Remembering the Wizard of Mentors: John Wooden (1910-2010)

Mentorlogo(Virtually anyone can benefit from having a mentor. And most well-known, accomplished and successful people can identify people in their lives who acted as mentors. The mentor pairings that are described at Famous Mentor Pairings were identified from a variety of sources including autobiographies, biographies, newspaper articles, personal interviews, and diligent historical research. In addition to the list of mentor pairs from the world of entertainment, business, creative arts, sports, politics, history, and science available in the Peer Resources listings, a few historical facts or humorous references to the term mentor are also included.)

A frequently discussed topic in the professional literature is “What’s the difference between a mentor, personal coach, sports coach and teacher?” While many have tackled this question, a realistic answer is much more difficult when all these roles are superbly combined in one person. And no one combined them with more skill, elegance, and success than American Basketball Hall of Fame player and coach John Wooden, who died at age 99 on June 4, 2010 in Los Angeles California.

One of the advantages of attending the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s was going to their basketball games in the Men’s Gym and watching the team set records for the most consecutive games won (88) and the number of NCAA championship seasons.

When I graduated from UCLA in 1964, the team won every game they played, including the NCAA championship (and nine more NCAA championships after that). And while the Shah of Iran was the controversial commencement speaker at my graduation ceremony, the most well-known and revered person on campus was John Wooden (1910-2010), the coach of the UCLA basketball team, known to everyone on the Westwood (Los Angeles) campus of UCLA as “The Wizard of Westwood.”

John_WoodenCoach Wooden, known simply as “Coach,” was not just a hero to students, he was loved and revered by all his players and was a mentor to virtually every player he coached during the 27 years he was at UCLA.

Jamaal Wilkes described Coach as “one in a billion as a coach, mentor and friend. As a friend, whenever you reached out to him he always reached back unconditionally.”

The reciprocity or mutuality we often mention as part of a relationship-based mentoring connection was demonstrated when Coach Wooden was asked to describe his ideal player, he told the New York Post in 1985: “I would have the player be a good student, polite, courteous, a good team player, a good defensive player and rebounder, a good inside player and outside shooter. “Why not just take Jamaal Wilkes and let it go at that.”
Kareem Abdul-Jabaar (known as Lew Alcindor when he played during my student days), the all-time leading point scorer in the National Basketball Association, said, “Many people have asked me if Coach Wooden was for real. They wanted to know if he really didn’t use foul language or really didn’t tell his teams they had to win a specific game. Coach’s value system was from another era, it was developed in an America that has passed on. The one thing that impressed me about coach was that he never stopped being curious, understanding he hadn’t learned everything that was possible to know.”

“Coach Wooden’s legacy transcends athletics, what he did was produce leaders,” UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said in a statement released by the school. “Through his work and his life, he imparted his phenomenal understanding of leadership and his unwavering sense of integrity to so many people.”

Former University of Louisville basketball coach Denny Crum, who was an assistant coach to John Wooden for 10 years at UCLA, said that Coach was “a ‘life coach’ before such a thing existed. Coach walked the talk; doing the right thing and living like basketball was incidental to his family and life.”

Another one of the players he coached, Bill Walton, who went on to an outstanding career in the National Basketball Association, recognized Coach as his most cherished mentor, saying that his own family’s home is “a shrine to John Wooden.”

“Coach Wooden never talked about winning and losing, basketball Hall of Fame player Walton, recalled in a statement released after Coach’s passing, “but rather about the effort to win. He rarely talked about basketball, but generally about life. He never talked about strategy, statistics or plays, but rather about people and character. Coach Wooden never tired of telling us that once you become a good person, then you have a chance of becoming a good basketball player.”

When Coach wanted to renew his driver’s license at age 95, one of his former players, Michael Warren, drove him to the licensing office. He recalled the event saying, “It’s like walking around with Jesus or Mother Teresa. It may sound outlandish, but in all sincerity, when you think about the things he accomplished and how humble he remained, he’s one of those figures who transcends everything – ethnicity, gender, and race.”

I was fortunate to meet Coach when I was dating a coed who was a UCLA cheerleader, and we often attended events to support the basketball team. She introduced me to Coach, and despite his fame, reputation, and commitment and engagement with his players, he wanted to know what I was studying, what sports I enjoyed, and what I was planning on doing when I graduated.

