It was the summer of 2000. I had recently graduated from university with a bachelor’s degree and was off to start my much-anticipated young adult life in Southern California. Before my coaching career started, I landed my very first job at an entertainment company at Fox. One afternoon, my buddy and I took our lunch break and went to the famous Apple Pan in Westwood, CA. While sitting at the bar contemplating and enjoying my yummy hickory burger, an elderly gentleman greeted me with a friendly “hello.” We proceeded to talk about how good the burgers were and how over the years he had visited this establishment many times. Having had a pleasant conversation with the man, I paid my check and said goodbye. As I walked away from the restaurant, my buddy checked me and said, “ You just had lunch with the greatest basketball coach of all time!” I didn’t know it then, but I had just spent my lunch break with one of the all-time greats, Coach John Wooden. To this day, it’s an experience that is so special to me. I’m almost grateful that I didn’t know who he was because over the years I learned so much more about him: what he stood for as a coach, a teacher, and a mentor.
To recap, as the head coach of the University of California at Los Angeles, Wooden won ten NCAA national championships, with an overall head coaching record of 664 wins. No coach compiled as many wins or dominated the game like Wooden did from 1962 to 1975, with his UCLA Bruins winning those ten national championships in 12 years and with seven of the wins back-to-back. The Bruins also had an amazing four undefeated regular seasons. From 1972 to 1974, his team won 88 consecutive games. Wooden believed in building on simple concepts to inspire and considered himself a teacher, which he had actually been at the very start of his career. In the final game of his career, he won an NCAA championship, leading one of his less imposing teams to a victory over Kentucky. He retired just short of his 65th birthday.
"Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming." - John Wooden