Both were coaches, but the similarities seemingly ended there. They came from different generations and different sports. One was born in Texas and found his fame in the Midwest. The other was born in the Midwest and became a legend in sunny California. Any connection was unlikely.
And yet earlier today, Mike Singletary began his Q&A session with local media by paying homage to John Wooden, the inimitable UCLA basketball coach who passed away Friday.
“He’s a man to me, in this field of coaching, that deserves all of the credit in the world,” Singletary said. “I think he did a tremendous amount of mentoring at every level. He’s the kind of coach that what he did reached boundaries outside of basketball. I had a chance to meet him, visit with him, talk to him on the phone. He was very nice to me whenever I had the opportunity to meet with him. I’ll forever be indebted to him for the things that he talked about.”
Wooden was renowned for his aphorisms. One of best known former players, Bill Walton, used to write them on the lunch bags he sent to school with his sons. Today, Singletary divulged that he keeps a card in his wallet that Wooden gave him, explaining that it lists seven things Wooden learned from his father.
Most likely, this is the Seven Point Creed that Joshua Wooden supposedly gave to his son when he graduated from grammar school:
• Be true to yourself.
• Make each day your masterpiece.
• Help others.
• Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.
• Make friendship a fine art.
• Build a shelter against a rainy day.
• Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day.
It isn’t hard to imagine Singletary being drawn to those words.
The origin of the two men’s relationship also is not surprising. When Singletary was getting into coaching, he sought out many of the brightest people he could find to pick their brains on the subject of leadership. Wooden was a natural choice.
They spoke by phone, and a couple years ago, before Singletary became the 49ers’ head coach, he joined Wooden at an event honoring student-athletes.
“After he spoke I just ran down and found him and had a chance to visit with him,” Singletary said. “I had talked to him on the phone previously, just simply because I was intrigued by the amount of success he’d had. When you have that kind of success in any field, it’s really a phenomenal feat. He is someone that any coach would want to follow in those kinds of footsteps.”
Now Singletary is one of 32 NFL head coaches, performing under constant pressure. He knows you don’t have long in this league to prove you can win. So Mike, to borrow a little advice from the ultimate source: Be quick, but don’t hurry.