I grew up at the foot of Westwood Boulevard, and for those living under a rock, The Wizard of Westwood passed away this week (click here for the UCLA tribute to Coach Wooden or a collection of posts from Bruin Nation). What has amazed me in wake of Coach Wooden’s death are the personal stories I am hearing and viewing, whether on the news, sports blogs, Facebook walls … honorable men and cynical commentators have been brought to tears discussing their love for this man. His reach has far surpassed the boys he coached at Dayton High School in Indiana, Indiana State University, and, of course, UCLA. Coach Wooden had retired by the time I started catching the #12 bus up into Westwood to catch a movie or play games at the UCLA Mardi Gras. Just a few years later, my girlfriends and I would cruise Westwood in my Triumph Spitfire, and on a Saturday night you could find me hanging out at Postermat where my high school sweetheart worked. Is it just me, or did UCLA and Westwood begin to lose it’s glow and charm when Coach Wooden retired? John Wooden didn’t just inspire his players over his tenure. His inspiration changed these boys, who became men, who touched the lives of those about them as well. His words, his quips, his lessons, his character should resonate with all of us who chose to live a life well lived, whether personally or professionally.

Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best which you are capable. – John Wooden

His Pyramid of Success is something we should all print and try to live by. Here are a few that “spoke” to me this morning:

Competitive Greatness: “Perform at your best when your best is required. Your best is required every day.” Initiative: “Make a decision! Failure to act is often the biggest failure of all.” Loyalty: “Be true to yourself. Be true to those you lead.” Cooperation: “Have the utmost concern for what’s right rather than who’s right.”

And his 12 Lessons in Leadership:

  1. Good values attract good people.
  2. Love is the most powerful four-letter word.
  3. Call yourself a teacher.
  4. Emotion is your enemy.
  5. It takes 10 hands to make a basket.
  6. Little things make big things happen.
  7. Make each day your masterpiece.
  8. The carrot is mightier than the stick.
  9. Make greatness attainable by all.
  10. Seek significant change.
  11. Don’t look at the scoreboard.
  12. Adversity is your asset.

I never met Coach Wooden. But I am inspired by the stories of those who have: From basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar:

It’s very difficult for me to put in prospective what it means for me to lose Coach Wooden. He has been such a constant in my life. Just thinking of him enables me to draw upon the many life lessons that he taught me when I was a student at UCLA. Even though I was not initially aware that I was being taught certain things, they became obvious as the events of my life unfolded. It is hard to describe greatness in words but the accomplishments and lasting legacy of Coach Wooden’s life are a formidable reminder of a life well lived.

From Bill Walton (written 11 years ago, but a must read in full):

It is usually sad to say goodbye to those you love when it’s time to go. Not so with John Wooden. With him, it’s always about the next time, the next event, the next game. John Wooden still has the enthusiasm, energy, industriousness, initiative and love of life that allows him to get up every day, quite early I must add, even though his legs are failing him, with the attitude of “We get to play basketball today. Let’s go.” I thank John Wooden every day for all his selfless gifts, his lessons, his time, his vision and especially his patience. This is why we call him coach.

From LMA‘s very own Ed Poll:

Being a UCLA alum, Coach obviously had a great impact on me. My son went to two of his clinics during his coaching tenure. The only part of the clinic he allowed parents to watch was his famous teaching of how to dress…. He made all the kids take off their shoes and socks, and he taught them how to put them on …. He said basketball is played on your feet … and if you get blisters on your feet, you can’t play.

And while I am not one to shill books, I’ve already pre-ordered The Wisdom of Wooden: A Century of Family, Faith, and Friends. I have a feeling that Coach Wooden has a lot to teach this legal marketer.