Bobby Wanzer

March Madness always gives me a chance to quote the late John Wooden, the college basketball coaching legend. During his tenure at UCLA, the Bruins won ten national championships in twelve years, establishing a record for excellence that will probably never be rivaled in college basketball.

As a skinny sixth grader competing in the CYO leagues of Upstate New York (not exactly the same as New York or Philadelphia basketball to be sure) I played for a grizzled former NBA player named Bobby Wanzer. Mr. Wanzer was also the basketball coach and Athletic Director at a local college, which made me wonder then what he was doing spending Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons with us. I can only guess that Father Maloney must have twisted his arm after Mass and so for a year the Our Lady of Lourdes basketball team benefited from the wisdom of a man who was later inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. (No, I’m not making that up; you can check it out at http://www.hoophall.com).

I don’t remember much about Mr. Wanzer’s coaching philosophy. It’s probably because we didn’t have that many practices (his paying job often took him on the road during the basketball season) and most of our games were routs. I recall losing one of the first games of the season by the score of 44 to 9 to perennial power Sacred Heart, but the details of that and other defeats have vanished (thankfully) from my memory.

What I do remember was a comment that Mr. Wanzer made to my Dad about all the mistakes we made on the court. He said that he expected us to make bad passes and take bad shots and that it was OK as long as we kept trying. Now, that might have been Dad’s spin, but I don’t ever recall Mr. Wanzer scolding us for a basketball blunder.

Which brings me to Coach Wooden. It was about that time that I read an article about Coach Wooden in Look Magazine.  He said that his college coach at Purdue, Ward “Piggy” Lambert (no, I’m not making that up either), constantly reminded players that, “The team that makes the most mistakes will probably win.”piggy lambert

That sounded bizarre to me—we made lots of mistakes and we never won—but Coach Wooden went on to explain that “mistakes come from doing, but so does success.” If you didn’t make mistakes, you probably weren’t trying hard enough.

That bit of coaching wisdom helped me through a long basketball season in 1964-65. And when I read it now in a compilation of Coach Wooden’s thoughts on basketball I have to think that both he and Bobby Wanzer were sending a profound message to all of us on what it takes to succeed.

John Wooden 1960See whether any of Coach Wooden’s “Eight Suggestions for Succeeding” apply to your team’s current sales efforts:

1.    Fear no opponent. Respect every opponent.
2.    Remember, it’s the perfection of the smallest details that make big things happen.
3.    Keep in mind that hustle makes up for many a mistake.
4.    Be more interested in character than reputation.
5.    Be quick, but don’t hurry.
6.    Understand that the harder you work, the more luck you will have.
7.    Know that valid self-analysis is crucial for improvement.
8.    Remember that there is no substitute for hard work and careful planning. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

Want more of my recent thoughts on March Madness? Check out:

March Madness 2015: What You Can Learn from Larry Brown

March Madness 1983: More 3 Pointers on Winning at Sales

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