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SUCCESS Insider Podcast: Our 5 Favorite Building Blocks of Success

Contributing editor Brendon Burchard returns to SUCCESS Insider for a second bonus episode to take a deeper dive into Coach John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success. He talks about the four remaining blocks that make up his top five from the Pyramid—enthusiasm, conditioning, skill and team spirit—and breaks down how each one has the power to be a game changer in both your life and business, the same way it was for him.

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Favorite quote from this episode:

“I was blessed to have Coach’s words ringing in my ears. I followed the Pyramid of Success and I judiciously scored myself on each of the building blocks over a period of time…. I read everything I could on it, and I became a better person because of it.”

Brendon Burchard

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SUCCESS Insider is a weekly podcast to engage, educate and inspire emerging leaders and success seekers.

Every week,’s Shelby Skrhak and SUCCESS magazine’s Josh Ellis will discuss the latest trends in personal empowerment, entrepreneurship and career development. We’ll dig into books, ideas and news you’ll want to know about. We’ll chat with special guests, including authors, industry experts, business leaders, trendsetters on our staff and other all-around successful people. And we’ll have a lot of fun doing it. Join us!

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Craig Impelman
As Coach Wooden’s grandson-in-law, Craig Impelman had the opportunity to learn Coach’s teachings firsthand and wrote about those lessons for his site, He is a motivational speaker and the author of Wooden’s Wisdom, a weekly “e-coaching module” that is distributed to companies nationally.
“I grew up in the shadow of UCLA, so I was a huge admirer not only of UCLA but especially of Coach Wooden," Bilas tells SUCCESS. "When I had a chance to meet him, it was a tremendous honor. I don’t think I processed what a gentle soul he was.”
Photo credit: Cindy Ord/Getty Images
ESPN analyst and color commentator, and former NBA player
“I think he’s looking down on those guys all the time. I think the effect that he had on their lives, they still think, ‘What would Coach Wooden want me to do?’ And that’s about as good a legacy as you can ever think about having.” —A Game Plan for Life by Don Yaeger
Photo credit: Mitchell Layton/Getty Images
Head coach of the University of North Carolina men’s basketball team, Basketball Hall of Fame inductee and recipient of John R. Wooden award
In 1999, Don Yaeger called Coach John Wooden and asked for his mentoring. That was the start of a 12-year friendship that culminated in the book, A Game Plan for Life: The Power of Mentoring, co-written by Don and Coach Wooden. It was published in 2009, the year Coach Wooden turned 99 years old. Don continues to appreciate the lessons he learned from the philosopher, a teacher, and a humble man everyone called “Coach.”
Photo credit: Gary Bogdon
Keynote speaker, executive coach, New York Times best-selling author and associate editor for Sports Illustrated
“I’m starting my career and I wanted to reach out to great people to see if they would share a moment of their success with a young guy aspiring to be a coach on a collegiate level—at the time I’m a high school coach," Vitale told SUCCESS. "And I was in awe when I got an answer back from Coach Wooden about simply, just be organized, make things simple, and have within you that drive and that desire to really set the tone by being a leader for your players.”
Photo credit: Bobby Bank/WireImage
ESPN sportscaster, former NCAA and NBA coach, and Basketball Hall of Fame inductee
“I’m forever thankful for the opportunity to be a part of the UCLA program and, as I say, ride the Wooden Wave," Enberg tells SUCCESS. "I’ve had the privilege of introducing Coach many times, and what do you say about John Robert Wooden? I simply boiled it down to the fact that he’s the greatest man I’ve ever met other than my own father. He’s a man of greatness and a man of goodness.”
Photo credit: © Roger Williams/ZUMA Press
NBC sportscaster and former voice of UCLA men’s basketball
“As a coach [John Wooden] was able to adapt to changing circumstances without bending to every trend, without compromising who he was at his core," Costas said in Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections by John Wooden. "His understanding always went beyond the moment; his thoughts and actions guided by enduring principles.”
