How did Wooden do it?

How did Wooden do it?

I am an unabashed fan of John Wooden.  His success, his modesty, his teachings, his willingness to share his gifts to help others set a model I aspire to within my life. I have read most of the books he authored or co-authored and I think the pyramid of success is as good of a model to live your life as anything you can find.

Regarding the title of this blog, I am not talking about the ten National Championships Coach Wooden’s teams won.  I am wondering how he learned to live in Los Angeles.

We are in LA for my brother-in-laws wedding, and we are driving around seeing some sites.  I do not mind the hustle and bustle, but the congestion of humanity and buildings is overwhelming.  Quiet does not seem to be an option.

How did this shy, quiet, farm kid, small-town guy, end up spending most of his life living and working in this environment?  I have never
read anything that indicated he was regretful about it.  In his books, he always speaks fondly of his parents, his small-town life, and the lessons/values he learned.  He had opportunities to return to this lifestyle, but chose to stay in Los Angeles.

The best answer I could come up with….is that he found his niche.  As Wooden often said ” Things turn out best for those who make the best of the way things turn out.”  He found his community within his neighborhood and UCLA.  It seems as though he found most things he needed to live a lifestyle to his and his family’s liking within this community.

Because of his accomplishments in coaching and where he lived, he could have capitalized on this to be more visible.  He stayed true to himself and did what he could to stay out of the limelight.

As a coach, what impresses me most about Wooden is the key adjustments he made throughout his career.  He truly lived a favorite quote of his “It is what you learn after you know it all that counts”.  Here are my brief observations:

  • He made adjustments in mid-career regarding how he rotated players in and out of practice scrimmages.  He used this model to develop a solid 7-8 player rotation the last twelve years of his career.  He did not subscribe to the theory of playing a lot of players, he wanted to smaller, more cohesive unit.
  • He developed the 2-2-1 zone press at the urging of his assistant Jerry Norman.  They used this press to win two national championships with no starters over 6’5′, still the shortest starting five to do so.
  • He won when his best players were centers, forwards, or guards.  He adjusted his system, tempo, and focus to highlight his best players regardless of position.  He could coach the power game, the up-tempo fast breaking and pressing game, or the driving/slashing game.
  • He recruited the big-time talent (Alcindor, Walton, etc.), but he also developed less-heralded players.

As we near the start of March Madness, the legacy of Coach Wooden and UCLA will be presented with renewed interest.  I have included my personal favorite John Wooden books (there are many to chose from).  These books speak to personal development and values, leadership, and basketball tactics.

Wooden:  A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court

Wooden on Leadership:  How to Create a Winning Organization

Inch and Miles:  The Journey to Success (children’s book)

John Wooden’s UCLA Offense

John Wooden’s Practical Modern Basketball

Twitter handle for great Wooden quotes


I would love to hear what you think about this post.  Life adjustments, March Madness, John Wooden, favorite quotes, whatever…..Have a great day and thanks for reading!



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Click here for my book review of Toughness:  Developing True Strength On and Off the Court by Jay Bilas

Click here for my book review of The Power of Negative Thinking by Bob Knight

Click here for my book review of Bo’s Lasting Lessons:  The Legendary Coach Teaches the Timeless Fundamentals of Leadership

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The little things mean a lot….

Last Friday, I was heading out of town to go to school.  I was disappointed because I did not have the chance to say goodbye to my lovely bride Jennifer.  However, I knew there was a chance I would pass her on the road (don’t worry friends, my parents were with the boys).

Much to my delight, I saw her coming in the opposite direction about a 1/2 mile from our house.  I stuck my hand out the window waving frantically to get her attention.  She saw me and blew me a kiss.  Sweet right?  It’s much more than that.

On our third date, Jen blew me a kiss as she was walking back to her apartment after we said good night.  I had a good feeling about her before that, but it was at that point that I knew I wanted to marry that girl.  My feeling at that moment is hard to describe, but it was so powerful and intense (much beyond the old-fashioned feeling Jim Carrey refers to in Dumb and Dumber).

Jennifer still blows me kisses from time to time, and I get that powerful feeling every time she does it.  It seems like a little gesture, but it is so much more.

Would love to hear about “little things” that positively impact your life.  Take care,