The greatest basketball coach in history is gone. UCLA’s John Wooden has died at 99.Â
I had the pleasure of introducing Coach Wooden at a sales meeting for a technology company I worked for in Irvine.Â He discussed his pillars of success and it was as inspirational a speech as anything Ive ever heard.Â Since it was a sales meeting and college basketball recruiting is so cut-throat, I asked Coach Wooden what was it he said to recruits to get them to come to UCLA?
“I don’t understand your question,” he said. “I only recruited players who wanted to come to UCLA.”
He then told a story of a prized recruit they were after. The player had agreed to sign a letter of intent.Â Wooden and members of his staff showed up at the boy’s home with the letter and sat at the table discussing the terms of the scholarship with the player as the player’s mom served the coaches coffee.Â
The mom asked Coach Wooden about a particular field of study and if it was available at the school. Before she could finish her sentence, her son – the star player – verbally dressed down his mother for asking the coach such a stupid question.Â
With a glance to both his coaches, Wooden and the men stood up.Â He looked at the boy and said, “I’m sorry son, but I can’t offer you this scholarship.Â If you don’t respect your mother, there’s no way you will respect me.”
And with that, they left.
We all asked who the player was, and Coach Wooden then admonished us?Â “Does that really matter?”
No sir.Â It doesn’t.
Rest in peace Coach Wooden.