Why John Wooden’s Team Won (Part 1)

As many of our U.S. listeners may know, we are in the middle of the famed March Madness college basketball tournament, where some of the best college athletes and coaches have marked their place in sports history. This week we begin a two-part series in which we celebrate one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time, John Wooden, who was a friend and mentor of John Maxwell as well as today’s guest co-host, Don Yaeger.

If that name sounds familiar to you, that’s because we’ve had Don on the podcast before. Don is the author of more than 35 books, eleven of which have become New York Times Best-sellers. He has written books with NFL icons like Walter Payton, Warrick Dunn, and Michael Oher, among many others including, you guessed it, John Wooden! Like John Maxwell, Don was mentored by John Wooden over the span of 12 years. Don is a celebrated storyteller, and you certainly don’t want to miss the stories he shares in this series!

Our BONUS resource for this series is the “Why John Wooden’s Team Won Worksheet,” which includes fill-in-the-blank notes from John’s teaching. You can download the worksheet by clicking “Download the Bonus Resource” below.


Mark Cole:            Hello, everyone, welcome to the Maxwell Leadership Podcast, the podcast that adds value to leaders who multiply value to others. My name is Mark Cole and I am so excited because not only do we get to hear from John Maxwell and how John Wooden, one of the greatest college basketball coaches of all time, impacted John's leadership. But I have a special friend with me today, mine and John Maxwell's good friend, Don Yaeger. Now, if that name sounds familiar to you, that's because we've had Don on the podcast before. Don is the author of more than 35 books, 11 of which have become New York Times best sellers. He has written books with NFL icons like Walter Payton, Warrick Dunn, Michael Oher and many others. But yes, he has also written a book on Coach John Wooden.

Now, I also have to tell you that just recently, Maxwell Leadership announced that Don Yaeger has joined our thought leaders, women and men that begin to craft and think and communicate and write about how leadership should be done in today's difficult times. So Don is one of our team members. He comes and speaks. He writes. He actually does podcasts like this. Don is doing it all. Like John Maxwell, Don was also mentored by John Wooden over the span of 12 years. In my opinion, Don, is one of the best storytellers I have ever heard. And you are about to hear some incredible stories. No better person to join me today on this episode. So be to stick around after John teaches for our post game discussion.

As always, we have a free fill in the blank PDF worksheet that is yours. We call it our bonus resource. If you would like to download this, please go to maxwellpodcast.com/win and click the bonus resource button. All right. Here we go. It's game time. Here is John C. Maxwell.

John Maxwell:    Let's just take a moment and give you a little background of John Wooden, who is the greatest college division one basketball coach in the history of college basketball. In fact, he was voted coach of the century last year, a tremendous man, tremendous leader, tremendous teacher. And it was my privilege to go out to Los Angeles and spend about three and a half hours with him. We had lunch together at his table, and then he said, "John, let's go back to my place." I would've loved to have 10 hours just to do nothing, but read all of the plaques that were on the walls of this home. I think he's living in this place for 30 years. And he's going to up more memorabilia and awards than you could ever imagine. I would've just loved to have had some time to have looked and read every plaque.

We not only had lunch together and had some time at his house, but I prepared for three weeks before I met with him. I had my questions ready. And I want to set this up well. When we're having lunch, one of the things I knew that his father at the age of 12 when he graduated from elementary school, had given him a creed of which he encouraged his son, John, to follow his entire life. I have it with me, but I also put it in your notes because what he gave me that day, I want to pass on to you. It's entitled making the most of oneself. Be true to yourself, make each day your masterpiece, help others, drink deeply from good books, make friendship a fine art, build shelter against a rainy day, pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day. That's a creed that for 80 years, John Wooden has followed.

Now, what I want to do is I want to take our discussion that day and I ask a lot of questions and I want to share with you because all of you as subscribers, you're interested in winning. Most of you are competitive by nature, most of you are already successful and you're wanting to do better and you're wanting to be more competitive, you want to win more. I know that we all do. So let's set this bat so far apart from other coaches of his generation. Why did he continually win when other coaches won, but not on that same level of consistency?

