The Wisdom of Wooden: My Century On and Off the Court

The Wisdom of Wooden: My Century On and Off the Court

by Steve Jamison, John Wooden


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The Wisdom of Wooden is John Wooden’s final book, completed just weeks before his passing in June 2010. In it he shares his most treasured memories and never-before-seen photographs as he looks back on an extraordinary life on and off the court.

Hailed by many as the greatest coach in the history of American sports, John Wooden is as famous for his personal philosophy as he is for his career achievements. He inspired, guided, and motivated generations of fans with his bestselling books on leadership, values, family, and the true meaning of success.

Coach Wooden wrote his final book, The Wisdom of Wooden: My Century On and Off the Court, in the last months before his death. Filled with his most treasured memories and more than 100 photographs, many never-before seen, it captures a life spent teaching, guiding, and serving others. Starting with his father’s now-famous 7 Point Creed—including “Make Each Day Your Masterpiece,” “Help Others,” and “Be True to Yourself,”—Coach Wooden affirms the principles to true success that helped him become an All American at Purdue University, a winning coach at Indiana State University, and an iconic sports figure at UCLA.

Yet anyone who knows John Wooden knows his record on the court was only part of the story. In The Wisdom of Wooden the legendary coach offers readers a rare glimpse not just behind the scenes but inside the man; not just on the court but in the huddles; not just his maxims but his poems, those he wrote and those he loved; not just the people he inspired, but the family, friends, and fans who inspired him; not just the lessons he taught but the lessons he learned; not just what was on his mind but what was in his heart.

Ultimately it was the life he lived that served as a model for his greatest lesson of all: a deep commitment to family, friends, and faith—the bedrock values of the man we all called, “Coach.”

Praise for John Wooden

The Wisdom of Wooden has given me the life that I have . . . Thanks, Coach, for your faith and patience.”
—Bill Walton

The Wisdom of Wooden is a lifetime of Coach Wooden’s ideas on how to live life without sacrificing your moral principles. His life is a prime example of how this can be done—one that we can all learn from.”
—Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

“John Wooden sets an example for all of us by constantly striving to be the best in every aspect of his life. Throughout my life, I have found inspiration and direction in the Bible. Today, I also find inspiration and direction in the words of John Wooden.”
—Tom Coughlin, Head Coach, New York Giants

“One hundred years—what an amazing life. But here’s what's even more amazing about John Wooden and the timeless verities his life has embodied. One hundred years from now they will still be talking about his accomplishments and his approach.”
—Bob Costas

"There has never been a finer man in American sports than John Wooden, or a finer coach."
Sports Illustrated

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780071751162
Publisher: McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing
Publication date: 07/08/2010
Edition description: List
Pages: 80
Sales rank: 282,133
Product dimensions: 11.92(w) x 9.34(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

John Wooden (1910-2010), guided the UCLA Bruins to ten NCAA basketball championships over a 12-year period, including four perfect seasons and an 88-game winning streak. He was named ESPN’s “Greatest Coach of the 20th Century” and voted “#1 Coach of All Time” by The Sporting News. Sports Illustrated said it best when they said: “There’s never been a finer man in American sports than John Wooden, or a finer coach.” In 2003 John Wooden was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Steve Jamison is America's foremost author and authority on the life and philosophy of John Wooden. Mr. Jamison is a consultant to the UCLA Anderson Scool of Business’ John Wooden Global Leadership Program. He has collaborated with Coach Wooden on an award-winning PBS presentation as well as several books, including the classic book on teaching and mentoring, Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections.

Read an Excerpt


My Century On and Off the Court

By Coach John Wooden, STEVE JAMISON

The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Copyright © 2010John Wooden and Steve Jamison
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-07-175116-2




Dad believed everyone should have a philosophy of life if you were to amount to anything. When I graduated from a small country grade school in Centerton, Indiana, he handed me a small gift, a 3 x 5 note card on which he wrote in pencil "7 Suggestions to Follow." It was a philosophy of life that he hoped would help me amount to something: "Johnny, try and live up to these things and you'll do all right." I came to call his gift the "7 Point Creed."

1. Be True to Yourself

Your integrity begins with you. If you are not true to yourself, how can you be true to others? It's impossible. Polonius tells his son Laertes in Hamlet: "This above all, to thine own self be true, and it must follow as the night the day, thou cans't not then be false to any man." Dad believed there are no moral or ethical holidays. I agree.

I enlisted in the Navy without telling Nellie (that's our crew on the left during naval training exercises, with me standing farthest left). I knew I had to serve my country; I also knew that Nell, a wife and mother, would be extremely anxious and upset about what could happen. But like millions of other Americans, I did what I had to do.

