What Does John Wooden Have In Common With Casanova?

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 Casanova was on his deathbed when someone knocked on his door, repeatedly asking to speak with him.  Casanova’s doctor replied that it would be impossible, given his patient’s critical state.  Only his closest relatives could see him.  When he heard the noise outside, Casanova learned about what was going on and gave orders to let such an insistent character in.  He would have something important to tell him, for sure.  When he finally came in, the young man said: “Mr Casanova, you have made love to over twelve hundred of the most beautiful Italian women…” Casanova interrupted him.  “Fifteen hundred.” “Okay, okay.  Fifteen hundred of the most beautiful women of our country. But how did you do it? You must tell me your secret.”  Casanova signalled at him to come closer, winked conspiratorially, and whispered in his ear: “I asked them.”

I have no reason to believe that John Wooden ever sought out the writings of Casanova.  This was a man who married his first girlfriend and continued to write regular letters to her long after her passing.   However, if he had ever read the above story, I feel confident that he would have nodded approval at its lesson, if not necessarily its direct context.  For encapsulated in the above story is not only the secret of Casanova’s success in his field, but also of Wooden’s in his.

At the end of each season, he would do a complete review including all of his training plans.  He would then decide which area he wanted / needed to improve for the coming season and set about learning everything he could about the topic.  The greatest resource in this quest for knowledge was other coaches.  He would find the coaches who were experts in that area and… ask them.  Sometimes he would write letters.  Sometimes he would visit them.  But always he would learn.

The lesson is, the Terry Pettit Principle holds: You learn about coaching from everywhere.  And to that I will add the newly invented Casanova/Wooden Principle: Ask!


The Casanova story is reported in Jose Mourinho: Special Leadership: Creating and Managing Successful Teams by Luis Lorenco.

The John Wooden story is reported in many places, among others in his biography, reviewed here.


Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.

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