John Wooden

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Wooden in c. 1972

John Robert Wooden (October 14, 1910June 4, 2010) was a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player (1961) and a coach (1973). He was the first person ever enshrined in both categories; only Lenny Wilkens and Bill Sharman have since been so honored. He was awarded the presidential Medal of Freedom in 2003. He led UCLA basketball program from 1948 until 1975. He was the coach for UCLA winning 10 championships in 12 years. He is also famous for his pyramid of success.



They Call Me Coach (1972)

  • Learn as if you were to live forever; live as if you were to die tomorrow.
  • The main ingredient of stardom, is the rest of the team.
  • Young people need models, not critics.
  • Talent is God-given; be humble. Fame is man-given; be thankful. Conceit is self-given; be careful.
  • You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.

Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections on and Off the Court (1997)

  • Failure is not fatal but failure to change might be.
  • Adversity is the state in which man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then.
  • Success is peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction and knowing you’ve made the effort, do the best of what you’re capable.
  • You should never try to be better than someone else, you should always be learning from others. But you should never cease trying to be the best you could be because that’s under your control and the other isn’t.
quoting his father
  • Make each day your masterpiece.
quoting his father
  • The outstanding coach is a teacher that gets all his squad to accept the role that he considers to be the most important for the welfare of all.
  • You control the terms of the conflict. Make them play your game. Don’t try to play theirs.
reported by Bill Walton
  • The four laws of learning are: the first is demonstration of what you want. The second is the criticism of the demonstration. The third is the imitation of the correct model, and the fourth is repetition, over and over until it becomes habit where is you don’t think about it.
  • Don’t beat yourself. That’s the worst kind of defeat you’ll ever suffer.
reported by Bill Walton
  • I do not have the right, Bill, but I do have the right to say who is going to play on my team and we’re going to miss you.
reported by Bill Walton, about his right to wear his hair long
  • A player who makes a team great is more valuable than a great player. Losing yourself for the group, for the good of the group — that’s teamwork.


  • Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
    • Wooden only repeated a common aphorism (e.g. Interview on Charlie Rose, reported by Bill Walton), which was already in circulation as early as the 1920s, when he was a youth.[1]

Quotes about

  • "[Wooden] is so square he's divisible by four.
    • Jim Murray, as quoted in "'Wizard of Westwood': Two on One" by Ted Beitchman, in Los Angeles Times (March 25, 1973)
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