Sunday, June 6, 2010

John Wooden (1911-2010), R.I.P.

In honor of Coach John Wooden, who died Friday at age 99, I am re-posting the TED talk he gave at the TED Conference in 2001. It is an enduring classic given by a man universally acknowledged to be one of the greatest coaches ever to have lived. (The string of wins his basketball teams racked up at UCLA is still unmatched.) As I wrote when I posted this earlier, "He started his career as an English teacher, and his love of poetry shines through as he talks---as does also his ability to speak in complete, structured sentences. His simple, direct humility in speaking the truth (and in knowing when he has said enough) is inspiring."

A high-resolution version of the talk is available here. Also, if you enjoyed the talk, you will enjoy reading this interview about him posted on the TED blogsite. Here's an excerpt, to whet your appetite:

How did you first meet Coach Wooden and how did your relationship with him evolve?

It was totally unforeseeable. I interviewed him for another project I was doing that involved talking to the top performers in sports to understand their way of thinking and see how that could be applied elsewhere.

In my mind, he wasn't a big deal. I was more impressed with his players. If you're an average fan, like I was, you don't talk to the bench. I knew he was good, but I didn't go into the interview with any sense of awe. I actually took my dad along, because my dad understood and he was excited.

All of that changed when I met Coach Wooden. He has this combination of great inner strength and great inner youthfulness. As we went on, I got to see much more of what he was about.

When I got back to transcribe the conversation, I realized that every single sentence was fully formed, enlightening and substantive. I just kept re-reading it. And it was about leadership and life, not basketball. He said things like, "Don't forget, Steve, the most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother."
In a comment to the earlier post, Colette pointed us to another great video of Coach Wooden -- made more recently than the one above, about the concept of "pursuing victory with honor."

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