When he learned that I was a psychology major he wanted to know if I’d be interested in his Pyramid of Success. What impressed me most about this is that he didn’t say I should really know about this, but here was one of the most revered people in sports asking me if I would be interested in a copy. Of course, at the time there was no website to refer to, just actual paper documents. His offer to provide me with a copy and be interested in my future stayed with me for many years.

His Pyramid of Success is used by athletes, coaches, and business leaders around the world, and he is known not only as a great athlete (he was himself a three-time All-American basketball player at Purdue), but as a mentor who believed that learning and practicing the fundamentals of a successful life was the major contributor to being a successful athlete. Coach summed it this way, “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best you are capable of becoming.”

Coach Wooden is probably the most quoted athlete/coach of all time, and what he has had to say in his many inspirational speeches and talks is widely circulated on the Internet (close to 500,000 websites include his quotes) and catalogued in his many books. An inspiring sample of his ideas about success, their origins, and finding the best in each of us is illustrated in his 2001 TED talk.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but most of the short conversations we had during the time I was at UCLA were filled with things he would say that were inspiring, quotable, and personable. Despite his busy schedule he took the time to be friendly and warm, and when he talked he seemed genuinely interested in what I (as well as my cheerleader girlfriend, Barbara) had to say.

He was the first person I talked with who expressed the view that adversity was a great teacher and a way to get to know yourself. His viewpoint acted as a catalyst to help me make some key changes in how I was coping with my own lack of success in my athletic career. One of his quotes was “Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out,”

I think that he was a mentor, friend, and teacher to almost everyone he came into contact with. Coach said, “You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.” I’m sure that anyone who had a conversation with him realized that the differences between a coach, mentor, or teacher were no where near as relevant as the spectacular way Coach combined them all.

Mentor in Memorium: Marie Souvestre (1830-1905)

Marie_SouvestreMademoiselle Souvestre was a French feminist educator who founded the girls’ boarding school Allenswood, outside London, where her most famous pupil was Eleanor Roosevelt who went on to become one of the most respected women of the 20th century.

Eleanor’s early life was marked by an alcoholic father and a vain and distant mother (both of whom died before she was ten), and she was sent abroad to boarding school.

Mademoiselle Souvestre was the headmistress of the preparatory school to which young Eleanor was sent. Fortunately, Mademoiselle Souvestre’s goal for her students was to expand their minds and attain intellectual independence. The school used French in many classes. Eleanor turned out to be better prepared than most for Allenswood, due to extensive French tutoring prior to enrolling.

According to Elizabeth Pearce of MentorResources, it was during this period that Eleanor lost her shyness and acquired the self-confidence which would stand her so well in later life. Mademoiselle Souvestre mentored Eleanor, and they made field trips to Venice and Paris, with Eleanor making the arrangements. Mentoring introduced the teenager to the lifestyle of an independent woman. Eleanor always credited Souvestre with forming both her character and her intellectual outlook. The First Lady’s newspaper column on politics and social issues, My Day, was read daily by millions.

Mentor in Memorium: Tom Magliozzi (1937-2014)

Tom_MagliozziTom and his brother Ray, known as “Click and Clack,” hosted National Public Radio’s Car Talk show and changed radio talk shows forever. Their off-the-cuff banter, interaction with callers, and ability to make fun of themselves became a model for dozens of radio personalities. Prior to their influence NPR radio was marked by formal, polite, and cautious talk.

Tom’s infectious laugh as he tried to deal with caller’s worries about their automobiles, made the show a hit with both car buffs and those who knew nothing about automobiles. “Tom actually hated working in any world,” says his brother Ray. “Later on, when we were doing Car Talk, he would come in late and leave early. We used to warn him that if he left work any earlier, he’d pass himself coming in.”

Tom became everyone’s car mentor. One listener said, “I know nothing about cars, but when I was responsible for my very own, you and Ray helped me figure out what to listen to and how to communicate it to the person who could fix the problem. As a young woman with a car, you gave me the confidence to deal with others in the car world. You have always been like family to me. You were the crazy, yet helpful uncle that was able to give you that advice that nobody else could give. You have made me a better person, and I will always be grateful for that. I wish you peace and am sending all my love to your family. Thank you for always being there for me.”

