Wooden coaches kids

Basketball hall of famer and author visits singing students at Mariners Elementary School to share his pearls of wisdom on what defines a successful life, and how to live one.

June 12, 2009|By Brianna Bailey

Former UCLA men’s basketball Coach John Wooden looked on and smiled from one side of the crowded auditorium at Mariners Elementary on Friday as students recited cheers, read essays and sang the praises of the 98-year-old hall of famer’s “Pyramid of Success.”

Success isn’t having trophies or toys. It isn’t a medal or friends of your choice. What is success? That’s easy to see. It’s trying to be the best you can be,” Mariners students sitting on the floor of the school auditorium sang as the coach looked on.

Words from the children’s book “Inch and Miles: The Journey to Success,” which Wooden co-authored with writer Steve Jamison, the verse also has become a beloved school song at Mariners.


“When you get to be more than 98 years old, you don’t have a lot to say anymore,” Wooden told the children after listening to songs and chants in his honor. “Try to be the best you can be ... education is the most important thing in the world. Good luck to you.”

Mariner’s Elementary students have been using a motivational program designed by third-grade teacher Pat McLaughlin based on “Inch and Miles: The Journey to Success,” for the past five years.

Murals of characters from the story decorate several walls at Mariners and “Pyramid of Success” posters are present on blackboards in many classrooms.

The book is based on Wooden’s philosophy, called the “Pyramid of Success.”

Wooden, who led the Bruins to 10 NCAA national championships over the course of nearly 30 years at UCLA, developed the pyramid to teach his players about life and basketball, with building blocks such as friendship, loyalty, poise and hard work.

Wooden, whose 7-year-old great-granddaughter Avery Wooden is a first-grader at Mariners, visited the school on Friday to help celebrate the program’s success.

“I liked showing him where I go to school,” said Avery, who led her great-grandfather on a tour of the school, showing him murals at Mariners based on his philosophies.

A longtime fan of Wooden’s, McLaughlin approached him about developing a program based on “Inch and Miles” after reading the book.

“I thought it would make a wonderful character education program,” McLaughlin said.

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