Wooden’s Wisdoms


Compiled by

Coach Ronn Wyckoff, Author/Producer

Basketball On A Triangle



I’ve written on numerous occasions about Coach John Wooden and the influences his philosophies and coaching methods have had on the way I approach teaching basketball.

He has been called a “philosopher-coach” and a “master-teacher”. If you’ve been around him, read about him, or listened to him, you will understand he is all of that.

When I speak so often about coaches becoming “teaching-coaches”, I am giving homage to the “teaching-coach” of all time, John Wooden.


Because of his philosophies and teaching, I grew to become a teaching-coach myself and my greatest joys from teaching and coaching basketball are to enable others to become teaching-coaches. Basketball On A Triangle


A recent Sports Illustrated article and an NCAA Final Four containing a UCLA team, brought back a flood of memories from the ‘Wooden era’ at UCLA. I’ve several books by or about Coach Wooden in my library and I have quoted him often in my coaching career and in my own (soon to be published) book, Basketball On A Triangle: A Higher Level of Coaching and Playing. So I decided to revisit these works and re-read, for the 100th time or more, his many sayings, maxims, aphorisms and borrowed wisdoms.


It really doesn’t matter who the original authors might have been, for he quoted many and often, however the real treasure lies in that he has shared these gems with us for so many years.So, what I’ve done, is to take license and just share a lot of these collected wisdoms with my readers. Some of the books where these, and so many more, can be found, are: They Call Me Coach, Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations & Reflections On & Off The Court, John Wooden: An American Treasure, and My Personal Best.


Here’s a chance to be interactive, if you choose.


There are so many wonderful sayings and quotes abounding in sports that relate to basketball and to life (not just Coach Wooden’s), I couldn’t possibly put them all together for you. But, if you’d like, share some of your favorites here with us. If you know who said what, or where the words came from, share that with us, along with your name and where you’re from. There are many occasions, I am sure, in your coaching career where you have used, or have use for, some good motivational words. Send your contribution to: SpiritualHoops@cs.com.

From Coach Wooden


On Life


“Things work out for the best for those who make the best of the way things work out.”


“When you’re through learning, you’re through.”


“Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who’ll argue with you.”


“Wooden Family sets of 3’s”


Never lie. Don’t whine.


Never cheat. Don’t complain.


Never steal. Don’t make excuses.


“Balance is one of the most important things in basketball and in life as well.”


“Talent is God-given; be humble.


Fame is man-given; be thankful.


Conceit is self-given; be careful.”


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


Coach’s Faith


“God never closes one door without opening another.”


“I am just a common man who’s true to his beliefs.”


“O’ Lord, if I seem to lose my faith in Thee, do not Thou lose Thy faith in me.”


From Coach’s Expectations For His Players


“Remember that you represent others who are responsible for you as well as yourself and your personal appearance and conduct should not reflect discredit in any way upon yourself or upon those whom you represent. Cleanliness, neatness, politeness, and good manners are qualities that should be characteristic of those who are of great influence on young people and you certainly qualify for that category. Be a good example.”


The Team


“The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.”


“The star of the team is the team.”


“No player is bigger than the team.”


On Being The Best You Can Be


“Don’t try to be better than somebody else, but never cease trying to be the best you can be.”


“Beating an opponent is not a goal, but a by-product of success.”


“Success is the peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming”.

“…acquire peace of mind by becoming the best that you are capable of becoming.”


“Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.”


“I am not what I ought to be, not what I want to be, not what I am going to be, but thankful that I am not what I used to be.”


“Success is not something others can give to you.”


“Anger prevents proper thinking and makes you vulnerable.”


“Motivation must come from the belief that ultimate success lies in giving your personal best.”


“You never fail if you know in your heart that you did the best of which you are capable.”


“We don’t control what the other team does to prepare. We can only control what we do to prepare.”


“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”


“Play to your potential.”


“A combination of personal qualities and values are intrinsic to making the effort to reach (a player’s) potential as a person. There is a direct relationship between what it takes to be a good basketball player and the requirements for being a good person.”



“The way you practice is the way you play.”


“Practice is where a championship is won.”


“End practices on a happy note.”


About Teaching Youth


“The greatest word in the whole dictionary is love.”


“Be slow to criticize and quick to commend.”


“Being a role model is the most powerful form of educating. Youngsters need good models more than they need critics. It’s one of a parent’s greatest responsibilities and opportunities.”


“The person you are is the person your child will become.”


Paying Attention To Details


“Little things done well is probably the greatest key to success.”


“If you do enough small things right, big things happen.”


“Be quick but don’t hurry.”