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John Wooden: First NBA Hall of Fame Player AND Coach

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
September 8, 2022 3:00 am

John Wooden: First NBA Hall of Fame Player AND Coach

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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September 8, 2022 3:00 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, John Wooden compiled the greatest legacy of any coach in history. How he defined success was unique and central to his philosophy. This story is told by Coach Wooden himself, his family, friends, and players.

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This is Lisa B.

This is our American stories.

During John wooden's 27 years at UCLA. He coached the Bruins for undefeated seasons and a record 10 national championships was the first person inducted into the national basketball Hall of Fame both as a player and as a coach in the NCAA and ESPN both named him the greatest coach of the 20th century. The story we are about to hear from Greg Hagler is told by John wooden himself, his family, his friends and his players dear John wooden I grew up, etc., about 8 miles north of Martinsville lived on a farm there, but I think the person probably had most influence on me throughout my mother and father. My father said there's always time for play. That's after the chores and the studies are done. Of course he he read to us every night that we didn't have electricity or running water and thing on the farm and even agreed to portray and risk Scriptures to us every night just been born Indiana in those years and imposed on the Emerson basketball… The natural thing that intact up to make a basket and mother took an old cotton sock in front of the rag negative around us that possibly could pray for starting to grade school in Centerton. Father is a man for whom the word gentle man was because she truly was a gentle man something that he gave me when I graduated from a small country grade school, Centerton had a creed of seven points. The first one was be true to yourself. The next point was make each day your masterpiece.

The third one was help other. The fourth one was make friendship fine art. Another one was shelter against another one was deeply from most important man in the last point in this creed was every day and every evening. Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings first year in high school or community on the interurban that ran from a list of Martinsville and then that we lost the farm after my freshman year and we moved into Martinsville Lady only girl whom I ever went with. He is John's daughter Nancy. My dad was very shy.

Mother was sitting Martinsville. She came out with some friends that had a car and he was working in the field to the car Washing over plowing setting this journey sweaty is over. And then when school started again. My mother made a beeline for him to come over and was I was ashamed and she said you John Bob. She called him until they were in their 30s. Never be ashamed and he knew right then that 1924 Martinsville built Indiana's largest high school gymnasium, it sat 5228, 428 more than the population of the town during basketball season coach Glenn Curtis established a policy of no dating and home by 8 PM. First players nearly countered by joining the pep band before every game.

John winked at Nelly seated with her bandmates. She gave him an okay sign, and he waved back at her.

It was the beginning of a pregame ritual that would last for half a century while playing for legendary coach Ward piggy Lambert at Purdue. John was a three-time All-American won a national championship after his senior season.

John played a few professional basketball games for the Chicago Bruins. This was 25 years before the NBA but was hesitant about their lucrative offers to play full-time. He sought advice from his coach at Purdue when I graduated from Purdue.

I was offered lot of money in those days a lot of money to play as fast whether traveling team just for traveling around all over playing games is a lot of money and I talked to Mr. Lambert, my coach figured out it was a man of his time principles as anyone I've ever known very high principles told about this always says that's a lot of money. He said that he got Dick always away. Mandy said that what you come to Purdue for I said to get an education. Did you get well I hope so. While I said I would throw it away.

If I were you. Just something you have to do yourself.

But remember this, you can't play in dirt and not get dirty. Two days before John and Nellie's wedding obtain failure clean John's life savings of $909.25. Here's John and daughter Nancy Nelly and I were married on August 8, 1932, my brother and his girlfriend who had a car drove us up, mother was very outgoing and is very shy and share information in high school to take a public speaking because he just always had his head down and she was very instrumental in getting him to become less shy. They were totally opposite. So I think that's always a big attraction. Sometimes it works sometimes it is in this case it weeks after their wedding Nelly and John moved to Dayton Kentucky where he had taken a job as a high school English teacher athletic director and head coach of three sports including football, which he had never played when one surly player challenge Coach wooden's authority. A brief physical altercation followed. John was immediately ashamed. John rehired the former football coach and turn all of his attention basketball and what a story were hearing John wooden story.