"Dare to be Daniel/Dare to stand alone/Dare to have purpose firm/Dare to make it known." —P. Bliss

Coaching was my path to helping others. I received the Presidential Medal of Freedom by following my father's advice. I appreciate the honor, but the greater honor and joy was in the act itself—helping others.

"You cannot live a perfect day without doing something for another without thought of getting something in return."

—Mother teresa

2. Help Others

There is a mystical law of nature that says the three things we crave most in life—happiness, freedom, and peace of mind—are always attained by giving them to someone else. Your true happiness comes from giving, not getting. It's a basic precept of all great religions: the Golden Rule.

After WWII, I coached the Sycamores at Indiana State Teacher's College from 1946–1948.

3. Make Each Day Your Masterpiece

You cannot change yesterday, and a better tomorrow will be the result of what you do today. If you do your best, angels can do no better. And this present moment—right now—is when you have that opportunity.

That's me in 1969 with my two assistant coaches, Denny Crum and Gary Cunningham.

This picture was taken moments after I coached my last game—UCLA's 92-85 victory over kentucky in the 1975 NCAA final.

"Learn today as though you were to live forever; live today as if you were to die tomorrow."

4. Drink Deeply From Good Books, Including the Good Book

There is no book that compares to the Bible, but Dad also read Shakespeare to his sons, and lots of poetry. I continued reading—the philosophers, biographies of great individuals, and other good literature. Dad reminded me often, "Johnny, you'll never learn a thing that you didn't learn from someone else." Good books help us do that.

When I graduated from Purdue, I was awarded the Big 10 medal for scholastic and athletic achievement. It made me proud, because Dad always stressed education. All four of his sons graduated and became teachers. He taught us to love good books.

5. Make Friendship a Fine Art

In spite of all that doctors know, And their studies never end, the best cure of all when spirits fall Is a kind note from a friend.

— John Wooden

6. Build a Shelter against a Rainy Day

Dad was concerned with building a shelter from the storms of life, but equally important was building a spiritual shelter. Consider all things, not merely material things. He told me, "I don't know what the future holds, but I do know who holds the future."

Nell, Nan, Jim, and me on the couch of our home in Terre Haute, Indiana after I agreed to become the new head coach at UCLA, April 1948. Jimmy didn't look too happy about it.

That's my brother Billy (left), my brother Dan, my mother, me, and my brother Maurice taken at the time of my father's passing. During times of tragedy, there is no stronger shelter than that provided by family.

"Don't let making a living prevent you from making a life."

7. Pray for Guidance, Count and Give Thanks for Your Blessings Each Day

You'll be much happier if you spend as much time thinking about your blessings as you do about your troubles.

In this regard, it is helpful to forget favors given and remember those received.

"Four things a man must do/If he would make his life more true/to think without confusion clearly/to love his fellow man sincerely/to act from honest motives purely/to trust in God and heaven securely." —Rev. Henry Van Dyke

Two sets of Three's

This picture of my three brothers and me with Dad is very significant: It's the only photo I have of the five of us together on the farm. Dad was the best man I ever knew, and the wisest. That's Billy on the left, then Dan, me, Maurice, and our father.

For many years before Dad gave me his 7 Point Creed, he had drilled in my three brothers and me what he called the two sets of three's. It was a simple guide to honesty and behavior:

1. Never lie.

2. Never cheat.

3. Never steal.

1. Don't whine.

2. Don't complain.

3. Don't make excuses.

Although I fall short of living up to my father's 7 Point Creed and two sets of three's, I have found them to be meaningful in every phase of my life. I am much like the one who said, "I am not what I ought to be; not what I want to be; not what I am going to be; but I am thankful that I am better than what I used to be."

The person you are is the person your children become. Show love and compassion, self-control and discipline; seek knowledge and demonstrate good values.


I am a teacher. Next to parenting itself, I believe that teaching is the most important profession in the world. Coaching is just another word for teaching; you may have a whistle, but you're still a teacher. I taught basketball, baseball, tennis, and English in South Bend, Indiana for nine years. That's me with the South Bend Central High School Bruins in the picture above.

At its highest level, teaching allows you to be a person who helps others become the best they can be. What can be more important—or fulfilling—than that?


The University of Chicago's Coach Amos Alonzo Stagg was congratulated by a local reporter after a good season back in the 1920s: "You did a great job!"

Coach Stagg paused, then replied, "I won't know how good a job I did for twenty years. That's when I'll see how my boys turned out."

The wins and losses matter: "How my boys turned out," mattered more to Coach Stagg. It mattered more to me, too.

The very positive influence of Ward "Piggy" Lambert (on the right)—my coach, teacher, and mentor at Purdue University—could only be repaid by helping others as he had helped me. I think he would be proud of how my own students became good citizens. I hope he would have been proud of how I turned out.

"[A]s the coach—probably so the boy." Young people need good models more than they need critics. In the 1940s I wrote this reminder to myself of the responsibilities I a

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