Teaching Life

Tony Bennett, left, and Stevie Wonder sing a duet during an event by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers to honor Wonder with the American Troubadour Award on March 13, 2007, in Washington, D.C. AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari

Maybe it is the obscene excess brought to light in the Dennis Kozlowski trial, or the springtime of excuses about drug testing being made by the millionaire baseball players' union, or maybe it's just watching the 9-11 Commission search for someone in or out of government with no agenda, but on this basketball weekend, it got me thinking about what an old basketball coach used to teach his players.

First, he said never lie, never cheat or steal. He told them that the team comes before the individual and he taught them that true piece of mind, self-respect, comes from not winning, but knowing you did your best.

When his star player grew a beard in defiance of team rules, saying it was his right, the old coach asked if it -- that belief was deeply held. When the kid said yes, the coach said he admired a person with deeply held beliefs, then added, `We're going to miss you.' The kid got a shave.

Oh, it's corny stuff, all right, except the coach was UCLA's John Wooden, the most successful basketball coach of all time. He won 10 NCAA championships at UCLA, 16 conference championships, and during the 1970s, his teams won an astonishing 88 games in a row. Corny? Sure. But John Wooden knew those rules worked. He knew they worked on and off the court.

And by the way, the kid who got the shave was one of basketball's best ever, Bill Walton. He said Wooden, who's nearly 90 now, wasn't teaching basketball; he was teaching life. If only so many of the people in today's headlines had attended his classes. John Wooden, what a great man!


By Bob Schieffer
  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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