When we come back more of this remarkable life story. The story of John wooden dear on our American stories view of the great American stories we tell and love America like we do, or asking you to become a part of the All-American stories family. If you agree that America is a good and great country.

Please make a donation monthly gift of $17.76 is fast becoming a favorite option for supporters to allow American now and go to the donate button and help us keep the great American stories coming without American and we continue with our American stories and the life story of John wooden. Let's return Greg Hagler with more Nancy and wooden arrived in March 1934, but after two years in Dayton, John Nelly and Nancy moved to a new opportunity South Bend and I don't think so. As teacher for my background I could be best when baseball coach distinguished teacher Chris couple things no written word, no plea can teach our youth. What they should be all the books on the shelves. It's what the teachers are themselves the main impression John school year was filled with teaching coaching playing professional games on the weekends when America entered World War II in 1941, everything changed.

Here's John and Nancy. I probably they probably the major disagreement. My dear wife and I had all our years since she didn't think I should just upset because daddy listed without and they always talk everything over. But in this particular thing this particular time. He just wanted to do that and so his son would never have to and I can remember being very frightened.

In the aftermath of World War II, many young men went to college. John went back to his job in South Bend. But then his former high school coach Glenn Curtis recommended him for the head coaching position at Indiana State after 11 years as a high school basketball coach John and Nelly moved to Terre Haute in the summer of 1946 when wooden held trials in October.

The gymnasium overflowed with candidates. The teams record during the first season earned them an invitation to any IB tournament in Kansas City that is as long as they didn't bring Clarence Walker the only black man on the team. Coach wooden said his team would not play. Here's Kevin Walker and Indiana State players father's name was class Jordan Walker is connection with John wooden was a basketball player at Indiana State. Through the years of growing up, followed really never talked much about his days in college. However, this is one day I was a senior in high school, we lost our regional championship basketball game was little distraught about it. Of course, and follow came up to me once it is that it was more of what diary that he On himself and stay best quality in everything that they went through it what are they have to go where he could play where he couldn't play even to the point of the places that he could not go past that excellent questions about he would just say this is how I was back then. Every day was a different day and every day as his own trouble. John wooden for me reading that portion of the diary told me about his character is Christian discipleship actually where he would if we don't take the whole would not going at all what I mean by the whole is T that was like his family and not one was greater than the when you became associated with Coach wooden why you were going to be one of his family is one of my boys all were not coming.

We did see color wooden steam service. Talk we would stop at a restaurant along the way and somebody wouldn't would refuse to to allow him to eat with us and the manager says we don't treat people like this, so we all decided to leave.

That's what we did the only thing that really kept his mind straight was his family and his faith in God.

He was God-fearing man taught us is still Christian discipleship stewardship within us as a family. Probably the most significant was just his desire to show all men are created equal.

The next year the league changed the policy and Clarence Walker traveled with the team to Kansas City. There he became the first black man to play in a postseason national collegiate basketball tournament wherever John went. His wife was always beside him. Here's a couple of Indiana State players. John's daughter Nancy is really feisty.

I think she was a feisty little Irish girl feisty is a good word for Coach wooden said that Nelly was the most important thing in his life and he feels that he would not have been anything without without Nelly asked many times about my family growing up. I continue to think and feel and say that I wish everyone would be as fortunate as I was up in a family where my mother and dad loved each other and for many years.

John wooden had been contemplating the nature of success. I wanted to come up with a different definition of success. Mr. Webster want to be more than just the material possessions are proceeds. My dad. I remember he tried to teach us that the never cease trying to do the best you can do it, whatever it is and it's more or less forgotten that probably went in one ear and out the other time, then I read a short verse that said at God's footstool to confess a poor soul knelt and bowed his head.

I failed. He cried the master said no didn't slide best. That is success from those I coin my own definition of success in 1934 I choose to define it as peace of mind attained only through self-satisfaction and knowing you made the effort to do the best of which are In your the only one that knows what else knows.

