Winning a single NCAA Basketball Tournament is one of the most difficult achievements in all sports because it is a single-elimination tournament where the top 68 teams in the NCAA have to win every single game, or their season is over. Only one of the 68 teams will be crowned champion at the end of the tournament, and 67 other teams will go back to their respective schools thinking, “Woulda, shoulda, coulda.” So, to win the tournament just one time is quite an accomplishment, and to win a second, consecutive time, is so challenging that only seven schools have ever won back-to-back championships. So, when UCLA won 10 NCAA tournaments in a 12 year period including a remarkable seven years in a row, the results were stunning! John Wooden was the beloved coach of UCLA during this time period, and, outside of UCLA during the Wooden era, no other team in the 70+ years of the NCAA tournament has won the tournament three times in a row, but John Wooden’s team won it seven times in a row! So, what made Wooden’s teams so different? Many experts believe that Wooden’s Pyramid of Success philosophy was key. (Access a printable version of Wooden’s Pyramid of Success from his website,

John Wooden was the coach at UCLA from 1948 to 1975, and in that time, UCLA won over 80% of all of their games. From 1971 to 1973, Wooden’s UCLA team went an amazing 89-1. Wooden coached some of the all-time great basketball stars including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton, and his influence on these stars went well beyond the basketball court.

In addition to his success in sports, Wooden is also know for his short inspirational messages that have often been quoted by coaches, writers, motivational speakers, and Successory posters for decades. Below is a list of some of his most famous John Wooden quotes (Woodenisms) in both graphical and textual form.

Inspirational John Wooden Quotes

These inspirational John Wooden quotes (Woodenisms) have been gathered by a number of sources including

  • A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.
  • A strong self-confident leader gives credit to others, when deserved, and takes blame. A weak leader takes credit and gives blame.
  • Ability is a poor man’s wealth.
  • Adversity is the state in which man most easily becomes acquainted with himself, being especially free of admirers then.
  • Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.
  • Be persistent. Be determined. Be tenacious. Be unrelenting. The road to achievement is rocky, hard, and long.
  • Be prepared and be honest.
  • Be true to yourself, help others, make each day your masterpiece, make friendship a fine art, drink deeply from good books – especially the Bible.
  • Competitive greatness is having a real love for the hard battle, knowing it offers the opportunity to be at your best when your best is required.
  • Consider the rights of others before your own feelings, and the feelings of others before your own rights.
  • Control yourself so others won’t have to do it for you.
  • Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.
  • Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.
  • Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.
  • Failure to act is often the biggest failure of all.
  • I’d rather have a lot of talent and a little experience than a lot of experience and a little talent.
  • If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?
  • If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.
  • It isn’t what you do, but how you do it.
  • It’s not so important who starts the game but who finishes it.
  • It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.
  • It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.
  • Never mistake activity for achievement.
  • Sharing ideas, information, responsibilities, creativity and tasks is a priority of good leadership and great teams.
  • Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.
  • Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.
  • Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best you are capable of becoming.
  • Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.
  • The great successes we all know about are individuals who almost always have greatly outworked their competition.
  • The hard battle inspires and motivates a great competitor to dig deep inside.
  • The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.
  • There is a choice you have to make, In everything you do. So keep in mind that in the end, The choice you make makes you.
  • There is no substitute for very hard work when it comes to success.
  • Things easily achieved are rarely long-lasting or significant.
  • Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.
  • True abiding confidence is earned through tenaciously pursuing and attaining those assets that allow you to reach your own level of excellence.
  • What you are as a person is far more important that what you are as a basketball player.
  • Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character.
  • You can’t let praise or criticism get to you. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.
  • You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.
  • You must train yourself not to fear failure. Fear instead inaction when it is time to act.
  • Your energy and enthusiasm stimulates those you work with. It is the ingredient that transforms industriousness into something of great magnitude.

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