Wooden and Roy: A Coaching Legacy Continues on the Ice

What would Coach Roy - or Coach Wooden - say in this moment? - Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming. - Coach John Wooden

By that measure, the 2013-14 Colorado Avalanche season was a resounding success, and a big part of that was 1st year head coach, Patrick Roy (that's Wah for you non-Canuck speakers).

For you U.C.L.A. Bruins who aren't familiar with Patrick Roy, he's this guy...

credit: wicky0teriyaki on YouTube

And this guy:

credit: Tezmyster on YouTube

And this guy

credit: FightingSaintsWHA on YouTube

You Kings fans back home might remember a wink back in 1993, too.

Saint Patty is a hero in these parts for his incredible goaltending career that brought 2 precious Stanley Cups (of his 4 total) to our town, but when Patrick Roy returned to Denver to take over the woeful Avalanche last season, some questioned whether it was just a PR move to get people in the seats. The Avs had just finished next to last - in the entire NHL - were playing to a half empty Pepsi Center and realized their third year in a row of missing the playoffs. Roy had spent 8 years coaching in the juniors in Canada, but for many, it was a little hard to imagine Roy in an NHL coaching role. His junior coaching career had some blemishes on and off the ice. One of the Avs former star forwards told me on Roy's return that he thought Roy was crazy. Not good crazy. Not just goalie crazy. He meant bad crazy, like unstable.

So when Patrick knocked down the glass separating the team benches at the end of the Avs opener last season (a 6-1 win for the Avs, at that) in anger at the opposing coach, it seemed accurate.

But that was the last time we really saw the crazy Roy. What we got from there, in his weekly morning radio interviews and post game comments and by all appearances, on the ice with his team, was a thoughtful, philosophical, positive, progressive leader who talked about the importance of hard work and achievement and maximizing talent and potential and opportunity. The passion and intensity were still there, but it was focused and compacted, like a rolled up program in the left hand.

It sounded like someone I knew, and it also made for a golden opportunity to blog about my favorite hockey team and one of life's incredible gifts.

Mark Kizla of the Denver Post wrote a fantastic article last Sunday on Roy's latest inspiration. It turns out, and not surprisingly, that the Avs coach spent some time learning from our Coach.

"It was amazing the approach that Coach Wooden took. I looked at his pyramid very carefully. Values were so important to him. And I truly believe if you stick to your values, good things will happen," Roy said.

"To tell you the truth, I had a hard time reading the book, because every time I read a new idea, I would go deep into my own thoughts, examining everything (Wooden) said. So I would find myself reading the same page three or four times."

With those initial coaching philosophies that mirrored Wooden's wisdom, Roy took over the second youngest team in the NHL that had spent a lot of time losing games the previous years. But he didn't talk about winning. He talked about getting the team to play at their competitive best, improving every night, never getting too high after wins or too low after losses, focusing on the process and the journey. He talked about being the best they could be, and then letting the record fall where it may.

The Avs became Central Division champs in his first season as coach, beating out defending Stanley Cup champ Chicago and St Louis in the final week of the season. The Avs had a 2-0 lead over Minnesota in the first round of the playoffs when a cheap shot by a known thug took out our best defenseman from a thin blue line and turned the tide in the series. The Avs lost in a Game 7 OT. I was at that game and it was heartbreaking, but I can also say I've rarely felt so proud of a team, or felt so much hope for the future. Roy was rewarded with the Jack Adams Trophy for Coach of the Year.

"After reading Wooden," Roy said, "I've told our players, from trust to respect to working with a purpose, these are values that great coaches have had a lot of success with, and I realized that these are the values and these are the things we had last year."

Hockey is awesome. I was certain to be the next Wayne Gretzky, or at least the first Peter Forsberg, until my hockey career was rudely aborted by the Mojave Desert summer when I was 10, but my love for the game survived. I moved to Colorado the year the Nordiques moved here and became the Avs. They fit in perfectly alongside my lifelong fandom of the Denver Broncos, so sports life in exile is as good as it can be. If I can't be in Pasadena on Saturdays, Denver is the next best place. We've had season tix for the Avs for most of 12 years, and my two kids both play. They play a lot. In fact, they have practice tomorrow morning at 5 am, and both have tournaments this weekend, in separate cities, of course. My 4-Runner smells like hockey bags, which is sentimentally sweet, but olfactorilly awful. We're definitely a hockey family, and we're loving the ride with the Colorado Avalanche right now.

It gives me a lot of pride to see Coach Roy learning and employing the wisdom that Bruin fans have been blessed to know from Coach Wooden, because the philosophy is a perfect fit for a young coach with a young team that in many ways is still defining itself. I look forward to watching Coach Roy and team develop over the coming years, and it is comforting to know our hockey coach is following the teachings of the one and only Coach.

"I was reading a book by John Wooden, and he said the most important thing for a coach is to know your players," Roy told me during the Avs' season-opening road trip to Minnesota. "The best way for me to know my players is to put them in different situations, trying different things, to see how they react."

Roy will be tested early as free agency has dealt him some new faces that he has to fit into to the young framework, and it will be interesting to see if the Avs can come close to last season's success. I'd be lying to say that last year wasn't a pretty hefty overachievement and matching those results still looks to be tough. And Roy is just beginning, too. He may fizzle and be the next Joe Sacco, or he may succeed and be the next Scotty Bowman - just with less metal in his head. So we'll see how the summer time spent reading Coach's books pays off for the Avs and Roy this year and in the future. And I'm looking forward to hearing "Goodness gracious sakes alive!" in a French Canadian accent.

And finally, bringing this all back to current day U.C.L.A., consider this line from Kizla, who himself was a great admirer of Coach Wooden,

One of my favorite truths in the world according to Wooden: "Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be."

That also happens to be a lesson that Coach Mora and his staff can take to heart as well. And all of us, for that matter,

It is perfectly appropriate that on his birthday, the man who always considered himself, above all, a teacher continues to do just that.

Go Avs!

Go Bruins!

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of BruinsNation's (BN) editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of BN's editors.