You can fool others, but you can for yourself is like character, reputation or character is your character and reputation structure perceived to be by others which are character's friendship really are. Coach wooden developed a teaching tool called the pyramid of success is not just for his players goal for him to pursue as well. Coach wooden's record Indiana state caught the attention of several large universities including the University of Minnesota Golden gophers and the UCLA Bruins. John and Nelly's first choice was Minnesota and he was ready to accept their promised offer. But their phone call was delayed by a snowstorm in Minneapolis.

Here's John's colleague and friend, Tom Osborne.

Somehow, because communication issues that offer got to him late night already told people UCLA would go probably would prefer to go to Minnesota last hand. But he said Rawlinson given his word so he went to UCLA and wonder in today's culture. How many coaches do UCLA football was keen basketball team had a losing record they share the space with the gymnastics team and its seating was half the capacity of John wooden's high school, but John wooden focused on his opportunity. He told the Los Angeles daily news. No team is going to out run or outhouse of the Bruins the season slated to finish last. UCLA captured the division championship in 1949 here's UCLA players Keith Erickson Marcus Johnson Doug McIntosh and daughter Nancy. Even though I grew up in a little city called El Segundo not too far from here.

My horizons were real broad slide never even seen UCLA play. I've never heard about coach wooden he was just another coach.

When I got here nice nice little guy and ran a pretty tight ship and I was happy to be here. He really taught us the basics in every facet of the game started with putting on your socks and is funny because I have a 12-year-old that I just said to reconstruct for the 20th time on how to tie his shoe is to tie your shoes up just Tatum hat has nothing on you start at the bottom police she straightened up to it at time tight, tight, tight, always the top and I thought about that. I said to him with this because wooden taught us to coach what a story. When we continue more of John wooden's life story here on our American stories and we returned to our American stories and coach wooden story here is player Keith Erickson and he won two national championships playing for coach wooden 1964 and 1965 Coach wooden get all of this work during the week. Just Kansas was teaching us during the week and he loved that time of practice. He was always felt that you were inclined to coddle ourselves pushes. He prepared two hours every morning for 2 1/2 hours for our 2 1/2 hour practice every afternoon we did things like you have an imaginary basketball ball. This form follows rotation ball, so low she was and coach as he was into it like it was a real ball.

The whole thing my mind was this to put in what I left out. You can seek to maximize and then we got to the games we would meet beforehand. He would tell us you know just do our best together and then he would sit down on the bench and we would like this program folded up in one hand and had his cross and his other hand that I only found this out in later years that I minister from the First Christian Church in South Bend gave it to Danny when he went into service and was very unusual. Had the alpha and he had his little ritual before the games. Of course, pull up his socks and pat his assistant and then turn around like another from then on it was stuff to his team in 1963 John wooden made some changes that brought dramatic results.

Here again is Keith Erickson and Doug McIntosh, 64 were not considered to be a serious threat to the conference when applying to considerably larger things as we were. We were underdogs after 29 straight when we were still in we play the game title here.

We wore them out in the middle of the game. We had a run and that's what one of Oregon's forms coach wooden always told us never get too high to low and after the championship was right there in fact we won the whole thing was that was the goal of his and he was very happy to have that goal, but he was excited that we have done as well as because that's what he always preached and taught how to be a team to play together and to be the best that you could be the next year UCLA repeated is national champions, setting forth what would become the greatest dynasty in college sports. Wooden became known as the Wizard of Westwood yet the only magic he ever relied on his faith and common sense. During the following decade the Bruins dominated college basketball. Here's coach wooden UCLA great Bill Walton telling the haircuts first so many ways. He was never called one of those six days antiestablishment as far as basketball, you couldn't have a finer person on your team go on, but between practices. I had concerns I thought I was free to leave. Free at last, when I left home to go to UCLA here we were in a Watergate rock 'n' roll exploding on the scene and I thought I was going to be up there totally on my own have the time my life, but then there was coping with standing right there on the steps and come right on in here young man your mind for the next four years. He knew that I had certain rules such as I didn't permit next along here. Beards we had one. Between games of about 10 days and he didn't shave he said to me after coach, can I talk to you. Sincerely, privately talk before Duckett was our trainer and consistently said well I just say all I said yes I'd heard that Bill vented that around in the got around that you were going to shave you believe in the struggle yes yes I believe in a very strongly in Isaiah great respect and admiration for people to stand up for the things that in which they believe.

