Reaction to the death of John Wooden

Updated: June 5, 2010, 7:14 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

Reaction from around the basketball world to the passing of legendary coach John Wooden, who coached UCLA to 10 titles:


We want to thank everyone for their love and support for our father. We will miss him more than words can express. He has been, and always will be, the guiding light for our family. The love, guidance and support he has given us will never be forgotten. Our peace of mind at this time is knowing that he has gone to be with our mother, whom he has continued to love and cherish. We wish to express our gratitude for your support and appreciate your respecting our privacy.

Nan and Jim Wooden, John Wooden's children


"Coach Wooden leaves all of us a lasting legacy from a lifetime devoted to goodness. Coach believed the court was his classroom and basketball was a metaphor for life. He was an eternal learner and teacher. He was the best friend and mentor one could hope for and it is difficult to imagine a college basketball season without John Wooden being with us.

Steve Lavin, St. John's basketball coach, UCLA coach, 1996-2003


"I'm saddened to hear of the passing of an incredible coach, and an even better man, John Wooden. As a basketball fan, I remember fondly his ten NCAA championships, his unrivaled winning streak at UCLA, and the caliber of players he mentored. But as an American, I salute the way he achieved all that success -- with modesty, and humility, and by wholeheartedly dedicating his life to the betterment of others. Even after he became one of the game's early heroes, he worked as a high school teacher. And for the rest of his life, on and off the court, he never stopped teaching. He never stopped preparing his players, and everyone he met, to be their best. Despite all the records and the championships, he once said that it wasn't the tournaments or the games he missed the most -- it was the practice and the preparation."

President Barack Obama


"This is a sad day at UCLA. Coach Wooden's legacy transcends athletics; what he did was produce leaders. But his influence has reached far beyond our campus and even our community. Through his work and his life, he imparted his phenomenal understanding of leadership and his unwavering sense of integrity to so many people. His 'Pyramid of Success' hangs in my office to remind me every day of what it takes to be an effective leader. He was truly a legend in his own time, and he will be a legend for generations to come."

Gene Block, UCLA Chancellor


"There will never be another John Wooden. While this is a huge loss for the Bruin family, Coach Wooden's influence reaches far beyond Westwood. Coach was a tremendously significant figure. This loss will be felt by individuals from all parts of society. He was not only the greatest coach in the history of any sport but he was an exceptional individual that transcended the sporting world. His enduring legacy as a role model is one we should all strive to emulate."

Dan Guerrero, UCLA athletic director


"UCLA can easily claim an endless list of alumni who have helped make the world a better place. But of all the special spirits who have given so much, it is John Wooden, who has truly had the greatest impact on the largest number of people. It was Coach Wooden's heart, brain and soul that put him in a position to inspire others to reach levels of success and peace of mind that none of us could ever dream of reaching by ourselves. John Wooden represents the conquest of substance over hype, the triumph of achievement over erratic flailing, the conquest of discipline over gambling, and the triumph of executing an organized plan over hoping that you'll be lucky, hot or in the zone."

Bill Walton, former UCLA and NBA player


"The takeaways we all have been blessed with from knowing John Wooden are numerous. For all of his successes, he was such a humble man.

"Tonight, we have lost a true American icon."

Pat Summitt, Tennessee women's basketball coach


"I am deeply saddened with the passing of Coach Wooden. He was absolutely the greatest mentor for more people than anyone I have ever known. I was very fortunate to call Coach Wooden a friend. He helped me and mentored me personally. Everyone who came into contact with him will miss him. Everyone who has ever known him feels sad with his passing although we know this is what he wanted -- to be back with his wife. I will miss him and will always understand that no one ever shared as much as John Wooden shared."

Roy Williams, North Carolina coach


"[Wooden was] one of the greatest coaches in any sport. He did it without being a bully and the players at the time probably struggled with the structure but when they left, there was a burning love for him. He is what this game is all about. When you talk about how he taught, how he was with his late wife. You talk about his character as a person. That's what he was about."

John Calipari, Kentucky coach


"I was fortunate enough to be honored with the Wooden Award in April, an award that now takes on added significance to me personally. I found out that I was being honored on his 99th birthday. To have the opportunity to go out to Los Angeles and see firsthand how great an impact he still has is something I will always be honored and humbled to be a part of. His legacy will endure forever."

Billy Donovan, Florida coach


"Today, we've lost a giant in all of sport with the passing of Coach Wooden. Quite likely, his accomplishments as a college basketball coach will never be matched. Neither will the impact he had on his players or the greater basketball community. Many have called Coach Wooden the 'gold standard' of coaches. I believe he was the 'gold standard' of people and carried himself with uncommon grace, dignity and humility. Coach Wooden's name is synonymous with excellence, and deservedly so. He was one of the great leaders -- in any profession -- of his generation. We are blessed that the sport of basketball benefitted from his talents for so long. Coach Wooden and his wisdom will be sorely missed."

Mike Krzyzewski, Duke coach


"Coach Wooden was a wonderful person and great friend who is truly a national treasure. His legacy and legend will continue to live on in each of us striving to be the "best that we are capable of becoming" as athletes, coaches, teachers, parents and human beings."

Ben Howland, UCLA coach


"It's kind of hard to talk about Coach Wooden simply, because he was a complex man. But he taught in a very simple way. He just used sports as a means to teach us how to apply ourselves to any situation. He set quite an example. He was more like a parent than a coach. He really was a very selfless and giving human being, but he was a disciplinarian. We learned all about those aspects of life that most kids want to skip over. He wouldn't let us do that."