Photo credit: © John Barrett/Globe Photos via ZUMA Wire
NBC primetime host and 27-time Emmy Award-winning journalist
Al Michaels remembers traveling with the UCLA basketball team to a game one winter weekend, where, after the players practiced and showered, he saw Coach go around the room, feeling each player’s head to see if his hair was dry… because he didn’t want any of his boys to catch a cold. “It tickled me so much. I thought, here’s John Wooden, so loved, so admired, so respected by his players, and clearly a man who’s a father figure," Michaels said in How to Be Like Coach Wooden by Pat Williams. "And he’s not only a father figure, but he’s going to be their mother, too.”
Photo credit: Bobby Bank/WireImage
Sportscaster and announcer for the “Miracle on Ice” at the 1980 Winter Olympics and the earthquake-interrupted Game 3 of the 1989 World Series
“He spelled out in detail, even organized it into a pyramid of building blocks, exactly how he achieved his remarkable success. And now, while he is no longer with us physically, he can still speak to us, he can still mentor us, nearly as face-to-face as if he were in front of us right now physically. I cannot overstate how rare, unique and special this is.”
Author, keynote speaker, advisor and former publisher of SUCCESS magazine
“John was one of the first of all the people in this great city (Los Angeles) that I ever had the pleasure of meeting,” Scully said at the unveiling of Wooden’s commemorative statue at UCLA. “As the years went by, I realized he has more than just opened the gate for other people. He is not a coach, he is more than a teacher—he really is a genius in his ability to inspire. I think there are a few giants that walk amongst us, and he is certainly one of them.”
Photo credit: Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images
“Baseball’s all-time best broadcaster”
Sinegal was known to implement John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success as a leadership guide within his organization. He praised the wisdom offered in Coach’s 2005 book, Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organization. “'Competitive Greatness' is our goal and that of any successful organization. Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success is where it all starts.”
Photo credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Co-founder and former CEO of Costco
Myers, a member of the 1995 championship Bruins team, met with Coach Wooden for weekly lunches. Years later when Myers became Golden State Warriors GM, he kept Wooden's wisdom close at hand by saving 'Woodenisms' in his phone. “Wooden had always said ‘luck is when preparation meets opportunity.’ So maybe my whole life I was preparing to be a hard worker so I could have that opportunity at UCLA,” Myers told the Los Angeles Daily News.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Ben Margot
Former UCLA basketball player and general manager of the Golden State Warriors
In a 2013 TED Talk, Gates said teachers, like athletes, need their Vince Lombardi or John Wooden for feedback and mentorship. He long admired Wooden's philosophies. Years earlier, Gates invited Wooden to speak to Microsoft employees at their Seattle headquarters in 1995. Later that day, Gates and Wooden (retired from coaching) attended UCLA’s Final Four championship game, and met afterward at Gates’ home.
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Co-founder and former CEO of Microsoft
Dobson interviewed Wooden about the keys to success on his radio show, Family Talk, where Coach was a guest for the Timeless Wisdom episodes. On Wooden, “His memorable mottos, unforgettable turns of phrase and timeless, sage advice have enriched countless lives,” Dobson said.
Photo credit: Harry Langdon Photography
Author, psychologist and founder of Focus on the Family
“I’ll never forget the day I got SUCCESS magazine, and I opened to the middle of it, and there was the Pyramid of Success. I cut it out, and I taped the Pyramid of Success on the side of my filing cabinet so that every day while I would work, I could look over and I could see it.”
Leadership expert, speaker and best-selling author
“For years, Fellowship of Christian Athletes has been privileged to be associated with Coach John Wooden. He has been one of FCA’s cornerstone coaches, and each year we honor[ed] him during the NCAA Men’s Final Four Legends of the Harwood Breakfast by presenting an award in his name. Coach exemplifies FCA’s core values of integrity, serving, teamwork and excellence,” he said in Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success by John Wooden and Jay Carty.