I do bill that were going to miss you. You stood there for a minute, said all she I fought with coach wooden or credibly the time I thought they were the most important things in the world. I got a saying on my desk from coach wooden at home is the things we learn after we know it all that really count in our lives those lessons in life are truly the greatest one. I believe one of the greatest motivating things we have is the pat on the back. I think we all like that.

I know that sometimes the plan has to be a little lower little harder but I still believe that that's out of act. Everyone likes praise. If I ask you here.

If raise your hand if you like praise you every hand didn't go up. I think their suppliers in here because I think everyone likes praise the I think that I think most people like to live up to expectations. They like to live up to their expectations not not all all of them have the place to do that but I think everyone really like you like to please people do not like to displease people in anything. Most people are that way and I think the greatest motivating factor to do that is the pat on the back not necessary physically just the word is smiled at me and I think that's the greatest December 1972 coach wooden suffered a mild heart attack at the end of that season. UCLA won its seventh consecutive national title.

No team had ever won more than four was riding a 75 game winning streak in January 1974 a one point loss and UCLA's 88 game winning streak at the NCAA semifinals. North Carolina State defeated the Bruins 80 to 77 in double overtime. John wooden struggle is never before. With the pressure of success. This type of profession were near the public eye are going to have ups and downs. They're going to have praise or criticism. Some it's going to be deserved in some of the some of it isn't that your strength that I don't care whether you're a teacher, surgeon or whatever your strength pins on how you react to both praise and criticism cannot even one affect you. I first heard at an FCA conference in Estes Park, Colorado, the early years of the FCA this crowd on earth. They soon forget the heroes of the past.

They cheer like mad until you fall and that's how long you last gone. He never does forget, and in his Hall of Fame by just believing in his inscribed go find your name I tell your friends I would not trade my name, however small, inscribed there beyond the stars.

Celeste ran a famous name on earth or glory that they share another man unknown here and have my name up there. Wouldn't we all then you been listening to John wooden hearing that story about Bill Walton and so much today you hear in current events in the news about the kids being the leaders of the teams and the coaches doing whatever the kids say we all know that doesn't make sense when we come back more of this remarkable life story. This remarkable man John wooden story continues here on our American stories and we continue with our American stories and John wooden story. Let's return to Greg Tang with more after almost 40 years of coaching.

Retirement is on the horizon for John wooden but nobody knew for sure when not even coach wooden until one Saturday night 1975 after defeating Louisville in overtime at the NCAA semifinals in San Diego when the game ended instead of going to meet the press as he usually did. John wooden made his way to the UCLA locker. Here's Marcus Johnson, coach wooden comes and just cannot tell just down the quiet quiet glad I got some exciting and so he came in and talked about how he was happy with the job done and we played a great game and that he had been thinking about this a long time and come to the conclusion that the next day. That Monday night would be his last day and that he was going to retire and get out a coaching everybody felt like David, punched in the chest. He told us that and walked out and Andre McCarter who was the captain of that team, spiritual compass in terms of how he looked at things and people is altogether sly guys look you know is no way that we can live close wooden go out national champion. This is no way to still happen right file beat Kentucky 92 five in retirement coach wooden speaking engagements and basketball camps for young players kept busy and of course steam at these events was always the pyramid of success is teaching tool universal truths to help people reach their full potential. Here's Bill Walton, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the coach basketball fun in that life because he got us up to a very sharp and he never was like I thought selecting never had to do that overcome his work, refocus and tear people apart.

