Farewell to John Wooden

Legendary coach John Wooden died yesterday at age 99. He guided his UCLA Bruins to unmatched dominance in college basketball. His teams' achievements included ten national titles and an 88-game win streak. He was also a Hall of Fame player at his college alma mater, Purdue. Yet he also avoided talk of wins and losses, seeing athletic challenges mainly as challenges to character. He once refused to enter a championship tournament that denied one of his players a chance to play because of his race.

At games Wooden held a program rolled up in one hand and the plan secure in his head. He focused on details from the first practice, when he showed new players how to put on socks. The press hailed him as a 'Wizard' and many of his maxims entered lore. Yet he lived in the same modest home throughout his career. His name was listed in the public phone book. He wrote regular letters to his wife of many years, Nell, even after she died.

In a field where success is often defined as the acquisition of a trophy or a ring, Wooden defined it as 'knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.'

Hear him share his thoughts in this 2001 video.


Conductor's Notebook

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