Sowallife Wizard

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The Wisdom of the Wizard of Westwood

By Kirk McCarley

Those of my generation who had interest in college basketball were witness to one of the greatest sports dynasties in the history of athletic competition with the dominance of the UCLA Bruins.  Save for one year, from 1964 to 1975, the Westwood cagers not only qualified for our current era’s pinnacle of achievement, The Final Four, but won the National Championship 10 times! 

Granted the “March Madness” tournament in those days consisted of less than 25 participants vs. today’s 68 and there were 220 or less major colleges then eligible vs. last season’s 351.  Still the Bruins were no less of a juggernaut.  A record of 335-22 during that period meant that for 12 years they won 15 out of every 16 games played!

To be sure there was individual talent featuring stalwarts like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then Lew Alcindor), Bill Walton, and others making their marks not only collegiately, but later professionally.  A primary ingredient that differentiated those teams from their competitors was how prized recruits blended with “role” players, many who were outstanding high school athletes in their own right yet subordinated ego to buy into the betterment of the team and the “system.” 

The center of it was the legendary coach, John Wooden.  Wooden, in the humble, soft-spoken manner befitting his Indiana roots, promoted discipline, integrity, unity, and moral fortitude, yet honored the uniqueness and singularity of each individual.  He prided himself as a teacher and shaper, offering lessons not only about competition, but about life, with principles that still apply at work or in personal endeavors.

In “The Matheny Manifesto,” St. Louis Cardinal Manager Mike Matheny’s offers his take on coaching and parenting and the importance of respect, character, and a team-first approach as it applies to young athletes.   He devotes several pages to the sage advice of Coach Wooden on a number of subjects:  

  • Good things take time, as they should.  We shouldn’t expect good things to happen overnight.  Getting something too easily or too soon can cheapen the outcome.
  • Be more concerned with what you can do for others than what others can do for you.  
  • The best competition I have is against myself to become better.  
  • Never make excuses.  Your friends don’t need them, and your foes won’t believe them.
  • Leadership is the ability to get individuals to work together for the common good and the best possible results while at the same time letting them know they did it themselves.  
  • A leader’s most powerful ally is his or her own example.
  • Knowledge alone is not enough to get desired results.  You must have the elusive ability to teach and to motivate.  This defines a leader:  if you can’t teach and you can’t motivate, you can’t lead.

Most of us are on a continual quest for wisdom, trying to discern the right thing to do, say, or act upon at the optimal time, in the best place, and under the correct circumstances.

We yearn for “success,” however we might define it.  Perhaps, though, the search for success has more to do with the journey than the destination.  

It’s not how many times we fall, it’s the number of times we get back up.  It’s not that we said the wrong thing at the wrong time, but rather that we apologized and asked forgiveness.  It’s not that we failed, but that we tried in the first place.

Best wishes in your journeys. Take time to listen, learn, and help others along the way.

With more than 30 years of executive leadership experience in both public and private sector environments, Kirk McCarley assists others in pursuing career and personal transitions.  A graduate of the University of North Texas, Kirk is a Certified Professional Coach as well as a Professional in Human Resources (PHR) and SHRM-CP Certified.  He also is a Production Assistant for both college football and basketball for ESPN and leads group cycling classes as a Certified Spinning Instructor. For more information visit or email

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