Former NFL coach, president and CEO of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes
Blanchard, a former college basketball player and college assistant coach, met Wooden at a Long Beach State University leadership luncheon after Wooden had turned 85. “Wooden was a gentle, humble man, but he was also a stickler for principles that he considered important,” Blanchard said of that meeting.
Co-founder and chief spiritual officer of The Ken Blanchard Companies and author of The One Minute Manager
When Matthew McConaughey played a coach in the movie We Are Marshall, Coach Dale Brown—who called John Wooden his “most significant mentor”—advised him on his role. McConaughey later visited Wooden at his home, where he shared with people his stories and wisdom about the championships he won and his Pyramid of Success.
Photo credit: © Tony Lowe/Globe Photos via ZUMA Wire
Academy Award-winning actor
“Everything I had been able to accomplish in life I owed to this teacher, this old coach. Everything I learned about leadership, which was how I’d been about to succeed in a business that seems to have nothing to do with basketball, I learned from Coach Wooden.”
Former UCLA basketball player, motivational speaker and author of Be Quick—But Don't Hurry: Finding Success in the Teachings of a Lifetime
“Coach John Wooden was a basketball player and coach, but he wasn’t just any coach,” Cathy wrote in a Chick-fil-A leadership blog. “On the first day of basketball practice every year, Coach Wooden would start at the beginning. First, he would instruct his players on how to wear socks. Then, he’d teach them how to tie their shoes.” Cathy, whose leadership values echo Wooden’s values, then asks hypothetically what the beginning looks like for you. “Start there.”
Photo credit: Robin Rayne Nelson
President and CEO of Chick-fil-A
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve referenced one of the qualities from John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success or one of his quotes,” Brees said in his 2014 acceptance speech for the Wooden Citizenship Cup, presented to athletes that best display character, teamwork and citizenship. “I’ve written them down, shared them with teammates, and said it to myself.”
Photo credit: Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images
NFL quarterback for the New Orleans Saints
To prepare for coaching the future NBA superstar, James’ high school basketball coach, Dru Joyce II, “bought every book and tape on basketball he could find: his favorite was The John Wooden Pyramid of Success,” James wrote in Shooting Stars, his 2009 book co-authored with Buzz Bissinger. Joyce mirrored the principles taught by Wooden, and passed those lessons onto his players.
Photo credit: Jason Miller/Getty Images
Cleveland Cavaliers player and three-time NBA champion
“Coach Wooden was the master at getting to what’s next in life,” Walton tells SUCCESS. “He learned from the past, he dreamed about the future, but he lived in the moment, he lived for today. And don’t ever think for a minute that he was teaching basketball. He never talked about basketball, he talked about life.”
Photo credit: Paul A. Hebert/Invision/AP
Sportscaster, former UCLA basketball player and former NBA player
Shaquille O’Neal was a part of the 1991 and 1992 Wooden Award All-American Team. O’Neal’s interaction with Coach shows how his influence spread far and wide. One day, Coach Wooden visited Shaq while he was still in college to share his definition of a great player. “The true definition of a great player is how you make your players around you better.”
Photo credit: © D. Long/Globe Photos/ZUMA Wire
Basketball Hall of Famer and four-time NBA champion
“Coach Wooden’s success as a teacher, coach, and a parent are testimony to the wisdom on how he lived his life,” Abdul-Jabbar said at John Wooden’s memorial service. “I really enjoyed his down to earth, genuine concern, and he was so real. I had a lot of great mentors in my life but he looms large.”
Photo credit: © Globe Photos/Zumapress
Former UCLA basketball player and six-time NBA champion
During his coaching years, Jackson became interested in Zen philosophy. When Wooden found out about Jackson’s regard for the Zen way, he purchased books on the subject to better understand the philosophy.
