OK, I’ll admit it, it’s usually March before I start paying attention to college basketball. March Madness kicks off this week and I’m looking forward to seeing which team will be presented the John Wooden Trophy as National Champions. This trophy honors one of the most revered coaches in sports history.
As a business leader, you understand the critical role that coaching plays in improving management skills. Why not learn from one of the best? Hope, you will find this Inc. Magazine article helpful & timely:
- Never stop teaching, but keep it brief.
- No matter how successful you become, you’ll deal with critics & loudmouths.
- Measure yourself on the maximation of potential, not necessarily the bottom-line result.
- When the light shines on you, deflect it to another who’s deserving.
- You’ll win with star performers who’ve learned humility.
- Don’t hold grudges.
- Don’t forget to have fun.
NEVER STOP TEACHING, BUT KEEP IT BRIEF.
Wooden’s teaching comments were short, punctuated & numerous. There were no lectures, no extended harangues. Although frequent & often in rapid-fire order, he rarely spoke longer than 20 seconds.
NO MATTER HOW SUCCESSFUL YOU BECOME, YOU’LL DEAL WITH CRITICS & LOUDMOUTHS.
Shortly after winning the 1975 title a UCLA alum came up to him and said: “Congratulations, Coach. You let us down last year, but this made up for it.” The remark upset Wooden, especially because the previous season was a great one. UCLA made the Final Four before losing in double overtime to the North Carolina State squad that won the title. Sustained success can distort levels of expectation. Likewise, it can breed a disproportionate sense of disappointment.
MEASURE YOURSELF ON THE MAXIMIZATION OF POTENTIAL, NOT NECESSARILY THE BOTTOM-LINE RESULT.
WHEN THE LIGHT SHINES ON YOU, DEFLECT IT TO ANOTHER WHO’S DESERVING.
Wooden exemplified both of these lessons shortly after winning yet, another title. After the game, reporters asked him how he wished to be remembered. He said:
“I’d like to be remembered as a person who tried to do his best, I guess. A man I’ve admired for so long, Tony Hinkle of Butler, never got the recognition he deserved because his won-lost record wasn’t that great. But no coach ever got more out of his players.”
In other words, Wooden used his crowning moment to honor the legacy of another coach. And that legacy was not wins & losses, but potential fulfilled.
YOU’LL WIN WITH STAR PERFORMERS WHO’VE LEARNED HUMILITY.
Marques Johnson, a star 6’5″ forward on the 1975 UCLA team, could ordinarily overcome taller players with his quickness. But the title game against Kentucky – a team boasting three 6’10” big men – presented “the one occasion where he was overmatched”. Wooden replaced Johnson with seven-footer Ralph Drollinger. Rather than fume, Johnson cheered. “It wasn’t about me and my minutes, it was like, we need to win this game by any means necessary.”
DON’T HOLD GRUDGES.
Prior to the 1975 season, Wooden allowed L.A. Times reporter Dwight Chapin to join him on his daily five-mile walk on UCLA’s track. It was actually a sign that Wooden didn’t hold a grudge. Chapin had co-authored a Wooden bio called The Wizard of Westwood that wasn’t all roses & sunshine.
Still, Wooden relinquished any anger he held toward Chapin and opened up to the reporter prior to his final season.
DON’T FORGET TO HAVE FUN.
Players on Wooden’s final team tell tales of how their coach loosened up in his final season.
After practice one day, freshman guard Raymond Townsend was playfully taking half-court shots. In previous years, Wooden might have ripped into Townsend for horsing around. On this occasion, Wooden – 64-years-old at the time – asked Townsend for the ball. The coach promptly took his own half-court shot – and made it. “Child’s Play” he said to Townsend, before walking away. On another occasion, Wooden spotted Marques Johnson shooting pool in the student union. Johnson thought he was about to get scolded. Wooden didn’t scold – he just asked Johnson to borrow the cue stick. The coach promptly made five or six in a row, maybe more. “Then he handed me the cue and walked out. Didn’t say a word. Didn’t say one word the whole time.”
There is more to March Madness than the outcomes of basketball games. The human stories behind the madness are fascinating – the athletes who overcame obstacles, the parents who made sacrifices, and the coaches who inspire. The coaches who inspire…Their words can certainly be applied to basketball, leadership, and life.
Enjoy the games.
“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.
– Coach John Wooden