John Wooden, RIP

A gentleman has passed. John Wooden was 99 years old. Ten NCAA basketball championships in twelve years will never be matched again, but Wooden's legacy is best realized in his teachings, in how one should live a considered life with respect and decency.

Despite his team's achievements, Wooden never made more than $35,000 per year at UCLA, and never asked for a raise. When his Pyramid of Success became a fashionable teaching tool for corporations and coaching clinics, friends begged Wooden to copyright the material so that he could profit from its distribution, an idea that puzzled Wooden. Why would he limit the distribution of something that helped others? And who would want to profit from a blueprint for life?

Wooden's Pyramid of Success, first written during the Truman administration, still holds up today. I've read many interviews from former Wooden players - Bill Walton, Kareem, Marques Johnson - who recall, as players, thinking the teachings were corny bromides, platitudes mouthed by an out-of-touch, more innocent generation, well-meaning but ultimately irrelevant to today's world. With time and experience, they realized Wooden's teachings describe the only things that matter. Bill Walton ended up including a Woodenism every day in his kids' school lunch. Sayings like:

Ability is a poor man's wealth.

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.

Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.

A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.

John Wooden - be quick, but don't hurry, to a better place.

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