Coach John Wooden: Molder of Champions, Model of Humility
- Saturday, November 15, 2003
The most successful college basketball coach in history is sharing the faith that has kept him grounded through success and heartache.
ESPN and Sports Illustrated call Coach John Wooden the greatest coach of the 20th century. His stats bear that out. In 40 years of coaching, he compiled a 885-203 record -- a winning percentage of .813. His historic tenure as coach of the UCLA Bruins, which spanned 27 years, included four 30-0 seasons, an 88-game winning streak, and ten national championships -- seven of those in a row (1966-1973). And he is one of only two people enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach.
"The Wizard of Westwood," as Wooden is known, just celebrated his 93rd birthday in October. The legendary basketball coach now shares the faith he credits for his success in a new book titled Coach Wooden One-on-One: Inspiring Conversations on Purpose, Passion and the Pursuit of Success (Regal Books, 2003). In the book, Wooden shares his philosophy of life, which is based on biblical principles.
The world of athletics, whether at the collegiate or professional level, carries tremendous influence on American society. From televised competition that brings in huge advertising dollars, to personal endorsements by high-profile athletes, to the apparel worn by young fans, sports provides a stage for talented athletes to be showcased. Wooden says the resulting "near-idol worship" of college and professional sports figures is not healthy.
"It's because [those athletes] are in the public eye, and you tend to make people who are in the public eye as heroes or people that you worship for some reason or other. But I don't think you should do that -- and certainly not [to] athletes," he says.
Despite the personal accolades his success has brought him, the humble Indiana native is most proud of those who have been under his tutelage.
"I'm extremely proud of the fact that almost all of the players I had under my supervision graduated and have done well or reasonably well in whatever profession they chose. I'm very proud of that," Wooden says. "I'm more proud of that than the fact that I had players who were able to win a number of national championships."
A partial list of those players who had the privilege of playing under the guidance of the legendary coach reads like an all-star lineup: Kareem Abdul Jabbar (Lew Alcindor while at UCLA), Walt Hazzard, Gail Goodrich, Lucius Allen, Sidney Wicks, Bill Walton, Henry Bibby, Curtis Rowe, Keith Wilkes, Richard Washington, and David Meyers.
Wooden's new book features 60 daily readings with conversations between the coach and Jay Carty (jaycarty.com), a former player with the Los Angeles Lakers who also was on Wooden's staff at UCLA during the Alcindor years.
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