Photo credit: © 2016 NBAE
(Photo by Steven Freeman/NBAE via Getty Images)
President of the New York Knicks, former Knicks basketball player and former NBA head coach
Joe Torre met with his long-time friend Wooden shortly before his death, who asked him to pass along his best wishes to Jeter, the baseball player Wooden most admired, the New York Daily News reported. “Coach told me how much he appreciates the way I play,” Jeter said. “Coming from him, that really meant a lot. I didn't get a chance to spend a lot of time with him, but every time I did, I appreciated it. I'm very happy I had the opportunity to know him a little bit."
Photo credit: © Dirk Shadd/Tampa Bay Times/Zuma Wire
Former MLB player
“I basically took the way Coach treated me in practice and away from the court and just did the same with my life. The respect, the high expectations, the never giving up. I actually listened to his entire speech on the Pyramid and copied and took notes on exactly what he did and why I thought it was effective. It works really well.”
Photo credit: Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images
Motivational speaker, former UCLA basketball player, and former ABA and NBA player
“I began to realize that all his maxims and the Pyramid was a guide,” Wilkes tells SUCCESS. “I mean whether you played basketball or not. I mean you didn’t even have to be interested in basketball, to relationships, raising family, work, the whole thing. It’s an incredible piece of work that Coach put together.”
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Former UCLA basketball player and four-time NBA champion
“You don’t fully understand Coach’s ability to impact one’s life until you experience him impacting yours. His greatness lies not in what he did; his greatness lies not in what he taught. His greatness lies in who he was, his character, his values, his convictions, his faith.”
Photo credit: Shepherd Church
“Well, there’s no question that Coach Wooden has affected where I am today and been a huge part of who I am today,” Meyers Drysdale tells SUCCESS. “It didn’t matter who you were, Coach Wooden gave you his loyalty. That was his character. He would commit to the people that were there and not really change things up.”
Photo credit: Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage
Former UCLA women’s basketball player and basketball Hall of Famer
“I never met him,” La Russa told UCLA after Coach Wooden’s passing. “Meeting him was on the bucket list. Came close a couple times, but never did meet him. Obviously, I’ve read everything about him, so just being selfish and personal, I have regret that I never had an in-person meeting with him. Amazing life.”
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Former St. Louis Cardinals general manager and co-author of One Last Strike
“Coach John Wooden has always been one of my role models. From observing his life and his coaching style, I learned that it is possible to be intensely competitive, to be a winner and a champion, and still be a person of integrity, humility, character and faith. No coach ever won more championships than Coach Wooden, and no one was ever more giving, caring and unassuming than Coach Wooden.” —Coach Wooden’s Greatest Secret by Pat Williams
Photo credit: Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
Senior vice president of the Orlando Magic and co-author of How to Be Like Coach Wooden: Life Lessons from Basketball’s Greatest Leader
“There’s no question that Coach Wooden’s words and lessons are going to stand the test of time—his words have already outlived him. And that’s a legacy. Just a few people will have the impact that Coach Wooden has had on not just the athletes who he was able to coach, but the coaches who are now in place.”
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Manager of the St. Louis Cardinals and former professional baseball catcher
“Coach Wooden was humble," Crum told SUCCESS. "He had no ego. He always believed that you do by example and that if you set the right example, those who are following you will get in line and do it, too. I think his teams reflected that.”
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Former men’s basketball coach at the University of Louisville and assistant coach and basketball player at UCLA
“Like the old adage, anything that has withstood the different decades must mean it’s pretty important and pretty solid," Izzo told SUCCESS. "I think you'll find a lot of what Coach Wooden did is pretty important and pretty solid. Sometimes the world gets so big, we say, ‘What is one guy? Can he make a difference?’ Nelson Mandela did. Muhammad Ali did. In my mind, John Wooden did.”
