Whenever the words “Greatest Coach” are uttered, John Wooden’s name is usually mentioned. John Robert Wooden, the genius behind the UCLA Bruins Men’s basketball dynasties of the 1960s and 1970s, left the sports world on June 4, 2010 at the age 99. Coach Wooden by far is the greatest coach in all of sports. He is the first of three to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as both player and coach.
Wooden spent 27 years at UCLA. During that run, he won 620 games and 10 NCAA titles in 12 years (including seven straight from 1966-1973). He guided his Bruins to four perfect, 30-0 seasons, as well as leading them to a jaw-dropping 88 game win streak, never to be challenged.
If you were to just glance at Wooden’s career, one would only see the titles and records. But the man they called the “Wizard of Westwood” was so much more than numbers. He taught his players how to become men. He would instill life lessons into his players that were far more valuable than any offensive or defensive play. He closed the door on the racial prejudice that was prevalent in the ’60s. While most coaches were concerned about maintaining an all-white team, Wooden would recruit players based on ability and character alone. Wooden would use his philosophy called the “Pyramid of Success” to inspire his players to become great men.
The knowledge that Wooden gave his players is basically non-existent, as the current culture of sports is designed for recruiting the next big-time athlete. Today in college sports, athletes are viewed as revenue instead of student athletes. Considering 90% of these athletes won’t go on to the professional level, one would think that these years are most critical in the students’ development into adult hood. But money is the fuel for these institutions and these kids are nothing but meat on an assembly line.
So instead of mourning coach Wooden’s death, let’s celebrate his life and his fascinating attributes because there may never be another one like him.
By Keith Madyun