Thursday, September 30, 2010
This is a post that I started to write in the spring after legendary basketball coach John Wooden passed away but for one reason or another didn’t manage to get posted.
Coach Wooden doesn’t quite make it into the pantheon of Less is Enough heroes, but only because his field of expertise isn’t particularly relevant to my core interests. (Or at least the core interests of this blog—basketball could arguably be called one of my core interests.) But he was an amazingly successful coach and from all accounts a remarkble person.
I remember reading a few years ago about how the first thing he’d do when a new class of players came in was to teach them how to put on their socks and tie their shoes properly. He would tell them, “You don’t want your socks bunching up around your toes, it will give you blisters, and you want to make sure your shoes are tied tight so they’ll stay tied. You can’t play with blisters or with your shoes untied.” So he’d teach them how to put on their shoes and socks properly (mind you these are college freshmen, not eight-year olds), and this was a famous and oft-repeated example of his focus on fundamentals.
My brother saw Coach Wooden speak and said he was one of the most inspiring people he’d ever heard. He said he could totally understand how he won so many games, he said just listening to him made you want to do your best.
After Coach Wooden died in June, there were a number of stories about him in the paper, and several of them noted that he never swore. This was especially interesting to me given that many college basketball coaches today can barely make it through a press conference without using words that cannot be printed in a family newspaper. (Roy Williams is especially partial to the word “frick” and its many variations.)
So I really loved this quote:
[Keith] Erickson recalled that practices in the old men’s gym were no-nonsense under Wooden. “He’d blow that whistle and everybody would turn,” he said. “He’d say, ‘Goodness gracious sakes alive,’ and everybody knew we were in trouble.”
Goodness gracious sakes alive.