Former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden passed away last week. Many of the young basketball players of this generation wouldn’t know a lot about Coach Wooden but he was one of the best. Not only did he turn out championship teams and develop young men into great basketball players, he helped them become better people as well.
I had the chance to hear him speak several times and he had an impact on the way I coached football. Coach Wooden always talked about competing against yourself–that is, not worrying about your opponent but playing up to your potential every time you stepped on the playing field. He also felt that if you demonstrated teamwork and played smart you would outplay individual talent that didn’t play together. For me starting out as a young coach, those were great principles to build on. But the most important thing I learned from Coach Wooden was that it’s really not the championships that you win as a coach but it’s how you impact your players as people that really counts.
As I said, most of the young basketball players today wouldn’t know much about the championship run that UCLA had in the 1960’s and 70’s but they are benefiting from how he coached and the impact he had on the game of college basketball.