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John Wooden on Leadership: More Than Just a Basketball Coach

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While sitting and watching coverage of Coach Wooden's passing over the weekend, I became slightly frustrated by some of the graphics and crawls that ran on the various sports channels. They all were versions of the same thing, lists of Coach's national championships, his winning streaks, his win totals and his other records.

Please don't misunderstand, those records and accomplishments represent what the world knows of John Wooden. The frustration was all mine, rooted in the fact that my own association with Coach Wooden was rooted just as much in his post-coaching life.

You see, Coach's on-court accomplishments were basically before my time. I mean, I was born before he retired, but grew up in a household with no particular interest in UCLA (I'm only the second college graduate in my family and my uncle attended a couple of small, but well respected schools in the East). My dad liked basketball, but it was the pros he followed and as a result so did I. Bill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar weren't Bruins to me, they were a Portland Trail Blazer and a Milwaukee Buck turned Los Angeles Laker.

But my real interest in Coach Wooden didn't come until much later in my business career. A colleague gave me a copy of one of his books --Wooden on Leadership -- and I found the wisdom contained therein so simple yet profound that I made it a point to read everything he wrote on life and business. Ironically, I never read any of his basketball coaching books; I'm a fan, but not a coach, and have no reason really to parse the details of the fast break or the zone press.

With all that in mind I'd like to use this post to demonstrate a different side of Coach Wooden.

Below, check out the links to some stuff I found a the UCLA Anderson School of Management web site. There, you will find a tasteful tribute to Coach, along with some links to some videos he did. While everyone knows about the Wooden Award, given to the top college basketball player in the nation, you should know there is also a John Wooden Global Leadership Award, awarded annually by UCLA's management school in affiliation with the John Wooden Global Leadership Program. To date, the school (according to the web site) has recognized Howard Schultz of Starbucks, Ken Chenault of American Express and Fred Smith of Federal Express with the management-version of the Wooden Award.

We can't embed this video format, but ON THS PAGE there are links to several excellent videos including a conversation between Coach Wooden and Andy Serwer of Fortune Magazine, a conversation between Coach Wooden and an Anderson professor on leadership and a few others from past John Wooden Global Leadership Award banquets.(It's believed that the video on the upper right -- Coach Wooden with Deborah Roberts -- is the great man's last public appearance. He's in the video with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Keith Erickson and Jamaal Wilkes.)

Coach Wooden also co-authored some excellent books on leadership and management (and there is a new one that will be published posthumously.) Here are links to the books on Amazon:

Wooden on Leadership

The Essential Wooden: A Lifetime on Leadership and Leading 

A Game Plan For Life: The Power of Mentoring 

There are others, of course.Click here for a list of all of coach's books at the Amazon site. I do recommend the above three wholeheartedly.