The Wizard's Wisdom
John Wooden was known as the "Wizard of Westwood," and he conducted himself much differently from many of today's coaches. He didn't pace the sideline in an expensive suit, eager to bend a ref's ear. He didn't give motivational speeches before a big game. Instead, Wooden sat stoically on the bench, with his trademark rolled program in hand.
Wooden's team played in the Final Four for the first time in 1962. In the succeeding years, his UCLA Bruins would reach the Final Four nearly a dozen more times, winning 10 national titles in the process. Nobody in today's game has come close to that standard.
Much of Wooden's genius happened on the practice court, away from the cameras and large crowds. Bill Walton, one of his star players, remembered UCLA practices as high-paced sessions peppered with such maxims from Wooden as:
*"Never mistake activity for achievement."
*"Failing to prepare is preparing to fail."
*"Discipline yourself and others won't need to."
Years later, Walton found himself writing those same lines on his kids' lunch bags before sending them off to school.
A soft-spoken man with deep religious beliefs, Wooden believed that he had a responsibility to teach his players more than the pick-and-roll or how to solve a full-court press. In his Pyramid of Success, he lists such attributes as poise, team spirit, self-control, friendship, loyalty and enthusiasm.
He was intent on passing along those to his players as well.
"Coach taught us self-discipline," wrote Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, another UCLA star and Hall of Famer. "To this day I can see my coach, calm and confident, twisting a game program between his hands, showing that he shared the players' excitement."
Wooden once told National Public Radio: "I seldom was ever off my seat on the bench during the game. I'd tell them, 'Don't look over at me. I prepared you during the week. Now, do your job.'"