Photo credit: © Pat Lovell/CAL Sport Media
Head coach of the Michigan State men’s basketball team and winner of the John R. Wooden award
“What Coach Wooden had done that so impressed me was to pull together his own vision, philosophy and belief system into a detailed plan for winning. Once he had it, he went on, year after year, to build teams that were almost unstoppable.” —Win Forever by Pete Carroll
Photo credit: © Jacob Kupferman/CSM via ZUMA Wire
Head coach and executive vice president for the Seattle Seahawks and author of Win Forever
“I learned so many lessons from Coach about how to be a coach, which then translated to how to be a better person and leader," Enquist tells SUCCESS. "I think one of the things I loved about what Coach Wooden taught me was the importance of having awareness about yourself and your impact on others.”
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Women’s Sports Foundation
Former UCLA women’s softball player and coach
“Everything Coach Wooden taught and did is what we all still look at today, 41 years later,” Boeheim tells SUCCESS. “There have been a lot of great coaches, but we never talk about other coaches—it always comes back to Coach Wooden. There’s a reason for that: He did things the way we would all like to do them. The basic core principles are really what people admire and look up to today, and it probably will be the same thing 40 years from now.”
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Head men’s basketball coach at Syracuse University and winner of the John R. Wooden Award
“There has been no greater influence on college basketball than Coach Wooden—not just about the game, but the team,” Calhoun told SUCCESS. “In my opinion if he’s not as important as Dr. James Naismith [who invented the game of basketball], he’s right next to him.”
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Former head coach of the University of Connecticut’s men’s basketball team and winner of the John R. Wooden “Legends of Coaching” Award
“What Coach Wooden’s definition of success did, it made you focus more on the journey, as opposed to the end result. And the journey always lasts much longer than the end result. The journey, the day-to-day grind, the daily grind that it takes to become a winner is what you focus on.”
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Head men’s basketball coach for the University of Washington and winner of the
Coach Wooden
“Keys to Life” Award
“I don’t believe in the word or the concept of failure," Kondos Field tells SUCCESS. "I believe 100 percent in Coach Wooden’s definition of success: Success in life is peace of mind, and that peace of mind comes from knowing you’ve done your best.”
Photo credit: AP Photo/Phil Sandlin
Head women’s gymnastics coach at UCLA
“I always bring it all back to the Pyramid. I mean for me, whenever I see something or I feel like I’ve learned something new, I can look at the Pyramid and I can draw a parallel to that. That for me kind of keeps you centered.”
Photo credit: Romeo Guzman/Cal Sport Media/ZUMApress
Head coach of Wake Forest University Men’s Basketball and recipient of the John R. Wooden Award for Player of the Year
“Coach Wooden’s style of teaching and correction greatly influenced me as an NFL head coach. I learned quickly that when an athlete has a problem in his or her personal life or on the field, how you correct that athlete becomes important.” —The Greatest Coach Ever
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Former NFL player, former head coach of the Indianapolis Colts and Professional Football Hall of Fame Inductee
“The Pyramid of Success was important to me as a basketball player, one of Coach’s players, but then in life I’ve used it constantly, applying it to my own career as an actor," Bridges tells SUCCESS. "And I’ve passed it on to certainly all my children.”
Photo credit: © Charbonneau/Rex Features/Zuma Wire
Emmy Award-winning actor and former UCLA basketball player
“If I were speaking to a group of people that came to me and said, ‘Coach, who is the best mentor I can send my son to, to give him a chance to be a success in life?’ I’d say ‘You send him to John Wooden and see if he’ll accept you,’” Bowden told SUCCESS.
Photo credit: © Richard Graulich/The Palm Beach
Post/Zuma Wire
Former head football coach at Florida State University and College Football Hall of Fame inductee
“The team that the coach was most proud of was the team that didn’t win, but did the best they could, which was the sermon I was giving every time I was managing a team that had no chance to win the championship.”
