The world lost a great man last weekend, when John Wooden passed away at the age of 99. He was a man who truly "got it." He knew what was important, and he spent his life quietly sharing his wisdom with others. He was always a teacher, and will always be Coach to those who were blessed to have played for him.
At our house, we learned that a speech or essay could almost always use a John Wooden quote, and his book was referenced frequently. It's also good to have a quote or two committed to memory for those impromptu speech opportunities that might present themselves.
His lessons ranged from the proper way to put on socks for basketball, to the commitment to loving one woman his whole life. After his wife Nellie's death, he wrote her a love letter every month for 24 years. In his wisdom, he speaks of the importance of love, loyalty, and balance in life, and in keeping things in perspective.
One of my favorite sportswriters (yes, I read sports), Rick Reilly, had the opportunity to visit Coach Wooden (can I call him "Coach"?) many times. This is an interview from last October. Be sure to pause the blog music to hear the interview.
Once I was afraid of dying, terrified of ever-lying,
petrified of leaving family, home and friends.
Thoughts of absence from my dear ones, brought a melancholy tear once,
and a dreadful fear of when life ends.
But those days are long behind me, fear of leaving does not bind me,
and departure does not hold a single care.
Peace does comfort as I ponder, a reunion in the yonder,
with my dearest one who is waiting for me there.
And another clip, from an earlier year, in which Coach Wooden recites a poem reflecting his faith in God as the cornerstone for his life. May we all learn from the words, the wisdom, and the example of this humble man.
Godspeed, John Wooden.