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UCLA Sports

What John Wooden means to coaches in Southern California

 John Wooden catches the inaugural John R. Wooden Classic in December 1994.
John Wooden’s teachings still serve as a blueprint for coaches today.
(Christine Cotter / Los Angeles Times)

A sampling of remembrances about legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, who died 10 years ago Tuesday, from major sports coaches in Southern California:

“I remember talking to him at a UCLA basketball game, it was in the early 2000s, and he was sitting in the seat that he always sits in [at Pauley Pavilion] and I introduced myself to him, and I was just shocked that he knew who I was. He told me his dream and his passion was always to be a Major League Baseball player, and the thing that just took me aback, and I was so in awe of, was that there was so much noise around him and people trying to get his ear. And he was just really hearing me and listening and he was present. Just him giving me that time and really listening just hit me, and as I went through life and appreciating that someone of his stature took the time to really hear me and listen and be present with me is something that I still take with me to this very day in how I treat people.”

— Dave Roberts, Dodgers manager and former UCLA baseball player

“Coach Wooden will always be synonymous with UCLA, especially with Bruin basketball. For me, ‘excellence’ is the word that comes to mind when I think of Coach. He was a great man, widely admired for his many popular teachings and books. But for me as a coach, his 10 national championships in any era, under any circumstances, personify this excellence.”

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— Mick Cronin, UCLA men’s basketball coach

“Coach Wooden’s ideals are timeless, and they’ve been inspiring and driving me throughout my career. Here at UCLA, I sense his spirit in all of our ambitions — to make each day our masterpiece, to grow from our mistakes, to become the best that we are capable of.”

— Chip Kelly, UCLA football coach

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“Coach Wooden left an everlasting example of what a coach should be. He inspired all of us to be better educators — not only to teach our players about the game, but also to educate them about life. His philosophy and ideals are timeless.”

— Clay Helton, USC football coach

“Coach Wooden is one of the greatest coaches to walk the sidelines, and yet his accomplishments in basketball pale in comparison to the impact he had on generations. His teachings and philosophies about how to live, and how to lead, have influenced many of the brightest minds in our nation. His legacy goes far beyond championships.”

Doc Rivers, Clippers coach

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“Coach Wooden was an inspiration to me in particular because I got my head coaching start in his home state of Indiana. The principles of his Pyramid of Success have always been something that have shaped my approach to leadership. He led the greatest run of championships in college basketball history! He was a true teacher first. His players loved him. The details mattered to him.”

— Frank Vogel, Lakers coach

“He’s had an incredible impact with a lot of things he’s done off the court as far as leadership and building character and just helping people in everyday life accomplish goals.”

Anthony Lynn, Chargers coach

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Chargers coach Anthony Lynn and UCLA men's basketball coaching legend John Wooden.
(Getty Images)

“He was a model for many coaches just in the way you went about things. Just the overall attention to detail, the way he cared about his players. I remember reading stories when Bill Walton was there. Bill Walton had some ideas on what was going on in the United States at that time, and John Wooden engaged him in discussion. So that was a way that he cared about his players and he spoke to them, and obviously he set a high standard. So I think when you’re getting into coaching, those examples are very important.”

— Bob Bradley, LAFC coach

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“John Wooden was an iconic leader and competitor; his principles are the foundation of many successful coaches’ philosophies in both this country and throughout the world.”

— Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Galaxy coach

“I sat with him in my office [in Anaheim as Mike Scioscia’s bench coach]. I was in awe the entire time … just me and him, and he sat directly across from me and we talked baseball, basketball and coaching for 20 minutes or so. I cannot remember specifics but can tell you one of my favorites from him … discipline yourself so no one else has to. I posted that in my locker room at Tampa Bay. He sent me an autographed book of his too.”

— Joe Maddon, Angels manager

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