FCP logo

Full Court Press

FCPrep logo

Friday, July 19, 2019

Wooden Left His Mark on Women’s Basketball Too

Article Lead Image

Photo Caption: Coach John R. Wooden in action on the UCLA sidelines.

Photo Credit: Courtesy UCLA

By ClayKallam

Legendary basketball coach John R. Wooden, died on Friday evening, June 4, at the age of 99, of natural causes. His 88-game winning streak remains the longest victory string in college basketball history; his 10 National Championships, seven of them back-to-backs, cemented his place in the sports history books. He remains only one of two players named to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach.

But as his own players would hurry to tell you, Wooden’s influence was felt far beyond the hardwood. He groomed his charges for success in life, not just on the court. He gave generously of his time to a plethora of individuals, organizations and causes, including the UCLA Women’s Softball team (baseball was his own first love as a sport).

Here, Full Court columnist Clay Kallam, remembers Coach Wooden for his impact on women’s basketball.

I actually met John Wooden.

It was at some charity golf tournament in the early ‘80s, I think, and he was already a legendary figure, an icon of times past.

Of course, I also remember watching his teams play, and winning all those titles in a row. As a Bay Area boy, I found it hard to root for UCLA, but if he was going to beat up on some uppity Easterners, that was OK by me.

I still prefer those mid-’60s teams, with a small, pressing lineup that just outhustled and outplayed bigger, more traditional teams, to the Lew Alcindor/Bill Walton powerhouses of later years, and I loved watching them shove the East Coast bias down the throats of non-Californians.

I recall running into Coach Wooden’s Pyramid of Success at UC Santa Barbara, and later looking at it again when I first started coaching. Then, later on, another coach I worked with handed it out to all the players.

Photo Caption: John Wooden’s “Pyramid of Success” became a cornerstone not only for the UCLA programs of the ‘60s and ‘70s, but also for generations of girls’ and boys’, women’s and men’s basketball programs across the country, as well as for leadership development programs in many professions.
Photo Credit: John R. Wooden, “Pyramid of Success.”

But put all of this together, and it doesn’t match the impact of his story, to me at least, as an individual, and on 21st century teen-age girls.

One of the girls who played for me at Acalanes High School is named Meredith Galer, and she became an assistant coach for me during the 2008-09 season at Campolindo High School. She quoted John Wooden to our players a couple of times, but then this story came out.

“I told my boyfriend I was a big basketball fan,” she said. “I played on a team that went to the state title game, and I’ve been a coach, so clearly I knew the game.”

“So he said ‘OK, you know basketball – who’s John Wooden?’

“I had to admit I didn’t know, and so he made me look him up. When I did, I decided to get one of his books, and soon I became a convert – and that’s why I always quote him to everyone.”

And Meredith would invariably read a John Wooden quote before every game, and sometimes afterwards as well. Now, I’m not going to make any grandiose claims about the impact of those quotes, but it is true that we won 22 games that season, including a playoff game, something that hadn’t happened in the past ten years.

It wasn’t only the players who were listening, though. I was too, and those quotes brought back memories of the rolled-up program, the 1-2-2 press, the absolutely incredible streak of wins and titles, and my brief encounter with the courtly old gentleman on an East Bay golf course. Those quotes also made me think about what messages I was delivering, and how I tried to be a teacher and a leader, and whether I could live up to his exacting standards.

Of course I couldn’t, and I can’t, but Wooden, like all great coaches, wasn’t about the results, but rather the process. You should strive to be the best person you can be, he believed; you should work to create an atmosphere in which your players could thrive and grow; and you should respect yourself, your players, your opponents and the game itself.

There’s much more John Wooden than that – a great athlete, a devoted husband and on and on – but just the little that rubbed off on me has shifted my perspectives and made me more conscious of what I’m trying to do and how I’m trying to do it.

And I’m not alone. There are thousands, tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of coaches and players across the country who have stumbled across the wisdom of John Wooden, and found it meaningful and important.

Just ask Meredith Galer, who never saw his teams play or even knew who he was before her boyfriend challenged her. She and all the players she coaches, and children she teaches, now will never forget him – and we shouldn’t either.

