John Wooden MemorialSpeech
Confidence. Initiative. Friendship. Loyalty. Poise. Competitive greatness.
We recognize these words as the building blocks of John Wooden’s Pyramid of Success, a copy of which hangs in my office. These powerful words — and the philosophy they represent — have become an enduring blueprint for excellence and inspire many to achieve greatness.
Perhaps the finest measure of John Wooden’s legacy is that along with his unparalleled coaching career, we remember him as a singular mentor and teacher. First and foremost, he was an educator.
He started his career as both an English teacher and a coach and stated his belief that “education — classroom schooling — is the fundamental purpose of a college or university. Athletes or athletic programs that stray off that path are doing themselves a disservice.”
John Wooden — the educator — used teachable moments to share important life lessons. Thirty-five years after he coached his last game here at Pauley Pavilion, Coach’s influence at UCLA, and beyond, remains undiminished.
His lessons live on through his players. Many of them used what they learned from Coach Wooden as the foundation for successful careers. As fathers, they shared Coach’s advice with their children.
His lessons live on through those whose lives he touched — even briefly. In the past few weeks, I’ve received messages from around the world expressing an outpouring of affection, respect, and gratitude for John Wooden.
Some came from colleagues and former players, others from individuals who had only a fleeting interaction with Coach — passing him on campus, sneaking into a practice in Pauley or perhaps encountering him in a grocery store or restaurant.
But their memories, like mine — of his kindness, integrity and wisdom — echo those of the student-athletes whose lives he shaped.
His lessons also live on through his written words. A copy of his famous “blue book” is never far from my desk.
His imprint is everywhere at UCLA.
Today, we celebrate a man who made his life his masterpiece; a man who never stopped teaching and learning.
As a great educator, he knew that education is a lifelong journey.
We at UCLA had the tremendous privilege of sharing that journey with John Wooden.
A life we will remember, always.
We offer our deepest sympathy to Nan, Jim, and the entire Wooden family.
They will always be a part of UCLA.