Carlo Navato

December 18, 2021

Character and reputation

A friend and I were talking about great coaches a couple of days ago. He was making a strong case for Jose Mourinho. There’s a great series about coaching on Netflix from 2020 called The Playbook. Mourinho features in one episode and the whole series is well worth a watch. Anyway we were talking about character and reputation and I remembered something the legendary John Wooden had said:

 "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."

John Wooden was the legendary UCLA basketball coach and English teacher between 1948 and 1975, and is regarded by many as the best coach of all time. He died in June 2010 aged 99. Over 27 years at UCLA he won 620 games, including 88 straight during one historic stretch. He finished with a record of 620-147. He won 10 NCAA national championships in a 12 year period including 7 in a row. His overall mark as a college coach was 885-203, an 0.813 winning percentage that remains unequalled.  During the period of great success he enjoyed at UCLA he is said to have never earned more than $35,000 a year and never asked for a raise. The Los Angeles Lakers reportedly offered Wooden their head coaching job at a salary 10 times what he was making, but he refused. He was very clear about what he believed in.

John Wooden defined success as:

Piece of mind attained only through the self-satisfaction of knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you were capable.”

His attitude to coaching was said to have been built on a code of ethics learned from his father as a young man growing up during the 1930’s and 1940’s. You should never try to be better than anyone else his father told him,  just be the best you can be. 

He had what might now be regarded as a rather simple, old fashioned attitude to team discipline based on four principles: 1. Never be late; 2. Be neat and clean; 3. No profanity; 4. Never criticise a team-mate. 

He also had a seven point coaching creed which he carried with him daily:

1. Be true to yourself.
2. Help others.
3. Make each day your masterpiece.
4. Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.
5. Make friendship a fine art.
6. Build a shelter against a rainy day.
7. Pray for guidance and count and give thanks for your blessings every day.

Coach Wooden talked of belief rather than hope. “Do the things that are necessary” he said. He expected his players to give their all, and crucially he believed that you can win when you have been outscored and that you can outscore an opponent but not emerge as a winner. He was a man of great humility and wisdom. Calm and dignified.  

In a world which seems to increasingly promote the idea of self promotion and enhancing one’s personal reputation, I love Coach Wooden’s exhortation to be more concerned with character. Perhaps Jose could learn something from him. 

Carlo Navato