It wasn't a whole lot of wild passion to cash fashion is to stop love is that's important. We all had love in our lives. The degree should it would be much happier. I like a little Paul says Bell is in the bell until you ring the song is a song until you sing and I love the best interest wasn't put there to stay.

Love is love you give it away. That's important. Most important word in a dictionary things when you're now kids basketball. He was talking about herself was meant we always knew how important his family was to his son and daughter and their kids love and support, and it was obvious to us that family unit really supported and that was all the people who really need nearly passed to each 73 on March 21, 1985. I was very first paragraph arched belly. My high school girl everyday. We had three wonderful years together for lost. She was so cooperative in every way. I think we need to help you knew what your for the next two decades. On the 21st day of every month.

John wrote a love letter to Nelly every year brought new honors and awards to coach wooden he received each one graciously while keeping in mind a favorite scene talent is God-given.

Be humble.

Fame is man given. Be thankful conceit is self given. Be careful today is the only important yesterday is gone. Never change tomorrow can only be affected by what she doing operation today is preparing to fail. My favorite part is me give you one that I wrote like Sam left their imprint on my hands on my face no longer is my will.

Slower is my pace, but there is no fear within my heart because I'm growing old and I only wish I had more time to better serve my when I'm going to him in prayer has brought me peace soon. My cares and worries. Another problem seems to sell me in so many ways is never let me down. Why should I fear the future. Soon I could go. I know down here. My time is short. There is endless time up there and he will forgive and keep me in his loving care, Rimer. That's a run. John wooden met his maker on June 4, 2010. He was 99 years old. Let's finish the story with Keith Erickson speaking at John wooden's memorial service on UCLA's campus. Here's what I remember about coach what kind of a man he was. He was honest. He was wise he was humble. He was fun. He was kind, gentle, he was a man of faith.

He was a man of the Bible and I repeat to you what he told me that Jesus was the Lord of his life on the 21st of the month. The best man I know will do what he always does. On the 21st of the month will sit down and pin a love letter to his only girl to say how much he misses her and loves her and can't wait to see her again.

Then I'll fold it wants like the little envelope and walked into his bedroom to go to the stack of love letter sitting there on her pillow untied the yellow ribbon placed the new one on top. Type ribbon again. There's never never been another coach like coach wooden client has an April snow square is a game of checkers loyal to one woman, one school, one way walking around campus in his sensible shoes and Jimmy Stewart morals. Discipline yourself and others want me to coach would say never lied never cheat never steel and earn the right to be proud and confident. If you play for them to play by his rules never score without acknowledging a teammate. One word of profanity and you're done for the day.

Treat your opponents with respect. He believed in us hopelessly out of date stuff. It never did anything but win championships. No dribbling behind the back through the legs. There's no need to say no long hair and no facial hair. They take too long to dry and catch cold. Leaving the gym say that one drove his players bonkers.

It's always too soon when you have to leave that condo go back into the real world shows you to the door. You take one last look around the frame report cards is great grandkids boxes of jellybeans peeking out from under the favorite wooden chair dozens of pictures of Nelly is a little more hunched over the last steps a little smaller you hope it's not the last time I was with him a couple of years ago and I said to him coach as I'm sitting in his condominium in their awards, plaques, and I said coach. How would you like to be remembered and immediately answered. He said I'd like to be remembered as a man who came as close as possible to being the man that my father was, wouldn't you looked in on his what a man he must've been whenever you left this place go down that elevator walk through the garage and I have friends with him several times and we be walking long after leaving tears. They say one of the greatest days of my life after hearing his stories quote those poems talk about Abraham Lincoln and Mother Teresa.

It's not over yet what the driveway not say oftentimes he stands over here at the window were on his patio anyways to us and says goodbye Mrs. thanks for coming. We look there and there he was waiting. Thank you for coming and I can see them there saying that us. Thank you for coming coach. Thank you for allowing us into your life coach or teacher or mentor our friend, your father would be very proud of the men that you were will never forget you coach.

Thank you for everything. And what beautiful words and watching grown men that day. Hold back tears. John wooden story remarkable story of love, of faith here on our American stories

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