Have you heard? Coach John Wooden is likely in his last days at the UCLA Hospital. I have never been a UCLA fan. I have raely rooted for Purdue. I do admit that I am prejudice in that Coach Wooden is from Indiana. But even the most objective observer must confirm Coach Wooden is the best coach of basketball that has ever been. Ten national titles in 27 years. That is more than remarkable. Most successful coaches today coach until they can no longer walk. Wooden quietly retired one year after his last national title. He certainly could have racked up another 100 or 200 wins if he wanted to. But clearly that was never the goal of this great coach. In Jim Collin's book "Good to Great" Collins talks about great companies and how their goal is to be the best at what they do in the whole world. Profit, or in Wooden's case 'wins', are nothing but a by-product of doing the right things. Wooden did about all of the right things.
Here I am a huge IU fan. My beloved Bob Knight sits on top of the NCAA coaching victories. Three national titles at IU after running a clean program and graduating his players. Still, in my heart, I find that character trumps everything else. As much as I love IU and Knight, the person that John Wooden is makes him the greatest coach of basketball. As I write this, there is another remarkable coach that comes to mind and that is Phil Jackson. We can argue that pro ball and college ball is apples and oranges, but you cannot deny that Phil Jackson has to be a coach included in any discussion of the greatest coach the sport of basketball has ever seen. We may even argue that Wooden is the best there ever will be, because he was not about wins, he was about being a winner.
Wooden would frequently refer back to his Indiana roots that shaped him. I pray the truth can be said for me and my children one day. No doubt there will be hundreds and maybe thousands gathered for the funeral of a great man soon. I m convinced that those who speak of John Wooden will talk far more about his love for them, his drive for excellence and his ability to teach then his records. I have heard it said that you look at a grave stone and see the year of birth, a dash, and the year of death. The story is in the dash. For John Wooden, a coach for all coaches, your dash is an amazing story. You have enriched many of our lives. You make me proud to be a fellow Hoosier. Lord, prepare a special place for this man.