Coach John Wooden

I met an old friend for lunch last week and he took me to a favorite restaurant of his in Encino, California. As we walked in, the host waved us to my friend’s favorite table.


Of course. My friend is, and always has been a huge UCLA basketball fan and hence a fan of John Wooden. Sitting here reminded me of a John Wooden book I had read a few years ago and of his sound, old-fashioned good advice, of his salt-of-the-earth and feel-good quotes and of his many fans.

A week after this lunch, I happened to be on the UCLA campus while taking a tour with my college-bound son. After walking for miles around the campus and listening to two hours full of every reason one should pick UCLA over any other school, I was about to collapse when we came up this at the end of our tour.


Filling the better part of a two-story interior wall in the state-of-the-art recreational center on campus (“John Wooden Center”) was Wooden’s “Pyramid of Success,” a philosophy on success and leadership that Wooden taught to his players and that he has become known for.  Seeing it, I was reminded of a summer basketball camp that my oldest son attended when he was younger in which this pyramid was introduced. It’s not really just about basketball, but about life.


I thought these two “signs” were meant to get my attention. And they did. They have given me pause to think about a man who lived by strong principles – which I admire. They also remind me that slowing down to teach our values, in my case to my children, is vital. John Wooden took the time to teach his values, not only to his players but to future players and future people. And it inspired me to look up some of his famous quotes, also known as “Woodenisms.”

“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.”

“Never mistake activity for achievement.”

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

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

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