John Wooden strove to teach his players the limitations of a life devoted to basketball. Ironically perhaps, the man who never saw basketball as the ultimate became the most successful coach the game has ever seen. Wooden won ten National Championships while at UCLA, including seven in a row from 1967 to 1973. He led UCLA to an NCAA record 88 game winning streak and coached 4 teams who finished the regular season undefeated (30-0). On the eve of the 1975 NCAA Championship game (which UCLA won), he announced his retirement, walking away after winning his tenth championship in twelve years. The man clearly knew what he was doing.
John Wooden's humble disposition became a breath of fresh air as the world of basketball became increasingly ego-centric. Coach's "team first" lessons stand in stark contrast to a sport now characterized by individual expression, statistics, and notoriety. Still, his wisdom and clever anecdotes will extend Wooden's influence long after his death. Maybe it is because I am heartless, but it isn't often that the death of someone I never knew, celebrity or otherwise, affects me emotionally. However, I can honestly say that, as I think on Wooden's death, I am melancholy. A few months ago I posted a video of John Wooden speaking about his definition of success. I've posted it again below. May John Wooden's message of faith in Jesus, humility, and teamwork live on.