And I'm going to give you my observations from my day of talking to it. Number one, are you ready in your notes? And I know this to be a fact. Number one, he achieved personal victories before he led his team to victory. When you look at the life of John Wooden, one of the things you come away with very quickly is that he had won the battle of self, that he truly has disciplined his own life, he has conquered himself, he has had his main victory, which is over ourselves, because isn't it true? Our biggest challenge is leaders. My biggest challenge of leaders isn't leading other people, my biggest challenge of a leader is living the life of a leader.

And as I listened to John Wooden that day, and I kept asking myself, how could he bring such success to the teams that he led? I have no doubt about it. This first issue has to be discussed right out of the shoot. He had victory over himself, which allowed him to also show other people how to be victorious. I just want to stop and say to you and to all of us that as leaders, if we haven't won the personal battles, we'll never be able to lead other people to victories in their battles. If we haven't ourselves experienced a breakthrough, we can't lead other people to their breakthrough. So it always begins with the leader. I think that's the first reason why so many of his teams experience success.

Number two, I think the second reason that John wouldn't put together so many victorious teams is that he was a better leader than other college coaches. Since I truly believe that everything rises and falls on leadership, I believe the reason that he won more games than other coaches is he was a better leader. Or going back to my laws of teamwork book, the law of the edge, the difference between two equally talented teams is leadership. And I've always felt that all things being equal, you have two companies, you have two teams come together. All things being equal, the team with the best leader will always win all other things being equal, talent being equal.

Now, here's what I've noticed and what I said about John Wooden is this, I believe that he won more games because I think he was a better leader than most college coaches. Couple of years ago, I went down to the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama to speak to 900 NFL coaches and scouts. And in the NFL in the last seven or eight years, there's been great parity in the NFL. There's not been a dominant team. I think in the last five super bowls with a potential of having 10 different teams, there's been nine different teams play. That's major parody.

And so when I was talking to the NFL coaches, one of the things I shared with them is I was taken to the laws of teamwork, was this law of the edge. And the fact, the law of the edge says the difference between two equally talented teams is leadership. And I told the NFL coaches, if there has ever been a time to understand leadership it's now, because think about it, if all things are equal, who's going to win? The teams with the best leaders. And I would go deep in my leadership. And I explained that. I said, I would make sure that I had a few of my ball players on the field that had great leadership qualities and exhibited those leadership qualities.

So when you're drafting and when you're looking at your players, build into your players some leadership, because the best leaders on that field are probably going to win those close games, not to go from there, but go to your staff to your coaches and get leadership training, because if your assistant coaches are better leaders than the other teams assistant coaches, you're going to get an edge. And then, of course, obviously it keeps on going up to the head coach and goes up to the owners. I said, let's make sure you have leadership all the way through your organization. I think we've discovered two things. First of all, I think he won the battle of inner self. I think he literally truly learned how to lead himself before he led his team, number one. And I think number two is he was a better leader than most coaches.

Now, number three, and the rest of that, I'm going to give you. The first two are my feelings. The rest stuff I'm going to give you are the things that John Wooden told me that day. Number three, he was above average in analyzing players. And I found to be very interesting when I had my discussion with him. And I want to share with you how coach Wooden selected his players, because you're selecting players all the time, you're building a team, you're constantly wanting to do this. And I think we're going to get real practical here.

Okay, how did Coach Wooden select his players? Now, number one's just mechanical. I'll give you that when we'll get on. Number one's transcript. Of course, he was a college coach. So he said, "John, the first thing I looked to when I had a potential player that I wanted to recruit is I wanted to look at his grades." And he just said very simply, the primary goal to these kids is to get an education. And if they couldn't carry the grades, I just didn't recruit poor students, even if I thought they were going to qualify. If they didn't do a certain level of testing, I didn't recruit him. So he said, number one, just transcript. He said that itself, if their transcript's bad, it's going to disqualify.

Number two was family life. He said, "I looked to the players family life." In fact, he said, "John," he said, "The three pillars of my life are family, faith and friends." But here's a person who when he recruited his ball players, he wanted to see what kind of family they came out of. He told me the story. He said, "I didn't do a lot of home visits as far as recruiting players, but one of the players that I wanted to recruit was an outstanding player."