Famous Mentor Pairings: The Music Business Part II

MentorlogoVirtually anyone can benefit from having a mentor. And most well-known, accomplished and successful people can identify people in their lives who acted as mentors. The mentor pairings that are described in this post were identified from a variety of sources including autobiographies, biographies, newspaper articles, personal interviews, and diligent historical research.

An extensive list of additional well-known mentor pairings, including those from TV, motion pictures and fiction, can be found on the Peer Resources website at www.mentors.ca/mentorpairs.html. In addition to the list of mentor pairs from the world of entertainment, business, creative arts, sports, politics, history, and science available in the Peer Resources listings, a few historical facts or humorous references to the term mentor are also included.

Herbie Hancock

Jazz trumpeters Donald Byrd and Miles Davis (1926-1991) were both mentors to jazz pianist and composer Herbie Hancock. Herbie’s first musical experiences, however, started with training in classical music. His talent was recognized as early as age seven, and when he was 11 he played with the Chicago Symphony.

As a teenager he started listening to jazz recordings of Canadian Oscar Peterson, and he began to teach himself jazz composition. Surprisingly, when he entered college he began his studies as a physics major; but eventually switched to music.

When Herbie Hancock met Donald Byrd, he complained to him that he was having difficulty composing his own jazz pieces. He didn’t want to just copy the stylings of those great pianists that he admired like George Shearing , Don Goldberg, McCoy Tyner, and Wynton Kelly.

Donald Byrd suggested that Herbie write about the “black experience” urban life, and city rhythms. He said, “Write about what you know.”

Herbie Hancock recalled the advice: “That’s when I wrote Watermelon Man (view on YouTube). That piece was based on the voice of a local watermelon vendor calling out in our neighbourhood. Became a best selling song. Mongo Santamaria, a conga player who found a way to blend Afro-Cuban and Afro-American music recorded Watermelon Man and made it a big hit all over Latin America in 1962.

“Donald Byrd and I were roomates at the time and we were playing in a group together. One day I got a phone call from Miles Davis, who I didn’t know even knew me. He asked me if I was working with anybody. I was so excited I put my hand over the phone and said to Donald, ‘It’s Miles; he wants to know if I’m working with anybody.’ Donald said to me, ‘I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror if I stood in the way of you working with Miles Davis. Tell him you’re not working with anyone.’ I then said to Miles, ‘no I’m not.’ He then said to me, “Why don’t you come over to my place and we’ll play some.’ I said, ‘OK,’ then he hung up. I was so stunned, thrilled and excited that it wasn’t till about an hour later that I realized I had no idea where Miles lived or how to get in touch with him!”

Herbie adds: “Miles could take bad music composed by a band member and make it great. He did the same for us as young musicians. He believed in our development and gave us the encouragement to grow.

178_donald-byrd
Donald Byrd
178_miles-davis
Miles Davis
178_herbie-hancock
Herbie Hancock

Shirley Horn

Shirley Horn (1934-2005) was another jazz pianist and vocalist mentored by Miles Davis. Ms. Horn began her musical life with the dream of becoming a classical pianist. But jazz clubs in her hometown of Washington, DC were the only places she could listen to other pianists eventhough she was underage. Her recognition by Miles Davis catapulted her career, partly because Miles Davis was notorious for hardly ever saying anything positive about anybody.

Eventually she was nominated for nine Grammy Awards, was awarded the Jazz Masters Award from the National Endowment for the Arts, and peformed at The White House for several U.S. presidents.

During Ms. Horn’s career she became a mentor to many women in the music business because of her ability to raise a family and actively perform. One of the people she mentored was singer Kendra Shank. Ms. Shank (www.kendrashank.com) started as a folk singer during her college years and was influenced by the styles of Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell and James Taylor.