Photo credit: Photo by Andrew Toth/FilmMagic
Former MLB player, color commentator, National Baseball Hall of Fame Inductee and MLB chief baseball officer
“From the first time that I met him, I knew he would be my life’s most significant mentor," Brown told SUCCESS. "John Wooden is a legend in basketball, but more important, he is a legend in serving mankind. He was a master teacher and mentor.”
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Former head coach of the Louisiana State University men’s basketball team and National Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame inductee
“I never heard him talking about the Pyramid of Success in all the time I played for him and coached with him… but that was his philosophy. That’s the way he lived. Not until later in my life did I realize that all these things in the Pyramid, all the blocks, were things that he was teaching us over and over. But he never mentioned it.”
Photo credit: Tony Mastres, UCSB Photo Services
Former head coach of UCLA men’s basketball and former UCLA men’s assistant basketball coach under Coach Wooden
“But it wasn’t just [Wooden’s] wisdom as a coach that made him so remarkable. He was a man of dignity and integrity. When you looked at him, you saw those traits. The characteristics that are part of the greatest men and women on this planet—he made those come alive with his life.” —A Game Plan for Life by Don Yaeger
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Head coach of the Duke University men’s basketball team, coach of the U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team and College Basketball Hall of Fame inductee
“I think what makes [Coach] so amazing is he has been so timeless. His principles have stood the test over every sport and every generation. I just think when something works, when it’s truth, then it lives on. That’s why so many of us coaches feel so much responsibility to continue that.” —“Carrying on John Wooden's legacy,” ESPN
Head coach of the University of California-Los Angeles women’s basketball team
“He really defined a philosophy that I believe in, which is worrying about how you play the game. He would go through practices and he wouldn’t even talk about the other team, or what they were doing. He understood the perspective that you have to have if you’re not just a coach but a mentor, and that support group that players need. I think that crosses any line of different sports.” —“Angels' Scioscia recalls time with Wooden,” Pasadena Star-News
Photo credit: © Charbonneau/Rex Features/Zuma Wire
Former MLB player and current manager for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
“I had a wonderful upbringing. This is where my life was formed. I first became interested in basketball because my dad taught political science at UCLA during the John Wooden years, which was a great time to be a fan. I was a ball boy in the mid-’70s.” —“Kerr Relives His Palisades Hoop Days,” Palisadian-Post
Photo credit: Cal Sport Media/Zumapress
Former professional basketball player, head coach of the Golden State Warriors, earning a combined six NBA championships as a player and coach.
“Everybody knows about the wins and the national championships [Coach] won, the players he coached. But the man himself was as humble a man as you’ll ever meet. And to have the success that he had makes you want to be like him, you want to emulate him.” —“Tubby Smith Talks John Wooden Award Honor,” Big 12 Digital Network
Photo credit: Leon Bennett/Getty Images
Head coach of the University of Memphis men’s basketball team and John R. Wooden Legends of Coaching award recipient.
When John Wooden died in June 2010, lifelong basketball fan President Obama said in a White House statement recognizing the Coach’s impact, “On and off the court, he never stopped teaching. He never stopped preparing his players and everyone he met to be their best. Despite all the records and the championships, he once said that it wasn’t the tournaments or the games he missed the most, it was the practice and the preparation.”
44th President of the United States
As a former collegiate athlete, Kelly was influenced by Wooden’s heartfelt leadership principles and has led Southwest Airlines with a similar approach of winning his team’s hearts: Work hard, have fun and take care of each other. Writing for the World Economic Forum in collaboration with LinkedIn, Kelly extolled Wooden as an example of great leadership, saying, “You have to be not just willing, but eager, to work harder than anyone else—words from the great UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden.”
Southwest Airlines chairman, president and CEO
Presenting John Wooden the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2003, President Bush said, “All his players will tell you, the most important man on their team was not on the court. He was the man who taught generations of basketball players the fundamentals of hard work and discipline, patience and teamwork. Coach Wooden remains a part of their lives as a teacher of the game, and as an example of what a good man should be.”
