The Sporting News named John Wooden as the best coach of all time. Who am I to argue with that?

I never watched any of his teams play basketball. I started reading things by and about coach Wooden because people I respect suggested I would benefit. They were right. Right now, I’m reading Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court by coach Wooden and Steve Jamison.

In the last year, I’ve published two posts about Wooden and his thoughts. One post was “What makes a champion?” and the other was “You control your legacy.” It only dawned on me slowly that coach Wooden set a fine example of how to create a legacy.

A Legacy in Writing

Coach Wooden left a legacy in dozens of books. You may not choose to write a book. But you can draft an ethical will. Ethical wills are a Jewish tradition thousands of years old. Anyone, Jew or not, can write one. Write out your thoughts about how your children and others should live, what values they should hold, and how they should treat others. Share what you think is important.

A Legacy of Influence

There are dozens of books about coach Wooden and his ideas. Former players want to talk about his influence on their lives. At the Sporting News dinner to celebrate Wooden’s selection as the greatest coach of all time his former players told of his influence on the way they live their daily lives.

In 1998, Athletes in Action created an award called the John Wooden Keys to Life Award. Here’s one description of what it stands for.

“The ‘Keys to Life’ Award honors basketball figures who model the characteristics of UCLA men’s basketball coaching legend John Wooden, including his high level of moral character, integrity and faith on and off the court.”

A Legacy of Example

It’s always easier to talk the talk than it is to walk the walk. One reason I suspect so many people hold John Wooden in such high regard is that he practiced what he preached. The story I like best comes from Wooden’s early years at UCLA.

Wooden played basketball at and graduated from Purdue. His dream job was to coach the Purdue basketball team. That job came open after Wooden had started coaching at UCLA. The Purdue job would pay more than the $6000 he was earning at UCLA. Purdue would provide him with a car and benefits.

Wooden turned down the Purdue job. He had signed a three-year contract with UCLA and the contract still had time to run. He saw leaving before he fulfilled is contract as breaking a promise.

I think John Wooden was a good role model for how to leave a legacy. What about you? Who are your role models?


Terry Moore, CCIM, is the author of Building Legacy Wealth: How to Build Wealth and Live a Life Worth Imitating. Read his “Welcome to My Blog.

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