In fact, he didn't give me his name. And he said, "I didn't give you name, because he was an outstanding college player. He's now standing pro player. I went to his house to recruit him, had the scholarship in my coat pocket and spent a couple of hours with the family. During the conversation I asked the player's mother a question in which she gave me an answer. And as soon as she gave me the answer, the player that I was wanting to recruit, looked at his mom said, mom, that is a stupid answer. So he went on with the rest of the conversation and I never offered him a scholarship. Now on the way out, my assistant coach said, coach, you got the scholarship. You forgot to give the scholarship to the kids. I said, no, I didn't forget. I'm not going to offer him a scholarship. They may be a great basketball player, but what I've learned is if that kid doesn't respect his mother, he won't respect his coach."

And I just came away with again, admiring somebody that would give up a great player because he felt that perhaps the family life wasn't what it should be. And then number three, the third thing that he did in recruiting his ball players was what he called a composite evaluation of six coaches. In other words, he said, it's very important to just not hear from the head coach of the player you want to recruit, because he's all high on his kid and said, oh, this is the best kid ever coach. If you really don't get good true honest answers from the head coach of a player. So what he said he'd do is he would write to five opposing coaches that played against that kid that year. And he would ask him a question, of all the people that you played against this year, who was the best player? And if all five of them came back with the same kid, he knew he had a real good ball player.Then he would say, "I want you to evaluate that kid. How did you defense him? How did you play against him? I would take the five opposing coaches and what they said about the ball player. And then I would take the head coach and what he said about his player. And I never let the head coach's decision be more important than the other five, because if you want a true evaluation of somebody, don't ask somebody that coaches them or don't ask somebody that's in the family or don't ask somebody that really likes them." He said, "You'll get your honest evaluation from the opposing coaches. They'll tell you really the strengths and weaknesses of that player."

And then he made another statement. What shows you his amazing ability to see big picture? If you could only watch a player play one game, then don't go see it, because he said you cannot get a true picture of anybody doing something just one time. You have to see him play several games or you have to talk to several coaches. Never let one stand on its own to when you evaluate somebody that you're going to bring on your team. And I thought what his tremendous wisdom?

Number four, quickness. He recruited quick ball players. He said, "That was my number one requirement for a person I recruited." And then he said, "John, think about it, basketball is a game of quickness. So my goal was at any given time to have three players on the floor that were faster than any of the players on the other team. If I had three players on the floor that were quicker than any other player on the other team, that meant I was going to get between 60 and 70% of all the turnovers," because he said, "You get turnovers based on quickness. And if I got 60 to 70% of the turnovers in an average game, that means I'm going to get the ball five or six times more than the other team." And he said, "If I get the ball six times more than the other team and we just convert half of our baskets, that's three baskets. That's six points. Six points usually is the difference between two equally talented team."

He said, "I didn't recruit for height." In fact, he won his first national championship, his center was only six foot five. He said, "I didn't recruit for height, didn't recruit for shooting ability. It was essential. What made Bill Walton such a great center was not only as great athleticism, but he was just quicker than the other centers." And then he said something interesting, "All the UCLA teams did full court press. We didn't do full court press to get the other team to have turnovers. Now because we did full court press, we got turnovers. But that isn't why we did the full court press, we did the full court press so that we could get the other team to play faster than they would normally play. We full court press so we could speed up the opposition because if we could speed up the opposition, they were going to play our game because we were the quickest team." And I thought, "Oh my goodness, you talked about being able to set the agenda and understanding the value of quickness and the value of speed.

Number five is talent. And then he got a mischievous look on his face and gave me a smile. And he said, "John," he said, "The team with the most talent usually wins." So I said, "I never assumed that my coaching was so great that all I needed was average talent. I wanted to be a good coach and a great teacher, but you just got to have talent on your team. I was a better coach when I had better talent. And I think great leaders have pictures of the people they want to have on their team." How true that is?

Mark Cole:            Hey, welcome back. John Maxwell, just delivered an incredible lesson again. For all of you viewing on YouTube, welcome. This is the handsome, good looking friend of mine, Don Yaeger, that you're seeing on screen. And then if you're not viewing and listening, Don Yaeger and I have a face for radio. And I'm just kidding, Don, you absolutely are making us look good today. I'm glad to have you on. I love this first thing, Don, that John said, he opened the lesson and said making the most of oneself, this poem that you probably heard Coach Wooden talk about either.

