Timeless Wisdom

An Evening with Coach John Wooden

He has been referred to as the “Greatest Coach in any sport, “The Wizard of Westwood” by the media (a term he does not like), but his friends and former players just call him “Coach”.

I enjoyed the experience of a lifetime recently when I was invited to visit with Coach Wooden in his home with my family…

In his 90’s he is still the consummate teacher. When I informed him of this article and asked for advice, always a teacher, he turned my attention to sections of books he had written and books written about him, to his famous Pyramid of Success, played me a soon to be released video, showed me a draft of a new book he is working on for children, and read me his favorite poetry. He told me to come to my own conclusion, he gives no advice, and he does give his opinion and points you in the right direction.

Coach is first and foremost, a Teacher, an English Professor from the great state of Indiana. Pryor to coming to UCLA in 1948, he taught English and Coached Basketball.

For those who do not follow sports and do not know of the John Wooden legacy, John Wooden coached basketball at UCLA from 1948-1975., never had a season below 600 and compiled an unprecedented 10 NCAA National Titles, including 7 consecutive titles and an 88 game winning string. All of his players graduated from college, some became superstars in Basketball, others went on to become corporate executives, some went into the ministry, some in the media, most all are successful in their endeavors whatever they may be. But first and foremost they are all considered family by Coach Wooden, many visit him regularly, and most all credit their success to the “Teacher” Coach Wooden.

Recently, former player Andrew Hill, wrote about Wooden in his book “Be Quick But Don’t Hurry”, I encourage your to read it. Andrew Hill after leaving sports went on to become the Vice President of CBS Entertainment.

Coach has lectured and mentored to Corporate America using his famous “Pyramid of Success” as a teaching tool. In the 1990’s he was the spokesperson for Home Savings of America and later for Coast Federal Bank. He lectured on his famous Pyramid to the real estate industry nationally.

His honors include “Sportsman of the Century” by Sports Illustrated, Inducted twice into the Basketball Hall of Fame, once as a player and once as a coach. His home is full of memorabilia, awards, pictures, and letters from U.S. Presidents, letters from World
Leaders, letters and pictures from Corporate Leaders, Celebrities, and Religious Leaders like Mother Teresa and Billy Graham. But among his most prized possessions is a black box that contains a medal. The content was a medal for being the top academic athlete in the Big 10, during his playing days at Purdue, important to him because he earned it on his own.

Coach Wooden prepared his players to be ready for any situation that may arise at game time. Preparation is coaching, the game and its outcome is only a result of the preparation. He taught fundamentals, was a nitpicker for detail, from putting on your socks properly, lacing your shoes properly (to avoid blisters) to the fundamentals of team play. His job was to bring together individuals, some very skilled and gifted others not as skilled but with determination and heart to play as one in a team effort. Coach states that we are not all created equally, each of us is an individual, with God given talents and abilities, his job was to coordinate these talents for the good of the team.

“Be quick, but don’t hurry” was hammered into the minds of all his players, simply stated it means, be prepared, be fast to act using the skills and knowledge you have been given, don’t overreact and let emotions influence your actions.

His philosophy is that more can be achieved by giving a pat on the back for a job well done however; he also states sometimes a pat a little lower and harder is necessary to gain ones attention.

So what did I learn and how does it apply to our business?

  • What I learned is that we all are Coaches, so to speak, some good, some not so good.
    The principles used in readying his teams for play apply to all aspects of our business.
  • Fundamentals: KISS, ” keep it simple stupid”.
    Don’t complicate things, simplicity and honesty facilitates better transactions.
  • Be Prepared: Counseling is everything, know your client, know their Goals, know the property, do your homework.
    “Failing to Prepare is Preparing to Fail”
  • Team Play: Work with others; surround yourself with those you can work with, and those who have the expertise and knowledge you may lack….
    A necessity in multiple legged transactions.
  • Be Quick But Don’t Hurry: Act quickly with knowledge, take that first step and initiate the offer. Don’t over analyze the situation, act on your idea now. Time can kill a great idea. Implement it now.

After coming to this conclusion, I asked Coach what he thought, are we all coaches?

He smiled and nodded as if to say you learned the lesson well, young man…

The Term “Timeless Wisdom” comes from the philosophy given him by his father, Joshua Wooden. It’s displayed on a card Coach Wooden carries with him and on a copy given to me. The front contains what he calls the “Two Sets of 3’S” stating:

Never Lie. Never Cheat .Never Steal…AND…Don’t Whine. Don’t Complain. Don’t Make Excuses.

The Back Side of the Card Contains a 7 Point Creed

  • Be true to yourself
  • Help others
  • Make each day your masterpiece
  • Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible
  • Make friendship a fine art
  • Build shelters, against a rainy day (faith in god)
  • Pray for guidance and counsel and give thanks for your blessings each day.

This is how Coach Wooden lives his life, he says if you follow these rules, are prepared and work to the best of your ability, “Things will turn out as they should”.

Timeless Wisdom, from truly one of the finest people living today, and a person I have had the honor to know. There are numerous books about Coach Wooden, his Pyramid Of Success, also several videos offered by Public Television. I suggest you obtain a copy.

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