John Wooden's Pyramid Still Standing

What the Pyramid Means to Others

But, as his players have found out, the Pyramid of Success isn't just applicable to basketball--it's also relevant to the business world, marriage and even health struggles. In his college days, Vallely says he half-listened to the teachings of the pyramid, but has come to value them. "As I look back now, I see it as a parable for life. In order to have a good business, you must know the basics, you must have a certain set of fundamentals that you believe in," he says.

In addition to helping him in the business world, Vallely says the pyramid helped his family cope with losing his daughter, Erin, to cancer at age 12 in 1988. "This whole idea of the Pyramid of Success doesn't mean that you're always going to win. With my daughter, we had a sense of peace that we'd given it everything that we could give. But in that part of our life adventure, we had run up against an opponent we couldn't defeat," Vallely says.

Wooden's philosophy also proved valuable when Vallely was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2002. "When I was competing against a life-threatening disease, and I couldn't move because I was so sick from all the chemotherapy, somehow I finally learned that it wasn't about winning a basketball game; it was about feeling happy that I had lived a full life and had experienced success in my marriage and in my experience as a father," says Vallely, who is now cancer-free. Since being inducted into the Hall of Fame in October of last year, Vallely has been inspired by others to share his story through motivational speaking and through his website.

Andy Hill is also promoting the power of the pyramid, which may come as a surprise to some Bruin fans. Hill was a member of three NCAA championship teams from 1970 to 1972 led by Wooden, but he spent more time on the bench than scoring points. Looking back, Hill admits, "Not playing was the best thing that ever happened to me."

It didn't seem like it at the time, though. Hill left UCLA somewhat bitter toward Wooden and his college basketball experience. But 25 years later, after becoming successful in the TV industry as the president of CBS Productions and Channel One Network, he realized Wooden was the one who taught him the principles he was implementing in his life. So Hill made what he says was the toughest phone call he's ever had to make, thanking Wooden for his guidance. The two now talk regularly, and Hill is spreading Wooden's ideologies to others as a motivational speaker, life coach and author with the help of his website.

From the Court to the Boardroom
When asked for his advice on business, Wooden guides entrepreneurs to the top of the pyramid, where "patience" and "faith" flank the top block--"competitive greatness." Wooden explains, "As an entrepreneur or small business owner, you must have patience, and you must believe. But, you must also have skills, and you have to realize you're going to have to work at whatever it is you're hoping to attain."

Judging from his relationships with former players, perhaps the greatest business lesson to be learned from Wooden is how leaders should treat the people around them. "Make those under your supervision understand that you really care for them, not just for what they're doing in the corporation but that you really care for them," Wooden says. "I think anyone in a supervisor position has to do that." For him, that meant letting his players know they weren't playing for him, but with him as they worked toward a common goal. "My success was largely dependent on the type of youngsters I had under my supervision," he adds.

Hill, in fact, says he learned how to lead by watching Wooden guide his teams to greatness. "The Pyramid of Success is an incredible model for business people," he says. "Wooden's no Donald Trump, and yet his mode of leadership is something that's sorely missed in a lot of companies. The mark of a great leader is someone who's successful over time, and that's just what Coach Wooden has proven to be."

Can't get enough of Bruin fever? Check out UCLA Dynasty, the HBO special featuring Wooden and the players who contributed to this record-breaking era of college basketball airing on HBO March 30 and 31. And don't forget, March Madness continues this weekend as No. 2 seed UCLA takes on No.1 seed Florida on Saturday when the Final Four teams face off.

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As Entrepreneur.com's staff writer, Kristin Edelhauser writer features, blogs and other pieces for the site. She previously worked as a writer and researcher for the NBC San Diego affiliate.

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