And here's my whole point, podcast listeners you're getting ready to connect with an individual that absolutely hands down focuses on being better on the inside before he's better on the outside. And Don, it is so good to have you not only on the team, but at the podcast today. Welcome a board, Don.

Don Yaeger:         Mark, I so appreciate it. And to your point, you were talking about Coach Wooden's poem. So remember John explained that, that poem was actually given to Coach Wooden when he was 12 years old by his father. Coach Wooden kept that. There was a sheet of paper that he kept in his wallet his entire lifetime. It was tattered, but Coach Wooden held onto it. But a number of years ago, he actually had copies of it made. I carried in my wallet that Coach Wooden had done that has both the creed from his father and all the key elements of that as well as the six imperatives that his father always gave him, don't lie, don't steal. Coach Wooden so valued this lesson from his father that he carried it with him. And I was honored years ago to have him give it to me. And you can see mine's a little tattered too. I've been carrying it for all these years as well. Coach just had a way as he did with John Maxwell of impacting others without ever even attempting to do so.

Mark Cole:            Podcast listers, if you ever wanted incentive to go view the podcast, Don Yaeger just gave that to you. You holding up that card, I imagine Coach Wooden doing that to you and to John when you first saw it. And Don not only seeing all the memorabilia behind you, but seeing you hold up that card is really impressive. Let me get to one of things that John said. One of his points is that Coach Wooden achieved personal victories before he led his team to victory. And I know enough about Coach Wooden to know that about him. I know enough about John Maxwell because I've been with him for 22 years. He is more focused on personal victory inside. But Don, the more I've gotten to know you as a Maxwell Leadership thought leader, that's exactly what I would say about you too, what is it about Coach Wooden that you picked up on or John Maxwell or even yourself that makes someone so committed to focusing on the inside leader before they focus on the external performance?

Don Yaeger:         Well, thank you first off for those words. I would not dare put myself in any of those sentences, but thank you, that was kind. But I would tell you that what Coach Wooden used to talk about a lot was that it's impossible to truly lead others and then have them watch you and have them see you not be the shining light of what it is you're asking them to one day be. So maybe the highest compliment I ever heard about Coach Wooden came from his daughter, Nan, who passed away just a couple of months ago. But Nan said that every day when her dad would come home from practice or from... And remember, this is pre ESPN, this is pre 24 hour news cycles.

She said, "We as his children and his wife had no idea if he'd had a horrible day at practice. We had no idea if they had just won the most important game of the season, because he was the exact same person every day when he came home. And that he brought himself and he did come home with a stack of papers and work to do before he could share his time with his family. He was fully present in everything that he did. And each and every one of those things became just hyper important." To me as I was learning from coach, how do I make sure I am that in every one of my interactions every day?

Mark Cole:            There's this trait that John highlights in the lesson. In fact, it's one of his big teaching points in this first part. I'm so excited about the second part. I'm glad you're going to be back on. But this first part, John, certainly highlighted that he was a better leader than any other coach. And it's almost like these coaches or these leaders like John or Don, you, or Coach Wooden. It's almost like that they have an ability to forget the accomplishment of yesterday and to focus back on doing it again. Today is a new day. In fact, those of you that are podcast listeners, you know I have a standout session, a statement that Jake in our team provides for us. And today, our standout statement is Coach Wooden's quote, "Make today your masterpiece."

And there's something about these great coaches. And Don I'm coming to this point, because I want you to highlight how you observed Coach Wooden doing that because right behind your head, right above your head is Duke. And those of you that are on podcasts, I haven't got a chance to talk to you about it, but the John and I got to be a part of Coach K's last home game a few weeks ago to where it was a brilliant experience. I've never experienced a sporting event with this much electricity ever. But if you watched it on that Saturday night, you know that Duke did not play their best game. In fact, it was a pretty horrendous game if you're a Duke fan and North Carolina just basically owned them, especially toward the end of the game.

We're getting ready for all the festivities and Coach K came up and did something that will forever mark me. He didn't have to do this. He has more wins than most. In fact, behind Coach Wooden, he has the second most championships of anyone, but he came up and he said, "To all of you in the audience, I know you're coming, we're going to have some great festivities, but I have to apologize to you because me and the guys did not deliver tonight. And you can be sure of one thing, we will go back after all these festivities, we'll dissect it. And we'll come back into the tournament, a better team."