She had studied French at university and also started singing French popular songsAlbum cover of Kendra Shank’s Mosaic in Seattle restaurants. When she moved to New York she met her mentor, pianist Shirley Horn, who introduced her to the Village Vanguard stage in 1992. “I’m going to do for you what my mentor Miles Davis did for me,” Ms. Horn told Kendra Shank. Working with Shirley Horn was, in part, an inspiration for her latest album, “Mosaic,” which is her fifth and most personal recording. On it are songs by Irving Berlin, Cedar Walton and Carole King, as well as some of her own original compositions. (Source: Hugo Kugiya, Seattle Times)

Kendra Shank
Kendra Shank
Shirley_Horn
Shirley Horn

Mentor in Memorium: Marshall Rosenberg (1934-2015)

Marshall_RosenbergMarshall Rosenberg, founder of the Center for Nonviolent Communication, was a world renowned peacemaker, psychologist, educator and author. He dedicated his life to the study and practice of the conditions that bring about peace. He taught millions, through his books and talks, the skills of honest expression, empathy, naming feelings, and asking for what we need in order to enrich our lives.

His early experience living in racially divided Detroit while he was training as a psychologist contributed to his developing a way to address conflict that emphasizes listening with empathy. He was also influenced in this direction by his association with the renowned psychologist Carl Rogers (1902-1987) who became his mentor, and asked him questions that were unanswerable at the time about how people can be loving and violent at the same time.

The Greater Good Center at the University of California at Berkeley said, “Dr. Rosenberg’s passing is a great loss to those inspired by his embodied, practical approach to peacemaking. And yet his work lives on as an inheritance, one that we may discover, rediscover and invest in ourselves and in one another, sharing these instruments of harmony that were meant to be shared in a diverse, complex, and complicated world.

One of fans of his work said, “Marshall Rosenberg is the mentor I wish we’d all had growing up. We learned to speak but not communicate and that has led to so much unnecessary personal and social misery.”

I’m interested in learning that’s motivated by reverence for life, that’s motivated by a desire to learn skills, to learn new things that help us to better contribute to our own well-being and the well-being of others. And what fills me with great sadness is any learning that I see motivated by coercion.

~ Marshall Rosenberg ~

Don Obe (1936-2014) Canadian Journalism Professor: Remembering His Legacy

Don_ObeDon Obe was an award-winning contributor to the Canadian magazine industry as an editor, writer, teacher and mentor. As a faculty member at Ryerson University he taught and mentored many of Canada’s brightest journalists. One of those he mentored, also an award winning journalist, said, “Don was one of the great characters of modern Canadian journalism. He could be funny, biting, sweet, profane, hard-assed and kind, sometimes simultaneously.

He was, for decades, the kind of journalist about which movies are made: hard-drinking and irascible with a soft heart. He was an important mentor of mine, as a writer, editor and, especially, as a teacher. But do you know what really matters? I owe everything I know about the soul of journalism to him.”

Another award-winning journalist said of his mentor: “I still hear him in my head: ‘Magazine writing is an intellectual exercise: it involves a lot more thinking than anything else; if you can’t write better than other people talk, you’re in the wrong business. Style at the expense of clarity is a waste of words.’ But quoting his advice does nothing to capture his passion for journalism and writing, especially narrative non-fiction, or his love of sharing that passion.”

“Lots of people, including me, learned so much about teaching journalism from Don,” said Ryerson professor Tim Falconer. “He really was a mentor to so many journalists in this country and that’s quite a thing to say about someone.”

Tom Magliozzi (1937-2014) Radio Talk Show Host: Remembering His Legacy

Tom_MagliozziTom and his brother Ray, known as “Click and Clack,” hosted National Public Radio’s Car Talk show and changed radio talk shows forever. Their off-the-cuff banter, interaction with callers, and ability to make fun of themselves became a model for dozens of radio personalities. Prior to their influence NPR radio was marked by formal, polite, and cautious talk.

Tom’s infectious laugh as he tried to deal with caller’s worries about their automobiles, made the show a hit with both car buffs and those who knew nothing about automobiles. “Tom actually hated working in any world,” says his brother Ray. “Later on, when we were doing Car Talk, he would come in late and leave early. We used to warn him that if he left work any earlier, he’d pass himself coming in.”

Tom became everyone’s car mentor. One listener said, “I know nothing about cars, but when I was responsible for my very own, you and Ray helped me figure out what to listen to and how to communicate it to the person who could fix the problem. As a young woman with a car, you gave me the confidence to deal with others in the car world. You have always been like family to me. You were the crazy, yet helpful uncle that was able to give you that advice that nobody else could give. You have made me a better person, and I will always be grateful for that. I wish you peace and am sending all my love to your family. Thank you for always being there for me.”