Tony DeMeo

Wooden on Leadership by John Wooden

John Wooden is arguably one of the greatest coaches of any sport in the history of sport in this country. Winning 10 NCAA Championships in 12 years is a greatness that may never be equaled. He won with super stars like Lew Alcindor aka Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Bill Walton, but he also won with an undersized over-achieving team in 1965 led by Gail Goodrich. The first book that I read by Coach Wooden, They Call Me Coach was a classic and I would certainly recommend it, but I really enjoyed Wooden on Leadership because it wasn’t geared as much to basketball.

Wooden’s “Pyramid of Success” is of course familiar to all & is covered in the book. He also covers his definition of success which is a classic: “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you’ve made the effort to do the best of which you are capable”

Coach Wooden says winning is a by-product of the 4 “Ps” plan, prepare, practice, and performance. His “Formula for Success” is simple: Conditioning + Fundamentals + Unity = Success. This is the formula I’ve tried to adhere to over the years. There is no question that although Wooden has coached some of the biggest stars in the game his message is TEAM. The star of the team IS the TEAM.

Another part of Coach Wooden’s Philosophy is about values – “Good values attract good people”. Only have people of in your organization. This similar to Jim Collins’ idea in Good To Great “get the right people on the bus”

John Wooden was first and foremost a teacher and believed that teaching the details of the game wins games. He advises to always teach teamwork, work ethic and poise. Teach by example and you be what you want your team to become. That is one of the great lessons of this book. A teacher is always learning and always looking for a better way to teach. Too often as coaches we look for “magic bullets” the great play that will bring us victory but really the “magic” is in the teaching. I’ve been around football coaches who will debate endlessly over which play or system is better but the secret is the best play or system is the one that is taught the best. Every great coach: Lombardi, Paterno, Bear, Eddie Robinson or Wooden all consider themselves TEACHERS.

Teams win not stars. Coach Wooden believes the USA Olympic team lost in 2004 because of the star syndrome. They were great players but NOT a great TEAM. They did not know how to share the ball. When you share the ball everyone is a threat. We have made this one of the pillars of the Triple Gun Offense. We want every skill player to get the ball. The Triple Gun is a “WE” offense not an “I” formation. By sharing the ball you develop depth and not dependent on one player.

Every practice is important, you either get better or worse there is no status quo. Coach Wooden strongly believed in carefully crafted practices that were planned in detail. He believes that a coach’s job is to get his team to give maximum effort in practice. Every team wants to give effort during the game but Championship teams give great effort in practice thus improve every day. Play guys who push themselves in practice and you’ll send a strong message to all your players. The bench is a coach’s best friend. Coach Wooden says he built his Championship teams in practice and the games took care of themselves.

Coach instructed his players not to look at the score board; excellence is not about points but about habits. The score should have zero influence on how you play.

John Wooden is an American icon and a source of value-based leadership. Wooden on Leadership will help define your philosophy & take your coaching from success to significance. Coach Wooden’s website is at