The statistics are recited so often that they almost lose their shock value, but here they are again: ten national championships, an eighty-eight game winning streak, four perfect seasons – all the most ever in men’s collegiate basketball history. He coached some of the best ever: Lew Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Bill Walton, Gail Goodrich, Walt Hazzard, the list goes on and on. Famously and meticulously prepared (he had practices timed down to the minute), unbelievably calm during games (he preferred to sit), and remarkably eloquent (he was an English teacher by training), John Wooden represents everything that a person, and a university, should strive to be.
Coach Wooden’s fingerprints are still all over the campus today. Pauley Pavilion was constructed for him in the 1960’s, and the court therein still bears his name – Nell & John Wooden Court, with his late wife’s name coming first because – well, because that is just how Coach was. His legendary Pyramid of Success, emblazoned prominently on the wall in the Wooden Center lobby, is another testament to his character – each block builds upon another to accomplish true success, defined by the Wizard of Westwood as “peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable”.
All this to say that this post was inspired by UCLA’s plans to further commemorate the memory of our dear Coach by erecting a statue of him next to the newly renovated Pauley Pavilion. When it is finally unveiled, make sure you pay him a visit the next time you are in town. And while you are there, think not only on his accomplishments, but on the values from which they sprung. My favorite?
“Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”