If you love sports, you loved John Wooden. If you know nothing about sports, you would have loved John Wooden. John Wooden died yesterday at 99.
John Wooden was the basketball coach at UCLA for 28 years. Everyone knows the success Wooden had at UCLA, seven national championships in a row in the 60’s and 70’s, 88 wins in a row, records that stand through today.
What made him different? He knew how to love. He loved his wife, his players, his life. His wife, who died in 1985, received a love letter from her husband on the 21st of every month after her death, and until his death yesterday.
He never talked about victory, but about living life honorably, about doing things the right way, about being consistent, about character. Negotiation was not part of his life.
Preparation was paramount. When his teams played, they played against what he called the idea performance, not the other team.
Practice was a classroom where the smallest details met the knowing eye of “The Wizard of Westwood”. He taught you how to put on your socks and shoes properly. Everything had it’s place. Compromise was not part of the performance. Do it right. Period.
“You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.”
“Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”
“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.”
I was trying to think of something pithy to write, something clever, and then I remembered who I was writing about. Rest in peace, Coach. We will miss you.