Legendary UCLA Basketball Coach John Wooden died Friday at the age of 99. He was not only the most successful college basketball coach in history (winning 10 out of 12 NCCA National Championships, at one point winning 88 games in a row!) but more importantly to me, Coach Wooden was one of the finest human beings I ever knew. I met him and interviewed him for the first time almost 20 years ago for my PowerTalk interview series – at the time I was 30 & he was 80! I was profoundly moved by how much he cared for his players and the love he had for his wife Nellie who died in 1985. They were married for 53 years and Coach wrote her a Love Letter every year on the anniversary of her passing. He kept all those letters on the bed beside him and he also only slept on his side of the bed, keeping her side untouched. Coach prayed every day and knew some day he would be reunited with her, and now after 25 years they are back together.
In spite of his legendary accomplishments he was one of the most humble human beings you could ever meet. We stayed in touch over the years and then last year I did another interview with him. It turned out to be one of the last interviews of his life. At the time I was working on my new NBC prime time Series, “Breakthrough with Tony Robbins” and I asked Coach Wooden if he would meet with an NBA basketball player who had suffered a sudden stroke that ended his career in an instant. Worse than the stroke was the fact that the man felt that without basketball he had lost his worth as a man. Coach Wooden’s words penetrated the man and became a key moment in his turnaround. We filmed the interaction for the show but it doesn’t premier until after July 27th so I can’t share the footage until our show airs… but, I can share Coach Wooden’s gifts with you through the original audio interview I did many years ago. In honor of him I’ve made this very special interview available for download here (please download now as I can only keep the link up for the next 48 hours).
I hope you are as touched by him as I was, and continue to be, as I listen to his soulful words teaching me even today, after his passing.
From Editor: Thank you to everyone for posting your thoughts and comments. It means a lot to Tony to see you were as inspired and touched by Coach’s words as he was. If you missed the link and would like to hear this interview (and many others) please visit our website to learn more about the entire PowerTalk! series.
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