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, three-time All-American at UCLA


"Coach Wooden was more than a Hall of Fame basketball player and coach; he was an incredible man whose dedication and leadership on the court inspired generations of Californians. He meant so much to Los Angeles, California and the entire basketball community around the world. Maria and I extend our thoughts and prayers to his loved ones as they remember the extraordinary life of this coaching legend."

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger


"My reaction is sadness yet at this point we have to celebrate maybe the most important guy in the history of the game. There has been no greater influence on college basketball not just about the game but the team. He's greatest coach in college basketball if not all basketball from the standpoint of all of us trying to emulate what he's done. He gave so much to basketball and education. In my opinion if he's not as important as Dr. Naismith, he's right next to him."

Jim Calhoun, UConn coach


"I have met Coach Wooden, about four years ago at the Final Four when it was here and it was a tremendous honor. He gave me one of his pyramid of success cards that I still have today and got a picture with him, and it was a tremendous honor."

Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts quarterback


"When I think of a basketball coach the only one I ever thought of was Coach Wooden. He had a great life and helped so many coachesuntil well in his 90s. Every time I talked to him he would give me some words of advice. He's the best of all time. There will never be another like him and you can't say that about too many people. It's a sad day but he had such an unbelievable run. I can't tell you what he's done for game of basketball and it's not just the wins. It's the attitude and the way he carried himself. I just can't say enough about him."

Jim Boeheim, Syracuse coach


"There isn't a more respected, influential and genuine figure in the history of the game than Coach Wooden. This is a tremendous loss, but his legacy will live on through the countless people whom he touched over the years."

Matt Painter, Purdue coach


"We take a great deal of pride in his words, his experience and his ability to do what he did. A lot of people at UCLA know that his Pyramid of Success is the foundation for a lot of the programs."

Kelly Inouye-Perez, UCLA softball coach


"John Wooden was certainly a legend in every sense of the word. He was a true inspiration for so many young men he coached, taught and mentored. Coach Wooden will forever be an icon for the sport of basketball and life. On behalf of the Pac-10 Conference, our condolences to the Wooden family."

Larry Scott, Pac-10 commissioner


"Today is a very sad day. For me personally, in my entire life, when I've thought about college basketball, the name that comes to the first of your list is John Wooden. That's the only name that can be associated with being the best in the elite of their league in college basketball. For what he was able to accomplish, for some of the people he coached -- who he not only turned into great basketball players, but into greater people -- says enough about John Wooden's legacy."

Jason Williams, former Duke player and 2002 Wooden Award winner


"Coach Wooden's championship legacy is unmatched. He put his stamp on the game of basketball by making his players better on and off the court. As a person that won the Wooden Award, I got to meet him, and he was just a special guy, all the way around. He will be dearly missed."

Elton Brand, former Duke player and 1999 Wooden Award winner


"He was always the boss. He always knew what to say. Even in the heyday of winning and losing, you could almost discuss anything with him. He always had that composure and wit about him. He could connect with all kind of people and situations and always be in control of himself and seemingly of the situation."

Jamaal Wilkes, former UCLA star


"He seemed to touch the inner soul of people when he was around them. He seemed to do it with so much grace and good will. When he was exalted to the highest, he still remained the man who grew up in rural Indiana and had that Midwestern friendliness, openness, that willingness to see the good in people."

Bobby Plump, the former Butler star and "Hoosiers" inspiration


"I always sat and chatted with him before our games at UCLA and about five years ago he asked, 'Can I come out and watch one of your practices?' ... We had a jet pick him up at Van Nuys Airport, just a few minutes from where he lived, and bring him [to Tucson]. We had lunch and I asked if he could say a few words to the team. He said yes and spoke for 20 or 30 minutes. He never said a word about basketball, just talked about his philosophy of life and being the best that you could be.

"He has been anxious to be reunited with Nell for a lot of years, so this is not a sad experience for him I don't believe. I don't think there is anyone who had influenced the number of people in his life than he had."

Lute Olson, former Arizona coach


"I never met him. Meeting him was on the bucket list. Came close a couple times, but never did meet him. Obviously, I've read everything about him, so just being selfish and personal, I have regret that I never had an in-person meeting with him. Amazing life."

Tony La Russa, St. Louis Cardinals manager


"I grew up in Los Angeles and UCLA was everything to me growing up. And Coach Wooden -- if there were a Mount Rushmore of American sport, John Wooden would be on it, not only for what he represented on the court, but what he represented off it. So my very best wishes go to the Wooden family. There has not been a finer gentleman in sports than John Wooden."

Jay Bilas, ESPN analyst


"Today I lost my mentor, my friend, my Coach, John Wooden. He taught us about basketball and life and being the best you can be. My love to the Wooden Family and to all of the Bruins who had the privilege of studying under one of the great teachers of all time. He will be missed by many but by none more than me."

Walt Hazzard, former UCLA player and coach


"No one influenced or impacted my life more than Coach. He was my mentor. I will miss my chats and visits with Coach, but his wisdom and teaching will remain with me forever. I'm blessed to be "one of his boys." He was always there for me. I will miss him dearly.

Gail Goodrich, former UCLA and NBA player


On rare occasions -- perhaps once in a lifetime -- individuals of superior character, visionary insight and quiet leadership enter our lives. Their mere presence -- even on the edge of our small world -- pushes us to pursue excellence. John Wooden is one of those individuals. We knew him as coach, but he was proudest to be called teacher. Our lifetime has been enriched by his presence in it."

NCAA interim president Jim Isch

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