The Purple Trojan

June 4, 2010 10:54 PM

Farewell to a Legend: Coach John Wooden

Today, everybody is a Bruin. Trojans and Bruins are uniting everywhere, in respect for one simple man.


A simple man. Yet eloquent and significant enough to make people admire his every whisper. 


It's still hard to believe it when I read all over the Web that John Wooden has passed away at the age of 99. But that is reality. 


John Wooden is far and above the greatest coach of all time. One of the greatest leaders of all time. And a wild success story.


Believe it or not, it took Coach Wooden 17 years to win his first National Championship. From then on, it was cake.


He ended up winning 10 NCAA national championships in a 12 year span from 1963 to 1975 at UCLA

Basketball aside, Coach was an amazing person. He lived a brilliant life, full of success, 

family and faith. And he will be the first to tell you basketball was behind family and faith in his life. He was married to his wife, Nellie, for 53 years. And loves her more than ever. 


It is definitely the time for them to reunite up above. 


And coincidently enough, Richard "Duke" Llewellyn, founder of the Wooden Award and USC graduate, also died today. Just hours before John Wooden. Remarkable.


I learned a lot about John Wooden from my dad, who grew to admire the man. (like just about everyone else) He gave me a card the size of a credit card. One one side, it included the Pyramid of Success. The other, some of Wooden's famous maxims. Still have it today. And it changed my life. 


From then on, I bought two of his books: "Coach Wooden's Pyramid of Success" and "The Essential Wooden." Both books focused on his great success of a basketball coach. But more on his spectacular life as whole.


I was then fortunate enough to get a John Wooden personally-signed basketball and Pyramid of Success. Those pieces of memorabilia are sitting right next to my desk at home--sandwiched among various USC memorabilia. And they mean so much more now. 


As a student at USC, my eyes and ears have picked up a lot of John Wooden references. Pete Carroll, former head coach of USC football, spoke loudly on his admiration for Wooden. And borrowed many of his principles to motivate his players--and aided him in becoming one of the most successful college football coaches in recent memory. 


I also took a great class freshman year in the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, called "Sports, Business and Media in Today's Society" It was taught by Jeff Fellenzer, an adjunct professor at USC. He really engrained the Wooden principles into us, with his 'Weekly Woodens.' 


With this exterior knowledge i received from proven successful professionals, I continued to grasp this man's amazing principles, philosophies and stances on life. Incredible.


He lived a model life. He makes you want to do better in everything. I can only imagine what it was like to play for him.


Although it may be hard to realize, he didn't use forceful coaching methods with his players. It was actually near the opposite. 


From arguably the greatest college basketball player of all time, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Lew Alcindor), "There was never any, 'You gotta go out and kill these guys' talk from Coach Wooden to get us keyed up. He'd say, 'I want you to go out there and do your best the way we practiced it."


That's what he wanted every day. With every play: For you to try best. And he preached that principle through so many of his maxims. ("Woodenisms")


The man transcended so many people. And throughout so many generations. He will forever remain one of my few idols. 


I have grown up learning Wooden's philosophies. And I will die trying to perfect them.


Reality is tough to live by sometimes. But, as hard it as it may be, we have to face reality. After all, we know Coach Wooden sure would like us to.




Below you will find only a few of my favorite "Woodenisms" from Coach Wooden, that I dug up from over the years. 


  • "Be quick, but don't hurry.
  • "Be more concerned with how you treat others than how others treat you. You'll be surprised
  • "If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?"
  • "Failing to prepare is preparing to fail."
  • "Don't complain; don't whine; don't make excuses."
  • "Don't steal; don't cheat; don't lie."
  • "Don't think you're better than anyone. Believe you are as good as everyone else."
  • "Worry more about character than reputation. Character is what you are, while repuation is what people say you are."
  • "Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful."
  • 3 Ps:  Passion. Preparation. Performance.
  • 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.


And one of my favorite sayings from Coach Wooden: "Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming."


John Wooden won 12 national championships. 10 at UCLA. 1 as a player at Purdue. And 1 one life. What a man. 

Good night, John Wooden.

Click here if you want to see a full list of Coach's "Woodenisms," from the Los Angeles Times. 


And please admire Wooden with this great video from ESPN's Rick Reilly:


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