This was actually the second time I interviewed John Wooden. I’d always held an immeasurable amount of respect for John Wooden. Not because he was one of the most revered coaches in the history of sports but in the way he lived his entire life. John Wooden was renowned for his short, simple inspirational messages to his players, including his “Pyramid of Success.” The first time I spoke to Coach Wooden was in an exclusive one-on-one sit down interview for ESPN. We primarily talked hoops and his personal application of sports to life attitudes. This man changed many lives in a seemingly effortless way with just a few words at a time. (I would read an inspirational quote before all of my games…and many times it would be the words of John Wooden). Conversing with him reminded me of listening to a my Granddad because his passion for the game and love of people was palpable. My final question was intended to evoke the most emotion from him. “Coach Wooden, you won 10 NCAA national championships in 12 years, your teams won a record 88 consecutive games during that time. If you could single out one moment that stands above the rest, which do you choose?” I expected to be on the edge of my seat as he relived the last five seconds of one of his title games, when he called a time out to draw up a play that was executed to perfection…but it wasn’t even close to that. He looked at me with the most sincere expression and in the way only John Wooden could, he again made an impact in just a few short words. “Stacy, my greatest moment in life was when Nellie accepted my proposal to become my wife.” …I was fighting tears. That was real. That was John Wooden. I have the above photo framed and autographed with a personal message from Coach Wooden, including one of my favorite quotes: “Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.” — John Wooden
I had the privilege of hosting the interview portion of John Wooden’s Legends of the Hardwood breakfast during the Final Four. This sensational panel of gentlemen were recognized for their positive contributions on and off the hardwood.
(Pictured L-R: Clark Kellogg, Ernie Johnson, Jerry Colangelo, Lorenzo Romar, Junior Bridgeman)