They call it “March Madness”. Every Spring, the sixty-four best teams in major college basketball square off in the NCAA Basketball Tournament, one of the most hotly contested tournaments in all of sports. Many are called but only one is chosen, and when the smoke clears, the team left standing is declared the National Champion.
How competitive is this tournament? Since 1975, only twice has a team won back-to-back National Championships. So it’s remarkable to realize that during the twelve years prior to 1975, a single college won seven National Championships in a row, and a total of ten championships in twelve years.
When that streak of championships began, I was in grade school. The man who coached those teams was one of my heros. He was known as the winningest coach in the history of college basketball. Looking back, I would say that’s an understatement.
Since he retired in 1975, only one major college team has gone undefeated through an entire basketball season. But his teams accomplished this four times. They compiled the longest winning streak in the history of the game: eighty-eight straight victories. That’s two and a half years without a loss. And in perhaps their greatest achievement, over a span of eight years, competing against the very best teams in the country, who were playing their very best basketball, at the time of year when a single loss would have meant the season was over, this man’s teams won forty-seven NCAA Tournament games in a row.
As if those numbers aren’t impressive enough, consider this: the man coached in an era when freshman couldn’t play on the varsity, so he had to replace his entire team every three years. Every three years he and his remarkable coaching staff had to start from scratch. In winning seven straight National Championships, they had to do it with three completely different sets of players. That is the stuff of legend. The legend’s name is John Wooden. He was the head coach of the UCLA basketball team.
Whether you’re a sports fan or not, John Wooden leaps out at you as one of the greatest achievers of our time. For those looking to unlock the mysteries of human potential, Wooden’s life should be required reading. His accomplishments in his line of work are so far beyond what anyone else has even approached that they shout this question: “How did he do it?” I’ve been asking myself that for thirty years. And I’ve finally found the answer.