ESPN named Coach John Wooden as “Coach of The 20th Century.”

Sports Illustrated declared, “There’s never been a finer coach in American sports than John Wooden. Nor a finer man.”

Sport Magazine entitled him, “Greatest Coach of the Century.”

There’s no doubt that the success of Coach John Wooden has been well-documented. I am writing about him today, because his legendary greatness extends beyond the sports realm.

Coach John Wooden was a coach among coaches in terms of team championships, leadership awards, and accolades. His legacy is especially amazing in how he impacted the young men he coached.

Perhaps more important than the best-selling books he authored, the record wins he led, the leadership awards that were named for him… perhaps more important were the character he modeled, the hope he inspired, and the hearts he touched. 

“Coach Wooden never talked about winning and losing but rather about the effort to win. He rarely talked about basketball but generally about life. He never talked about strategy, statistics or plays but rather about people and character. Coach Wooden never tired of telling us that once you become a good person, then you have a chance of becoming a good basketball player.” (Bill Walton)

Coach Wooden often shared wisdom worth remembering and is known for many quotes including these following.

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” (John R. Wooden)

“Never mistake activity for achievement.” (JRW)

“Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.” (JRW)

“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.” (JRW)

“…stay the course even when that course is most difficult and the obstacles seem insurmountable…. Be persistent. Be determined. Be tenacious. Be unrelenting. The road to achievement is rocky, hard, and long. Things easily achieved are rarely long-lasting or significant.” (JRW)

The John R. Wooden Award is prestigious and was named for Coach. This John R. Wooden Award Trophy goes anually to “The Outstanding College Basketball Player in the United States.” To be considered as a candidate, not only the player’s performance in the regular season, conference tournaments and post-season are taken into account but also the player’s character.”

It seems that Coach’s calling was more than to be successful but also to teach others to be successful. Coach developed the Pyramid of Success, which is worth noting by those aspiring to more than a mediocre going-with-the-flow ride through life.

Aspects of this model include character traits vital to attaining success in all areas of life not just sports. These traits included confidence, cooperation, enthusiasm, friendship, initiative, loyalty, poise, and self-control.

You may rightly assume that faith is part of Coach’s model just as it was part of his personal success and of his own life. Working at being the very best he could be wasn’t just Coach’s “talk” but was his “walk” and was practiced in his personal life and in his personal faith.

He was intentional in praying, reading  Scripture, and working to grow in his faith and in his love for God. A silver cross carried in his pocket tangibly symbolized his faith in the One Who is the “Alpha” and “Omega,” the words etched thereupon.

Our planet will be a more hopeful place if we all strive to leave footprints worth following as those of John R. Wooden.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God, “who was and who is and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8)

Commit your works to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” (Proverbs 16:3)

Much more info may be found at and many other online sites as well as in books authored both by and about John Wooden.

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