John Wooden

June 5, 2010by

Friday evening the world lost one of the most accomplished men in college athletics, when at the age of 99 John Wooden died of natural causes at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

In 1948 UCLA hired Wooden to be their new basketball coach. By the end of his 27 year career, he had led the Bruins to a record 10 national championships, seven of them being consecutive (1967-73), and four of them capping undefeated seasons. His career record was 620-147.

Renowned for his accomplishments on the court, Wooden was equally well known to be a remarkable person. When asked what his greatest accomplishment was, he replied, “The fact that almost all my players graduated. And almost all of them have done well in their professions–lawyers, doctors, dentists, eight ministers. I’m very proud of them.” Not quite what the average sports fan might expect. But as one of his players, Bill Walton, once remarked, “He didn’t teach basketball. He taught life.” This teaching and regard for his players as people of value represents the philosophy Wooden lived by and communicated to everyone he worked with.

What is this philosophy? Most simply put, it is a principle based view of what it takes to be successful in life, to fulfill one’s purpose to the fullest extent. Here, Wooden gives his words of wisdom in a talk at TED from 2001.

Wooden’s ideas have been formalized as a model of leadership labeled the “Pyramid of Success” (download.pdf)

You can read more about Wooden and his philosophy at