Three years ago during this site’s infancy, the announcement was made that UCLA would be renovating Pauley Pavilion with the intention of having it ready for the 2010 season. The goal was to dedicate the restoration of Pauley to Coach John Wooden on October 14th, 2010 — the day he would turn 100 years old. Unfortunately Wooden died on Friday evening, June 4th, four months prior to his 100th birthday. Though we’re saddened that Wooden died, the lessons he taught, the messages he delivered, the way he lived his life, and everything positive for which he stood still lives on.
At a time when people are concerned with being the star of the show, the center of attention, and building their own brands, Wooden preached teamwork, cooperation and togetherness. He famously said that “The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.” Can you imagine Hanley Ramirez hearing this from Wooden the day after he loafed to a ball in left field and rationalized it by saying the other guys on the team can’t play as well as he can?
In a 12-year span, Wooden’s teams won 10 national championships and often played at their highest possible level, winning 88 straight games at one point. No matter how good your team is, winning when you have a target on your back and you’re taking everyone’s best shot is never easy. When you win 88 straight games and seven straight national titles, you’re not having off days and unfocused moments. Maybe his teams did not have those let downs because Wooden believed that “Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.” Wooden, his players, and his teams, didn’t just settle for beating opponents or winning conference titles — they wanted to be as good as they were capable of being.