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Remembering the coach

Tully Talk

June 09, 2010|Jeff Tully

In my home I have an expansive trophy case filled with a variety of sports memorabilia and collectibles that I have assembled over the years.

The stash includes a large number of Mickey Mantle and Yankees items, a baseball collection, signed photos, plaques, baseball bats and other trinkets.

In the very front of the middle shelf is a seemingly unremarkable item that means as much to me as all the other memorabilia combined.


Looking at the display, one might not even notice the small 2-by-3 1/2 -inch laminated card propped up close to the glass. The card was given to me by legendary former UCLA basketball Coach John Wooden, and I cherish it.

Wooden's passing at 99 on Friday made me think of the item he had personally handed me in 2005. So, when I got home from work Friday night, I went to the case and pulled it out.

The card, "Timeless Wisdom from a Godly Father" has a small picture of Wooden, as well as a small picture of his father, Joshua. It is also signed by the coach.

What the card contains, however, is what is most important. It includes words of wisdom that we can all live our lives better by following.

On the front it lists the "Two sets of Threes": Never lie, never cheat, never steal, don't wine, don't complain and don't make excuses."

On the reverse side it contains a poem by Henry Van Dyke — "Four things a man must learn to do if he would make his life more true: To think without confusion clearly. To love his fellow man sincerely. To act from honest motives purely. To trust in God and Heaven securely."

Lastly, the card contains a seven-point creed: "1. Be true to yourself. 2. Help others. 3. Make each day your masterpiece. 4. Drink deeply from the good books — especially the Bible. 5. Make friendship a fine art. 6. Build shelter against a rainy day (faith in God). 7. Pray for guidance and counsel and give thanks for your blessings each day."

These are some of the words and beliefs that Wooden lived his life by. And it was those strong beliefs, along with his selfless character and his dedication to his fellow man, that made the coach one of the most beloved figures in the history of American sport.

I had the opportunity to meet Wooden in 2005 when I was granted a one-on-one interview with the legend.

I was honored to be given the opportunity to talk with the coach. The meeting was set up by Bellarmine-Jefferson High's Dennis Ryan, a close friend of Wooden's.

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