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The Time to Make Friends

The time to make friends is before you need them.

This quote reflects the way Coach Wooden lived. His father, Joshua Wooden, gave him many key pieces of advice, such as help others and make friendship a fine art, which he followed on a daily basis.

Coach always looked for the good in people. He believed that if you look for the best in others, that’s probably what you’ll find.

In his book Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court with Steve Jamison, Coach repeated a story he often told to make this point:

There’s an old story about a fellow who went to a small town in Indiana with the thought of possibly moving his family there. “What kind of people live around here?” he asked the attendant at the local filling station.
“Well,” the attendant replied as he checked the oil, “what kind of people live back where you’re from?” The visitor took a swallow of his cherry soda and replied, “They’re ornery, mean and dishonest!”
The attendant looked up and answered, “Mister, you’ll find them about like that around here, too.”
A few weeks later, another gentleman stopped by the gas station on a muggy July afternoon with the same question.
“Excuse me,” he said as he mopped off his brow. “I’m thinking of moving to your town with my family. What kind of people live around these parts?”
Again the attendant asked, “Well, what kind of people live back where you’re from?”
The stranger thought for a moment and replied, “I find them to be kind, decent and honest folks.”
The gas station attendant looked up and said, “Mister, you’ll find them about like that around here, too.”
It’s so true. You often find what you’re looking for.

With an attitude of trust and optimism Coach made time for and took a genuine interest in everybody he met.

His phone number was listed in directory assistance, and he made his best effort to make time for all who called and wanted to visit with him.

He sat for hours upon hours signing autographs at no charge for all that asked.

He was legendary for the way that he made himself available to all coaches at the Final Four who wanted to visit with him, whether it was in the hotel lobby or a coffee shop.

He personally wrote and returned every piece of correspondence or Pyramid of Success request that he received.

He made new friends every day.

With thousands in attendance at his memorial service in Pauley Pavilion, Reverend Dudley Rutherford requested that anybody in attendance who ever had an item signed by John Wooden stand up. I looked around and I didn’t see anybody sitting down.

What a friend!

What a life!

Related: The Value of Friendship

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.