Here's the point that I'm taking right here, Don, and I want you to comment on this, coaches some way have a figure out. No matter what extracurricular things are going on, they keep the main thing the main thing and work diligently to make today that masterpiece. And Don I'm sure you've observed a lot of things from Coach Wooden like that.

Don Yaeger:         Well, one of the things I loved about Coach Wooden was that he never allowed his teams to be called defending national champion. So because he argued that, that was an event that was celebrated by a different group of people, like they won the national championship. We today are a new team. We today are challenged with a new task. Last year means absolutely nothing. Now, it might inspire the opponent a little bit more to beat us because we're defending national champions, but it shouldn't allow us to puff ourselves up just a little bit more because we're defending something. We're not defending anything. What we are doing is proving to ourselves that we came today to make it a masterpiece.

Coach Wooden loved that quote, make each day your masterpiece. And it was funny, because he often said, it sounds like a simple quote. The truth is it's one of the most complicated processes in all of life, because it's hard to make today a masterpiece to stay focused, to stay in the moment. But if you do it, you string together seven of them, you got a masterpiece week. You put four of those together, you got a masterpiece month. And his point was, but don't think about the month, make today your masterpiece.

Mark Cole:            Well, and so we go back to this third point that I want to cover. And then I've got some questions I want to ask you, Don. John covers this third point and he says he was above average in analyzing his players. And, of course, if the John Maxwell company at our companies here at Maxwell Leadership, we do a great job or we try to do a great job of analyzing people off the three Cs, competence, character and culture. Are they a culture fit? And we work hard, but I think we spend more time trying to get existing players motivated and producing than we spend trying to get potential players to answer questions on whether they can fit in and whether they can produce.

And yet this story of Coach Wooden passing or giving a great player, a scholarship because he wouldn't fit the culture that Coach Wooden want. He said, "Hey, if he doesn't respect his mom, how do I think he's going to respect me?" And yet, Don, you know this about the Maxwell Leadership Podcast, we're talking to business leaders and our greatest concern is how do we keep effective good players? And I think we need to do a greater job of worrying about the players we put on the team than trying to motive and inspire the players that are already on the team. And again, I know you've watched some stuff. You work with teams all the time in our business. What do you think about this idea that coach was so committed to analyzing his players?

Don Yaeger:         So I will tell you, Mark, I love that in some ways you've painted the picture of maybe these two things being a little separate, but I know how I know where your heart is, recruiting and maintaining your talent. They're not really two different things, because if you recruit the wrong talent, you're going to lose some and you have no idea why they left. The truth is they left because of who you recruited. So Coach Wooden understood that... He said, "The culture of your organization shifts on every personnel move. The culture of your organization has the potential to shift on every personnel move. You add the wrong player, you could lose talent that you have no idea that's leaving. You add the right player, it can help others explode with their potential."

So he looked at the two things as completely intertwined, because yes, we are worried about trying to keep our talent in every company, mine, yours, every company that's out there. But what they respect is that if we make sure we're bringing the right talent in, they're more likely. They'll give you that discretionary effort, which is what we, as leaders are always trying to pull from our employees or from our team. There's the work you have to do. There's the discretionary work that you do, because you love us, you love what we're doing. And Coach Wooden always understood you get more discretionary effort if you continue to bring in people who will add to and not detract from the collective.

Mark Cole:            It's so good, Don. And yeah, you're exactly right. They are not mutually exclusive. In fact, if you don't do a good job of keeping your good players, then you're going to have this perpetual revolving door. I just watched so many of us leaders get more focused on existing players and staying out of it, letting HR or somebody else handle getting a good player. I'm going to tell you the closer the player is to you and the vision, the more important position or role they will have in your future, the more engaged you need to be before the decision, not after the decision.

Hey, Don, let me ask you this. All right. So you were mentored every other month, mentored for years, 12 years, I believe with Coach Wooden. And I want to hear a little bit of how this relationship started. And then if you'll do me a favor, give me maybe one or two of your biggest takeaways over these 12 years.