43rd President of the United States
When Ueberroth accepted the John Wooden Global Leadership Program award in 2011, he told the UCLA audience, “Wooden would explain something to you that is very complicated but he’d give you clarity, and you knew you were in the presence of a very special person.” The program is presented in partnership with the Wooden family, and one leader is honored each year.
Former MLB commissioner, Olympian
“As a former college athlete, I enjoy reading sports-themed books, especially written by the legendary UCLA coach John Wooden,” Roberts told The New York Times. “I often think of one of his quotes: Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”
Good Morning America anchor, former host of ESPN’s Sportscenter and former college basketball player
Actor and director Tom Hanks found John Wooden’s teachings so transformative, he has explored a movie that would bring the coach’s story to live, the Wooden family tells SUCCESS.
Academy Award-winning actor, comedian and filmmaker
“I learned a lot from Wooden before I got to know him very well. “I used to go watch his practices when we weren’t practicing,” Scates told The Orange County Register. “[After Wooden retired], he was here every day. He would answer his own correspondence. He would bring his own stamps. He didn’t want to use the university’s stamps and his own envelopes and he would answer every fan letter that would come across his desk. He liked to talk about baseball. We just chatted. We became pretty good friends.”
Former UCLA volleyball player, former head coach of the University of California-Los Angeles men’s volleyball team and UCLA Hall of Fame inductee
“I think that says it all about [Wooden]. Talk about a very simple approach, covering the basics from A to Z, but was not a control freak…. I’ve been very fortunate to cross paths with some very cool people. He’s at the very top.” —“Maddon recalls meeting with John Wooden,” Tampa Bay Times
Former head coach of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and current manager of the Chicago Cubs
Pat Summitt, who had the most career wins in NCAA history, used one of Wooden’s core philosophies with her players. “I picked up a saying from the legendary UCLA coach John Wooden: ‘I don’t treat them all the same, but I treat them fairly.’ I asked all our players to achieve the same standard, but I couldn’t ask all of them in the same way.” — Sum it Up by Pat Summitt
Former head coach of the University of Tennessee women’s basketball team
Coach John Wooden praised Donahue’s commitment to the UCLA community and was quoted by UCLA Alumni saying: “I believe that a head coach, particularly at UCLA, should be judged by his or her peers within the university community at large as to whether the student-athletes with whom the coach was entrusted become not only excellent athletes but also, and more importantly, better students and better all-around individuals… There is no doubt in my mind that Terry Donahue deserves the recognition of having achieved that very ethereal form of success.”
Former UCLA head football coach
In his farewell speech when he stepped down as New York Giants head coach, Tom Coughlin said: “You see these gentlemen here in the crowd that have played for this organization, they represent what I’m talking about. Not just winners on the field, but better yet winners in life, people you can be proud of. You’d like these people for your next-door neighbor. John Wooden said, ‘Reputation is what people think of you, character is who you really are.’ Character. We try to develop the character of each man who walked through these doors. Character is what endures.”
Former New York Giants head coach and author of Earn the Right to Win
“Coach Wooden was great through the years in coaching and speaking, I spoke with him a few times after my first year in the pros and it’s amazing how much he knew about basketball,” he said to NewsOK.
Former UCLA basketball player and Oklahoma City Thunder player
“I’ve read his books, and I’ve been a fan of Coach for a long time,” Bryant told ESPN upon Wooden’s death in 2010. “His legacy is unmatched. It’s unreal. You talk to players that played for him, they all say he has made them better people, aside from basketball. Just them as people, he’s helped them be better. That’s the true testimony to his legacy.”
Former Los Angeles Laker and five-time NBA champion
“I have always admired John Wooden, not only for his success on the basketball court, but also for his success in creating a legacy of excellence and integrity,” Robinson wrote in the foreword of Coach Wooden's Pyramid of Success. “John Wooden is remembered for his teaching ability. They didn’t call him ‘Coach’ for nothing. His Pyramid of Success has been the cornerstone of his teaching for many years.”
