John Wooden’s 7-Point Creed: “Be true to yourself. Make each day your masterpiece. Help others. Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible. Make friendship a fine art. Build a shelter against a rainy day. Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day.”
I grew up in Los Angeles, just a few miles south of the UCLA campus. I played high school basketball, had some success, but my dream never came true.
I, and probably a thousand other high school players had one wish, to play for Coach Wooden and the Bruins.
When I was that teenage boy, I admired him for his coaching. As years passed, my respect and admiration grew for the man who was that coach. He truly cared more about his players than he did about winning. He believed his purpose was to mold men first, basketball players second. The stories about his relationship will Bill Walton may tell his entire story. But, that’s for another time.
“March Madness” begins today, a fitting time to write about “the Coach”.
Coach Wooden’s accomplishments will never be matched, and definitely never surpassed. His teams won 10 NCAA National Men’s Basketball Championships, and between 1967 and 1973 the Bruins won 7 in a row. His teams also accomplished an unbelievable feat of winning 88 straight games without a loss.
He achieved this with a variety of players, and created a different style of play for each team.
Everyone remembers his victories with Kareem Abdul Jabbar, (formerly Lew Alcindor of Power Memorial High School in New York), and the rebellious and passionate Bill Walton. But few remember how he won without a “big” man in the center, when the tallest player on the team was 6 feet 7 inches tall, and he was a forward. That season the center was only 6 feet 5, the size of many guards today.
His team won the title with hustle. Because of the team’s lack of size, he invented a zone press that created dozens of turnovers and easy scores for UCLA.
To say the man was a basketball genius is not a just description. He was beyond that. He analyzed his team’s talent as does a computer programmer when he’s attempting to create new software.
In his own basketball career, Wooden was a 3-time all-state player in Indiana where his team won a state championship title. He was the first ever 3-time all-American college basketball player and won his own national championship in 1932 at Purdue.
And he is the first person ever inducted into the college basketball hall of fame as both a player and a coach.
Coach Wooden died in 2010, four months short of his 100th birthday.
Lastly, here are a few quotes from a man who was a greater human being than he was a coach.
“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.”
“Material possessions, winning scores, and great reputations are meaningless in the eyes of the Lord, because He knows what we really are and that is all that matters.”
“Consider the rights of others before your own feelings, and the feelings of others before your own rights.”
There are many more.
I met him once when I was in my twenties. It was one of the highlights of my young life.
Columnist-The Guardian Express