“The Wizard of Westwood” – Famous Quotes by John Wooden, the NCAA’s Winningest Basketball Coach

Great coaches win games when it counts. Some coaches also make great interviews for the media writers by never shying away in victory or defeat, and giving great quotes. Even fewer have great personalities to go with their victories, and quotes that are insightful, memorable and sometimes so funny we cannot help but smile.

And then there are the select few, legends in their own time that will never be forgotten, such as Knute Rockne and Vince Lombardi. Add Lou Holtz to the same list, not in the same class as Rockne and Lombardi, but because of his quick wit and quality comments. Successful coaches did not become so by being stupid, arcane and bovine. Holtz is sharp as a tack.

Rockne (the Notre Dame Fighting Irish), Lombardi (the Green Bay Packers), and Holtz (the only coach to lead 6 college programs to bowl-game appearances) are all football coaches.

Enter basketball’s John Wooden, who ranks in the same class as Rockne and Lombardi.

Known as the “Wizard of Westwood”, Wooden won 665 games in 27 seasons at UCLA and 10 NCAA titles during this last 12 years, including 7 straight from 1967 to 1973. He also had an 88-game winning streak and two undefeated, back-to-back national championship teams.

Wooden’s UCLA record during his 10 National Championship years was 291-10 (not a misprint); it rounds to a 97% winning percentage and includes no less than 4 perfect 30-0 seasons.

Here are some of John Wooden’s most famous quotes:

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

“Never mistake activity for achievement.”

“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”

“Adversity is the state in which man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then.”

“Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”

“I’d rather have a lot of talent and a little experience than a lot of experience and a little talent.”

“Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

“Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”

“Ability is a poor man’s wealth.”

“Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character.”

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”

“You can’t let praise or criticism get to you. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.”

“It’s not so important who starts the game but who finishes it.”

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

“Consider the rights of others before your own feelings, and the feelings of others before your own rights.”

“What you are as a person is far more important than what you are as a basketball player.”

“There are many things that are essential to arriving at true peace of mind, and one of the most important is faith, which cannot be acquired without prayer.”

“You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.” (My personal favorite.)

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