Each individual, in one sense or another, wants to leave a legacy. They want to put their signature stamp on the future and impact generations to come. Some do it consciously, some unconsciously. We all want our lives to matter. We hope that in some small way we make a difference to those around us. Forbes magazine claims our legacy can be seen by the summation of our work at each stage of our careers. It grows with each new experience, each new idea we are willing to chase, and with each person we take the time to inspire. Legacy isn’t forged at the end of life but along the way in each decision we make and each relationship we develop. Legacy and leadership are processes of change and discovery that guide our lives and affects those around us. I am not sure if Coach Wooden thought much about leaving a legacy, but I am sure he lived an intentional life, asking a lot of questions. To Wooden, the most important question was “How do I help the team improve?” Wooden believed “An effective leader keeps asking that question because there’s always something more you can do – always room for improvement. Always.” To him it was a question that needed to be asked continually. Always finding new answers and better solutions.
Many of the players who played for Wooden would openly say that the important things they learned from him had little to do with basketball. Many of them were fathers, some of them grandfathers. Many of them stayed in touch with Coach Wooden either by letter, phone or in person. Bill Sweek saw Wooden as a person who despite his conservative background, was one who had the ability to relate to people of color and those less fortunate. Wooden was flexible and willing to change his thinking during social upheaval. Sweek would later state “He (Wooden) was a morally upright person. He could hear and he would listen. Despite his background, he was willing to change. He really was a lifelong learner.” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said “He was a teacher above all else. He challenged us without taking away our spirit. He taught me how to instill confidence in others. He made me understand that everything is a learning game. It’s all about learning about yourself and learning how to be successful.” To his players, Wooden had stood the test of time living out the philosophy he had on a plaque in his office, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” He was seen as a student of life and as an individual who sought to improve a bit each day.
John Wooden coached and built an amazing basket program during immense social change. He won 10 NCAA championships between 1963 and 1975. He had an amazing winning streak of 98 games from 1970 to 1975. When he decided to retire from coaching, a lot could be said about his accomplishments. Despite all his success his “greatest victory may well have been his ability to emerge from all that tumult without losing sense of who he was — not a perfect man, but a very good one, a teacher more than a coach, a Christian, a husband, a father, anything but a wizard. He was going out a winner, but what mattered more was that he had been successful, even if he was the only on who understood the difference,” At 99 years old, just 5 months shy of 100 Wooden died the same way he lived. He had a clear conscience, peace of mind and very little money. “Most of all, he was prepared for his death – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. He wasn’t a perfect man, and he didn’t live a perfect life, but he left this world in perfect balance; a success by any definition of the word.”
 John Wooden and Steve Jamison, The Essential Wooden: A Lifetime of Lessons and Leadership, (New York, McGraw Hill, 2007), 156.
 Seth Davis, Wooden: A Coach’s Life (New York: St. Martins Griffin, 2014), 505.
 Seth Davis, Wooden: A Coach’s Life (New York: St. Martins Griffin, 2014), 318.
 Seth Davis, Wooden: A Coach’s Life (New York: St. Martins Griffin, 2014), 319.
 Seth Davis, Wooden: A Coach’s Life (New York: St. Martins Griffin, 2014), 507.
 Seth Davis, Wooden: A Coach’s Life (New York: St. Martins Griffin, 2014), 440.
 Seth Davis, Wooden: A Coach’s Life (New York: St. Martins Griffin, 2014), 515