Don Yaeger:         So it's a fun story. Give me a minute, I'll tell it. So I was a writer at Sports Illustrated at the time. And I had heard a story that John Wooden, who was 88 years old at the time was meeting on a monthly basis with the hiphop star of the Los Angeles Lakers named Shaquille O'Neal, 26 year old Shaq who was break dancing and doing movies that none of us should ever remember, but Shaq was going out on a regular basis to meet with John Wooden. And I thought, other than basketball, what could the two of these guys have in common? What could they talk about? Well, Shaq's college coach, Dale Brown, is one of my best friends. And I asked Dale about it. And Dale and I went out and spent a session and Shaq called these mentoring sessions. We sat through three hours, of the two of them interchanging and learning. And never once did the conversation turn to basketball, was about how to be a better man, a better leader, a better teammate, better father, better husband. That's what John Wooden was coaching Shaq to be.

So we get done and we stand up and remember, I'm a writer of SI, I'm going to write about this. And I looked at Coach Wooden and I said, "Coach, that was extraordinary. How does get mentored by someone like you?" And he looked at me and he said, "You ask." And I said, "Well, gosh, how many people ask?" And he said, "Not as many people as you might think. Most people take themselves out of the conversation, but because they'll argue, there's no way that person will ever have time to engage with me." I'm just not even going to ask."

So I thought, wow, that's genius. You ask. What a great idea. I go home. I write this piece. It runs. I call Coach Wooden and I said, "Coach, I was sitting there at the end of all of this, and I felt like I was supposed to ask." And he said, "I wonder what took you so long?"

Mark Cole:            Wow.

Don Yaeger:         And out of that, Coach Wooden opened the door. We found a date. And every other month for the next 12 years, I went to spend a day with John Wooden. And his only rules were that he wanted me to come in prepared to learn. And I had to be the one that was prepared. I had to have my quest ready, because the second the questions ran out the session was over, which meant I had a lot of questions every time. And then he wanted to make sure that I always came back at the beginning of the next session to tell him what I'd done with what I'd learned. So don't just take from me, come back and fill my cup by telling me what you did with what you learned. And so from that, grew into this extraordinary relationship that ultimately led to us writing a book together on his 99th birthday. Came out on his 99th birthday about the power of a mentor and what it means to develop a true mentor mentee relationship.

Mark Cole:            That's brilliant. What's the name of that book?

Don Yaeger:         It's called A Game Plan For Life: The Power of Mentoring. And the forward was written by a guy named John C. Maxwell.

Mark Cole:            I love it. Hey, you need to pick that book up. I hope if you're not driving, you took a moment, type that in your phone or wrote down. There's something else, Don, that you do and I've got another question I want to ask you. But there's something else that you do that I absolutely love. It's called the Corporate Competitor Podcast. And what you do is you take very successful leaders, in fact, John Maxwell has been on this on your podcast, and you take very successful leaders and you take them back to their high school days and you ask them or back to their college days, just back and you go, how did sports, how did competition shape you into the business leader that you are right now? And in my opinion, Don, this is my opinion, this is one of the most understated podcasts that you can possibly listen to podcast listeners.

Probably the first one is the Maxwell Leadership Podcast. Now, I'm just kidding. It is probably the most understated. And I want you to go right now. I want you right now to go to your podcast player of choice. And I want you to search for Corporate Competitor Podcast. I want you to give it eight minutes. If you'll just give it eight minutes, you will get hooked, not only for that session, but you'll subscribe and make every other session. And Don, I love what you're doing there. I think we're going to add thousands to your subscribe in the next two episodes of the Maxwell Leadership Podcast, because people are already falling in love with you. And I love that you're doing that.

One other thing I want to say, Don, before I go to the Scott Drew question that I asked you if you'd talk about. Jake always put in our show notes, resources that you need to do and we'll put the link to the Corporate Competitor Podcast, but we'll put a link into the John Wooden book that we talked about. But one other thing is we did a podcast on here, you've written a book by another champion, Kyle Carpenter, military hero. And, Don, you just really have this ability to pull story out. And you're doing that right now with Scott Drew. Now, some of you that are not in the middle of March Madness right now, like me and Don and our team, we just fired up about March Madness.

You'll know Scott Drew is the 2021 championship for the NCAA basketball, Baylor Bears. What a brilliant final four that we had last year! I just hope this one plays out as exciting as last year. And so you've interviewed him on your Corporate Competitor Podcast. But you have a book coming out in May, just in a couple of months with Scott Drew. What's some of the lessons that you've from Coach Scott Drew, that you apply now to your leadership and that we can apply to our leadership?