Former NBA player and two-time NBA champion
“John Wooden was a rock star to me growing up,” Love wrote about meeting Wooden for the first time in The Players Tribune. “Coach didn’t want to talk about basketball, or about himself. Instead, he wanted to know about my character, my friends, my family, and what interested me outside of sports. Coach Wooden may have been in his later years, but he could still run circles around you with his wit and intellect.”
Former UCLA basketball player and Cleveland Cavaliers player
“I learned after I started playing for Coach Wooden that we never were concerned with whom our opponent was,” Warren told Indiana Basketball History Magazine. “He believed that if we prepared ourselves to the best of our ability, we’d win a lot more games than we’d lose. ‘Failure to prepare is preparing to fail’ was almost his daily mantra.”
Actor and former UCLA basketball player
While NBA player Stephen Curry and John Wooden never crossed paths, the All-Star point guard has been the beneficiary of the UCLA Coach’s wisdom through Wooden devotees coach Steve Kerr and Bob Myers, the Golden State Warriors GM who built his team, with Curry among its stars, based on John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success.
On Wooden’s response to the challenges of recruiting top high school athletes: “ ‘Dick, if I can give you some advice, stop worrying about what [University of Southern California] is doing and focus on the players you have and doing the best you can do.’ [It was like] getting hit over the head with a sledge hammer.” —“Leadership Lessons from a Winner,” Independent Agent
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Former head coach of the University of California-Los Angeles football team, former NFL head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs
Leslie served as a guest coach for the first annual John Wooden Memorial Celebrity Game. Also, Leslie was honored at the John Wooden Pyramid of Success Awards. "[Coach] was an amazing man who changed the game of basketball, and it was an honor for me to be a part of it,” she told ESPN.
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Former WNBA player and two-time WNBA champion
Although Oz never had the opportunity to meet Coach Wooden, the former collegiate athlete tells SUCCESS he is an enthusiastic fan of Wooden’s Pyramid of Success and often quotes the coach’s famous sayings to his family and employees.
Professor of surgery at Columbia University and host of The Dr. Oz Show
“My next guest profiles the extraordinary life and career of a fella, just remarkable in every way: former UCLA basketball coach, the legend John Wooden,” Dobbs said as he introduced Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach’s Life on Lou Dobbs Tonight in January 2014. “I’m partial to Coach Wooden, I got to know him over the years. [He was] the last Division I coach to actually teach a class in any sport. He was something.”
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Host of Lou Dobbs Tonight on Fox Business Network
Coach said his most enjoyable moments while teaching were watching young players improve. One of the players he was greatly impressed with was Doug McIntosh. Even though McIntosh did not a have the same physical ability as others, Coach Wooden was impressed at his focus on fundamentals and efficiency.
Pastor and former UCLA basketball player
In “The Making of a Leader” weekend seminar, Jim Rohn gave listeners a checklist of things to look for in future team members. He described a leadership moment where Coach Wooden used on-the-spot results to find the right player for a certain position. “You know, the great coach John Wooden I’m sure said to the supposedly skilled young basketball player, he says, ‘Sir, can you hit it from the corner? I got to have me a corner man who can hit it from the corner.’ And, well, how are we gonna know if you can hit it from the corner? John says, ‘Well, I’ll just stand here and you just fire away and I’ll count.’ That’s how you finally tell. Just launch a few, and I’ll just, I’ll just keep score here, cause I’ve got to have somebody who can hit it from the corner.”
Late motivational speaker and author
"[Coach Wooden] said pressure is a great thing because one, it means you are there and in the mix. And two, he said, 'embrace it,' so as a young coach I always have kind of taken that approach," she told
Head coach of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, former head women’s soccer coach for the UCLA Bruins