my alma mater, it seems entirely appropriate that they got pasted this afternoon, and that they have already lost four times, three times to ranked opponents. UCLA basketball is a pressure-cooker. The fans were spoiled by Wooden’s successes. As hyperventilating letters to the sports editor of The Los Angeles Times start calling for Alford’s head, he might have second thoughts about leaving UNM, and rightfully so. What goes around comes around.


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