By Randy Snyder
As we travel the path of Life, we meet people that leave strong indelible impressions that have a lasting, positive effect on us over the years! John Robert Wooden, the renowned UCLA basketball coach, that left us at 99 years of age in 2010, was one of those outstanding people that I will never forget. He personified quintessential leadership and one of his inspirational clichés worth repeating” Teamwork makes the Dream Work!”
In 1989, as a VP of a major retail chain that sponsored National High School Cross country championships, I represented the company and John Wooden was our elite key note speaker and he attended the event. I was asked to take him to the race and return to the hotel post event. Needless to say, I was thrilled as I knew some of the accomplishments of this amazing man and was anxious to speak with him when commuting to the event held in Coronado Park in San Diego! I did some updating prior to the event, as his host so I could show some interest and gain insight on this wonderful man! Here is what I found and share with you my findings of significance.
He coached the UCLA Bruins for 27 years. During that time the Bruins were National NCAA champ 10 years including an amazing 7 years in a row including a standing record of winning 88 games in a row! During that eye opening stint, he was honored as National coach of the year six times! Wooden was inducted to the NCAA basketball of fame as a player (he played at Purdue achieving all American 3 times) in 1960 as a player 1973 as a coach. Thusly was a dual inductee!
The “audience” for his key note speech after the event was high school aged runners along with their coaches and some parents. I prepared a short introduction highlighting some of his myriad of accomplishments, but was justly concerned about his ability to present an appropriate message coming from an eighty something man to mostly teen age athletes. He spoke of his Pyramid of success theory consisting of 16 ideals leading to competitiveness and finally greatness in each attendee’s belief in themselves as the ultimate measure of greatness. You could have heard a pin drop during his presentation ending with a roaring standing ovation! He autographed one of his pyramid cards for me and each athlete received one. That card is a keepsake that I reference from time to time!
One of the moments and exchanges taking place in the car while riding to the event was a response from Coach Wooden to my question that follows. “Coach Wooden, lots of great players such as Bill Walton and Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul Jabber) were coached by you during your 27 years, which one from your viewpoint was the greatest player you coached?” His response was nearly immediate as he articulated “I coached great teams, each player had to be great and they were only as great as the team around them!” I believe he sincerely believed in that axiom and prevailed during his tenure making him the greatest coach of his time. I enjoyed his passion and the meaning of “Teamwork makes the dream work! Coach Wooden possessed humility and kindness and was thankful for the ride and opportunity to address the audience and I was likewise, thankful for the opportunity creating lasting memories for me personally.
In closing, in no particular order, these are the sixteen attributes if practiced and enforced would inevitably lead to TEAM GREATNESS are as follows:
Industries, Loyalty, Alertness, Imitative, Enthusiasm, Self-Control, Friendship, Cooperation, Intentness, Confidence, Skill, Team Spirit, Poise, Condition, Competitiveness, and finally the end result, GREATNESS! The end result and the desired outcome of all teams!
In more recent times, John Calipari of Kentucky, Rick Pitino of Louisville and Mike Krzyzewski of Duke Fame were among the best in their own right. Coach John Wooden, no doubt blazed a path of greatness for those that followed him!