Don Yaeger:         I would tell you, Coach Drew, thank you, is such an amazing leader. I actually think of him almost as a modern day John Wooden in that character is so important to him. He is one of those that when he's evaluating talent, when he's looking... This whole concept to Coach Wooden's idea that he didn't offer a scholarship to someone, I know that, that is exactly true with Scott Drew as well. I've seen him evaluate talent. Look at really incredible, the players that everybody in the country is saying five star got to have. And as he rose to understand who they are at their core, he realized they're not going to work at Baylor. Scott believes in a culture of what he calls a culture of joy. And that is that everything it be about Jesus, others and yourself. In that order.

And that he wants his players to understand how to do interviews after a game. Credit Jesus, thank him for the opportunity to have even got a chance to play the game tonight. Thank the other players who made you successful tonight. You didn't do this on your own. There's no one on five winner in basketball. And then acknowledge a little bit about what you did that was really special. But if you do it in the right order, you do it consistently, it becomes your culture. And as a result, you find yourself doing incredible things. Last year's final four or last year's tournament, many people might remember the 2021 tournament was hosted all in Indianapolis in the bubble, which meant that every team had to stay in the same hotels and that you were locked in these hotels, you weren't allowed to go out. And I don't mean locked in, but you couldn't go out and mingle with your families and other things. No one outside of your immediate group could become part of your time together.

And so you have to be engaged and in love with each other in order to win in that environment. But one day realizing the team was working, Scott Drew, actually pulled them together and he said, "Guys, today, we want to do something special today. Let's talk about our fears. What do you fear?" And then Scott Drew leaned in and he says, "And I'm going to open the conversation." He said, "Let me tell you the truth." He said, "I fear that you all are such a great team and you are so... But I fear that I'm a not well known coach. I'm not one of those that barks and curses at referees. I don't throw chairs on the floor. I don't do any of those things that draw attention to me. And I fear that there's going to be a really important call in a game. And because I'm not big enough, you won't get that call."

And you can imagine, tears in the eyes of players and they're going, "No, coach, are you kidding me? We're going to do our best to make sure we don't need that call." And then suddenly players start talking about what they fear. And it became just this bonding moment in an opportunity to pull together where others might have started to splinter because by that stage you'd gotten tired of each other. How many meals in a row can you eat together before you just get tired of each other? But in that moment, they found this extra gear that came to be when you watched them in that national championship game, they beat Gonzaga like a drum. But they did so because they loved each other, because there was the right culture. And for all of us running businesses, thinking about our organizations, man, if we can get culture right, we can get a lot of other things right too.

Mark Cole:            Brilliant. Again, you said culture of joy is the name of the book. And it's by you and Scott Drew. I'm so excited about this book coming out. And for all of you, again, it comes out in May, but you can go to Amazon or wherever you buy your books and you can go ahead and pre-order it. This culture of joy, this ability to have a consistent, predictable way to do culture, I believe in it, Don. And this book is going to deliver proof that, that actually happens.

Okay. So we're about out of time, but I've got to take us one more place. Okay. We've been learning about Coach Wooden. Thanks for throwing that in about Coach Scott Drew. He is an incredible leader, another great season this year, but here we are. And now I'm going to share with you. Before we close out right now, I want you to challenge us to think can Coach Wooden or would Coach Wooden win today? Could he do it?

Don Yaeger:         Yeah, Mark. I love it, because that is actually the number one question I get when people find out I have a relationship with coach. Everybody argues, well, that was back in the day. He won back in the day when things were different. See, I think John Maxwell, I think Mark Cole, you guys say it exactly as John Wooden would live it. And that is that we crave leadership. We desire to be led, all of us. We want to be led. Even leaders want to be led. And Coach Wooden delivered. He was a great leader. He knew how to draw the best from people. As John Maxwell has properly shared there, he had magic in the way that he did things.

And by having that desire, I guarantee you John Wooden could find 10 young people every year who would want to be led, want to be led well and want to throw their hat in the ring at UCLA and come out and do it together, to do it for the glory of a group, not for my individual glory. And I believe if you believe that leadership is timeless, and I do, John Wooden would be as successful today as anyone in the game.

