Search Obituaries
Legends & Legacies View More

The Words of John Wooden

Published: 3/19/2011

John Wooden (Wikimedia Commons)John Wooden, who died last June, won an unprecedented 10 NCAA Championships during his 12-year tenure at UCLA, including 7 in a row from 1967 through 1973. The first person to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach, "The Wizard of Westwood" was named in 2009 “The Best Coach of All Time” by The Sporting News and received The Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2003.

Wooden’s interests ranged beyond the hardwood though, and he became just as revered for his philosophical outlook and inspirational words of wisdom as he ever was for bringing championships to Los Angeles. He won games by winning hearts and minds, was less interested in complicated defensive schemes than shaping young men’s lives. As one former player put it, “he might have been more like a Methodist minister than a basketball coach.”

As March Madness gets into full swing, here are some memorable aphorisms from one of the winningest college hoops coaches of all time:

“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”

“Flexibility is the key to stability.”

“Be quick, but don’t hurry.”

“The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching."

“It’s about what is correct, not who is correct.”

“Adversity is the state in which man mostly easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then.”

“Consider the rights of others before your own feelings, and the feelings of others before your own rights.”

“You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.”

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

"The people who turn out best are those people who make the best out of the way things turn out."

“It's the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”

“Never mistake activity for achievement.”

“Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there."

"Never make excuses. Your friends don't need them and your foes won't believe them."

"The best thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother."

"Don't let making a living prevent you from making a life."

“Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

"Make each day your masterpiece."

Related Topics
Our Picks and its newspaper affiliates publish obituaries for approximately 75 percent of people who die in the U.S. – updated continuously throughout each day – as well as government records for all U.S. deaths. Find an obituary, sign a Guest Book or build an interactive memorial. Get directions to a funeral home, order flowers or donate to charity. Read advice from experts or participate in online discussions. Thanks for visiting – Where life stories live on. We welcome your feedback.