By Frank and Margie Barron
While it has been written that John Wooden turned down an offer to manage a Major league baseball team, it is also revealed that the late UCLA coach also refused a chance to coach the Los Angeles Lakers.
Speaking to the coach some years ago, he revealed to us that after reading the lucrative contract, he turned down the offer. “No one should ever be paid that much money,” he stated. “Although I have nothing against anyone else accepting those huge amounts of dollars.”
As for being out of basketball so many years, Wooden said, “I don’t miss the game as much as I miss the practices. I enjoyed planning and conducting practices. I equated coaching with Cervantes, who said ‘the journey is better than the end.’”
Wooden, who seldom changed expressions when coaching, would tell his players after winning a game, “Do not make fools of yourselves. Let the alumni and student body do that. Don’t you do it.”
As for today’s game he “would like to see a 12-foot high basket and move the three-point line back. Abolish the dunk, or have it but one point.”
His secret to a long, happy life is “Stay active, mentally and physically. Too many people get inactive as they get older, and they don’t keep their minds working. I’ve stayed busy even when my knees and hip were bad, and I’ve even had a heart attack. But in all, I am grateful.”
Another Woodenism: “Make friendship a fine art. Work at making friends. Don’t take it for granted.”
Also, “I’ve told all my teams, don’t base success on the score of the game. Of course it makes you feel better if the score is in your favor, but I think success should be based on the effort made being the best of which you are capable.”
“I’m used to saying I am not what I ought to be. I’m not what I want to be. I am not what I’m going to be, but I’m a little better than I used to be.”
“Television has made actors out of basketball players. The players of today are remarkable. They are tremendous, but team play is not. Some coaches have become actors, as have some officials. That’s what television has done. But television has also become the savior of non-income sports in colleges. So there’s two sides to that.”
“When someone asked me how many national championships I won, I said ‘None. My teams did.”
The big difference between a great coach or an average coach was asked of Coach Wooden. “There’s not too much difference as far as technical knowledge, but the big difference might be with their teaching and relating to those directly under their supervision. I think the better coaches are good teachers. How do we learn? We listen. I listened to Bill Walton.”
“Sometimes we forget that the other player just may better than we are. That can happen, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But there is something wrong if you don’t make the best effort to be the best that you can be. That’s what I tried to get across to the players at all times.”
As co-author of several books, Wooden says, “Love is the greatest word in the dictionary, and I try to stress that in my books. I agree with Abraham Lincoln who once said, ‘The best thing a man can do for his children is to love their mother.’ Love is consideration for the other, and giving. Love isn’t love until you give it away. And try not to be disagreeable when you disagree.”
One book employee, when Coach Wooden was on hand to autograph his book, said, “He is one of the best-selling authors we have. People line up by the hundreds, and most of them buy several of his books. His signings here are an event.”
Margie and Frank Barron are a Hollywood writing team who have interviewed John Wooden numerous times over a period of years. The enclosed quotes have not been mentioned in newspaper articles.
Margie Barron has been a columnist for The Tolucan Times for decades. Frank Barron was a sports writer for the Newark Evening News, and later the editor of the Hollywood Reporter.