Mark Cole:            Don, you have built teams, you help companies and you help them do exactly that. I believe the greats. We have this debate all the time. You just truly answer that with such an incredible insightful approach, because I believe a champion is a champion. And yeah, are there better golf clubs now? Are there better materials? It's a better training as people start much earlier. Yes. But never deny the spirit of a champion. The spirit of a champion is going to rise up and do what it takes. And Don, for us, you being on the Maxwell Leadership thought leader team, you providing this Corporate Competitor Podcast, you writing these books, it is awakening the champion within us. And here's what I'll tell you. We only covered three points today from John Maxwell's teaching on John Wooden's team. I want you to come back next week because we are going to continue that and help you be the best leader you can possibly be.Now, Don, what we love to do around here is we love to acknowledge our podcast listeners. And I have a podcast listener, perhaps a viewer, Sarah, I can't tell if you are a viewer or a listener, but either way, Sarah, we love you, we love your question. Here's what she said, Don, and I'm going to read this to you, let you take a stab at it, and I may give some color afterwards. But how can I change my short term perspective to a long term perspective? And how can I break my insecurities for my desire and heart to serve, to lead other people in our organization. John, what would you say to Sarah?

Don Yaeger:         Wow. Well, first off, back to our John Wooden quote, make each day your masterpiece, I wouldn't encourage Sarah necessarily to say you need to change your short term perspectives to a long term one. I think, yes, you need a goal, as John Maxwell said on the podcast I did with him on Corporate Competitor. He had a basketball backboard that was given to him by his father that didn't have a rim on it. And he realized very soon, it didn't matter, it wasn't very fun to shoot without a goal. So yes, have a goal, but focus on your daily behaviors, focus on that short term perspective and make sure that you know what it's going to take for you to be able to deliver every day a masterpiece day.

And Sarah, when you mention your insecurities, understand, feel emboldened by this, all of us have them. It doesn't matter your level of achievement, doesn't matter the accolades that others might throw your direction, all of us feel insecure. The key is recognizing beyond your insecurities, your strength, understanding your strength. And just in reading the question that Mark just shared with us, that idea that you have a desire, a heart to serve, to lead others, you have a strength that I want you to know that I believe that your insecurities are ill founded. You have a strength within you that even though you might feel it, it's there for you to do something special.

Mark Cole:            Sarah, you hit the jackpot. I have nothing to add right there. Sarah, you hit the jackpot because your question was selected when Don Yaeger, one of our Maxwell Leadership thought leaders was on the call, because, Don, that was an incredible answer. And thank you very much. Now, again, until next week where we're back with part two, Don's going to come back. We're going to continue dissecting leadership of Coach John Wooden, how he ran his team. And I am excited, is it next week yet? I'm ready to go.

Hey, by the way, all the free resources that we told you about today, all the different books and different things that Don has been a part of, we will put those in the show notes. Don't let that great resource of a recap of how to take next steps be there without you using it. Also, as Sarah did today, send us a note, send us a comment, let us know how we're doing. If you'll give us a five star rating on your podcast player, that helps us become more influential to others. Here at Maxwell Leadership, we're committed to one thing, we want you to be well, do well, lead well, because everyone deserves to be led well.

5 thoughts on “Why John Wooden’s Team Won (Part 1)”

  1. Excellent lesson! At my August 2016 IMC I got to walk with John and tell him the story of my day with Coach Wooden back in 1995. Spent the entire day with him in his townhouse and took him to dinner. A gracious, beautiful man, John Wooden.

  2. What a breath of fresh air to have Don on the show today and relate about his conversations with Coach Wooden. I have been retired from the Corporate World for four years and now volunteer as an Assistant Basketball Coach, first for the Middle School and now for the High School boys (my twin sons have been playing on a school team since 4th grade). I try to incorporate many lessons I have learned from great players and coaches from the many different sports I have played thus far over my lifetime (Stan Musial, Vince Lombardi, John Wooden, Coby Bryant, etc.). I would like to leave a legacy for my young men much like Coach Wooden did for his players (and for me); at the same time I feel like I have added 15 years of youth to my life because I am learning from my young players…almost like a ‘reverse mentoring’ on a more simple level. I had no idea that I would engage and enjoy this new chapter in my life…as a volunteer High School basketball coach. I can’t wait for Part-2 of this Podcast with John, Mark, and Don.

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