He preferred the title “teacher” as opposed to “coach”, and he was with a doubt the greatest teacher the game of basketball has ever seen. Known as “The Wizard of Westwood”, John Wooden died on Friday at the age of 99, only 4 months shy of living on this earth for a full century.
John Wooden is the only person to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a basketball player and a basketball coach. He won 10 NCAA men's basketball championships in 12 years. He won 620 games as a head coach, including 88 straight during one historic stretch. His string of championships began with back-to-back victories in 1964 and 1965. Starting in 1967, his team ran off seven consecutive NCAA titles (as well as 38 tournament games without a loss) a performance unmatched before or since in men's basketball.
Among Wooden's players at UCLA were two titans of the game: six-foot-ten Bill Walton, and seven-foot-plus Lew Alcindor, who later became a legendary NBA superstar under his Muslim name, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. "It's kind of hard to talk about coach Wooden simply, because he was a complex man. But he taught in a very simple way. He just used sports as a means to teach us how to apply ourselves to any situation," Abdul-Jabbar said in a statement released through UCLA.
"There will never be another John Wooden," said UCLA Director of Athletics Dan Guerrero. "While this is a huge loss for the Bruin family, Coach Wooden's influence reaches far beyond Westwood. Coach was a tremendously significant figure. This loss will be felt by individuals from all parts of society. He was not only the greatest coach in the history of any sport but he was an exceptional individual that transcended the sporting world.”
Lakers coach Phil Jackson was quoted as saying "He established a goal that is unreachable in college sports. And he held it to such a high standard that we all appreciated his teachings and his mentoring of his college students. I think it's a day gone past for what we see now out of NCAA college players. But at the time, it was inspirational. His coaching has been an inspiration to all of us."
Despite the unparalleled success of his teams in the NCAA men's basketball tournaments, Wooden said his greatest satisfaction came from seeing his players go on to be productive members of society off the basketball court.
He spent 27 years coaching the UCLA Bruins men's basketball team. But after his retirement in 1975, he spent the next 35 years coaching the rest of us. Here are some of our favorite Wooden quotes and words of wisdom:
- “Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It's courage that counts.” -John Wooden
- “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.” -John Wooden
- “The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.” -John Wooden
- “What you are as a person is far more important that what you are as a basketball player.” -John Wooden
- “Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character.” -John Wooden
- “Ability is a poor man's wealth.” -John Wooden
- “Adversity is the state in which man mostly easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then.” -John Wooden
- “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.” -John Wooden
- “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.” -John Wooden
- “Don't measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.” -John Wooden
- “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.” -John Wooden
- “I'd rather have a lot of talent and a little experience than a lot of experience and a little talent.” -John Wooden
- “If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?” -John Wooden
- “If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing anything. I'm positive that a doer makes mistakes.” -John Wooden
- “It's not so important who starts the game but who finishes it.” -John Wooden
- “Never mistake activity for achievement.” -John Wooden
- “Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” -John Wooden
Rest in peace Wizard…John Wooden (1910-2010)