Photo Caption: Coach Wooden, by his own recollection, posed reluctantly for this photo, surrounded by his many NCAA Championship and Conference Championship trophies. Success, for him, was not as much about the product as the process. He gave the following example: “In 1948 I began coaching basketball at UCLA. Each hour of practice we worked very hard. Each day we worked very hard. Each week we worked very hard. Each season we worked very hard. For 14 years, we worked very hard and didn’t win a national championship. However, a national championship was won in the 15th year. Another in the 16th. And eight more in the following 10 years. Be persistent. Be determined. Be tenacious. Be completely determined to reach your goal. That’s Intentness. If you stay intent and your ability warrants it, you will eventually reach the top of the mountain.”
Photo Credit: Courtesy coachwooden.com

Statement of Tennessee Coach Pat Summitt on Passing of Coach John R. Wooden

Heralded Lady Vols’ Coach Pat Summitt was just one of many in the women’s basketball community who mourned the passing of Coach John R. Wooden.

“I am very saddened at the passing of John Wooden,” said Summitt. “In my lifetime, I was fortunate to call him a friend. As a coach, I always admired his gentle demand for nothing but excellence and his student-athletes delivered. He created role models on and off the court, and because of him, it is something I instilled in my players from my first day as a very young coach.”

“The takeaways we all have been blessed with from knowing John Wooden are numerous. For all of his successes, he was such a humble man.”

“Tonight, we have lost a true American icon.”

Photo Caption: University of Tennessee Women’s Basketball Head Coach Pat Summitt accepts the Wooden Award as a “Legend of Coaching” from namesake UCLA Coach John R. Wooden in 2008.
Photo Credit: Courtesy University of Tennessee Athletics Media Relations

Originally published Mon, June 07, 2010

Reader Discussion

Please Log in or, if you are not yet a member, Register to use the full features of this site.

Women's Basketball Calendar

July 2019
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31 1 2 3 4

Game of the Day

Friday, July 19, 2019

Today's Top Games

For a full calendar and related details on upcoming nationally televised and Top 25 games, as well as past game scores, and other women's basketball games of interest, click on the link "Women's Basketball Calendar" above.


Try Advanced Search

Week: February 7, 2012
1 Baylor (31) 24-0 1 1 1 775
2 Notre Dame 23-1 2 2 2 743
3 Connecticut 21-2 3 4 3 710
4 Stanford 20-1 4 5 4 685
5 Duke 19-3 6 8 5 650
6 Miami (FL) 20-3 7 7 6 604
7 Kentucky 21-3 5 15 7 584
8 Maryland 20-3 10 10 8 534
9 Wisconsin-Green Bay 20-0 9 24 9 530
10 Ohio State 21-2 11 NR-RV
10 483
11 Tennessee 17-6 8 3 11 476
12 Delaware 20-1 13 NR 12 434
13 Georgetown 18-5 15 11 14 379
14 Texas A&M 16-5 16 6 15 378
15 Nebraska 19-3 18 NR 13 309
16 Rutgers 17-4 14 12 17 372
17 Louisville 17-6 12 9 20 276
18 Gonzaga 21-3 19 NR-RV
19 234
19 Purdue 19-5 17 21 16 222
20 Georgia 18-6 20 12 21 202
21 Penn State 18-5 21 14 18 176
22 DePaul 17-7 23 18 NR-RV
23 Georgia Tech 16-6 22 NR-RV
22 104
24 South Carolina 18-5 NR-RV
NR 24 46
25 Vanderbilt 18-5 NR-RV
NR 45
Dropped Out: No. 24 North Carolina, No. 25 Kansas.
First-place votes: Total first-place votes received (if any) are indicated in parentheses following school name.
Others receiving votes: St. Bonaventure (22-2) 34; North Carolina (17-6) 19; California (17-6) 18; Florida Gulf Coast (21-2) 16; Middle Tennessee (19-5) 15; Texas-El Paso (20-2) 8; Texas Tech (16-6) 5; Brigham Young (21-4) 4; Fresno State (19-4) 4; St. John's (15-8) 4; Princeton (15-4) 3; Oklahoma (15-7) 2; West Virginia (17-6) 2; Kansas State (15-7) 1.
Rank remains unchanged since last week
Ranking has risen since last week.
Ranking has dropped since last week.
Credit: Courtesy Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA). The weekly Division I Top 25 Coaches' Poll, sponsored by USA Today and ESPN, is based on voting by a Board of Coaches made up of 31 head coaches at Division I institutions all of whom are WBCA members.