At exactly 10 o’clock — right on time — he looked out the window of his condo in Encino and waved me in.

It was the first time I’d ever carried two tape recorders with me. But I had traveled 2,200 miles and I didn’t want to risk malfunction, didn’t want to miss a word. This, for me, was to be more than a mere magazine interview. This was to be a chance to have a conversation with John Wooden, a man who has lived as profound a life as any I can imagine.

Greeting me at the door, he looked pretty much the same as he did on TV during all those NCAA tournaments though, at 89, he was moving slowly. It’s said the eyes are windows to the soul; Wooden’s are as blue and welcoming as a spring sky. On our way to the living room where we would talk, we passed pictures of Abraham Lincoln and Mother Teresa. He was still buttoning his shirt as we walked. For some reason that made me feel at home. My first question was if watermelon tasted better in 1920 than it does today.

Coach Wooden, who will turn 90 in October, spoke about the lessons his parents taught him growing up in Indiana. He recalled how all of his savings had been stolen by bank officers on the eve of his wedding. He spoke lovingly of his wife, Nell, who died in 1985 (each month on the 21st he still writes her a love letter, folding it neatly and placing it among a growing stack tied with yellow ribbon atop her pillow). He talked of his children, James and Nancy, and seven grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. He talked about mashed potatoes — how he liked them prepared without a single lump — and fried chicken.

Then he did a remarkable thing. Just past noon, a photographer arrived to take a portrait. The photographer told Coach Wooden that he would set up a small studio outside and be ready to shoot in half an hour. I looked at my watch. It was 12:12. The photographer left and Coach Wooden and I continued talking. Then, without so much as a glance at his watch or a clock, Coach stood up and said: “It’s time to meet the photographer.” I looked at my watch; it was 12:42, 30 minutes on the nose.

It was at that moment that I came to understand how, in his 27 years as the Wizard of Westwood, John Wooden had led UCLA to a phenomenal NCAA record-setting 88 straight wins and 10 national titles in 12 seasons. Yes, great athletes came to Westwood to play for him — Walt Hazzard ’78, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ’69 (then known as Lew Alcindor), Sidney Wicks ’71, Bill Walton ’74, Marques Johnson ’77, to name just a few — but that was not the whole story. Sure, there was his well-known Pyramid of Success. But there was more to it than that. Year after year, I suddenly understood, he had taken young, talented men and blended them into teams that could, on the court, control time and space.

We walked outside to meet the photographer. It could’ve been his millionth photo shoot, but Coach was as cheery as if it were the first. Afterward, we came back inside and talked some more. I asked him how I could help my children get the best out of themselves. When I returned home, I imparted his wisdom to my kids. Three months later, my 5-year-old son would be reminding his little sister: “Be quick, but don’t hurry.”

That’s what I’d come for.

When I left Coach Wooden at the end of the day, I knew a lot more about life and my place in it than I did the day before. In fact, I walked away wondering what might have become of my life had John Wooden been my mentor when I was coming up.

Here, then, in no particular order, are words of life and wisdom straight from the mouth of Coach John Wooden. Feel free to pass them on.

They called me the India Rubber Man in high school because every time I went down on the court, I bounced right up. I’m 89 now. I’ve had my hip replaced and my knees aren’t any good. I’m old. I accept it. One of my great-granddaughters said, “Pa Pa, you drive like an old man.” I said: “Well, honey, what am I?”

We had a mule named Kate that would always lie down on me. I couldn’t get her up. My dad would be working across the field and see what was going on and start walking toward us. Then he’d say, “Kate,” and she’d get up and there’d be no problem. He had a way. Like Mr. Lincoln said: “There’s nothing stronger than gentleness.”

My father gave me a $2 bill for my grade-school graduation and said: “Hold onto this and you’ll never be broke.” I still have it. A lot of times that’s all I’ve had. But I’ve never been broke.

When I think of mother, I think of hard work: cooking, canning, mending, washing on the washboard, churning our own butter. I think of perseverance.

People are about as happy as they make their mind to be.

One of the sayings in the seven-point creed that my dad gave me when I graduated from grade school was: “Make each day your masterpiece.”

I was saving up to be married and I had $909 and a nickel in the bank. I’ll never forget that. I found out I lost it all the day before I was supposed to be married. Two or three top people in the bank had gone through the safety boxes and stolen money. For a while the incident made me distrustful of people. But I got over that. Mr. Lincoln said, “It’s better to trust and be disappointed occasionally than to distrust and be miserable all the time.” There’s something to that.

It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.

The most I made coaching at UCLA was $32,500. Maybe I didn’t have a million-dollar contract like Shaquille O’Neal, but he’ll never know what it was like to get a good meal for 25 cents.

Every day was a good day at UCLA.

I used to sit in on psychology classes at UCLA when I was coach. I didn’t do it for the credit. When you’re working with people, there’s always something to learn.

Don’t get engrossed with things over which you have no control, because that will adversely affect the things that you do have control over.

I liked to think while walking on the track at Drake Stadium. I’d walk at 6:30 every morning. Twenty laps, five miles. Not many people would be out there. It was quiet and a great time to reflect.

Discipline yourself and others won’t need to. Success is making the effort to do the best you can.

My dad said: “Don’t look back. Do what you think is right at the time and it doesn’t make any difference how it works out.” If you thought it was right at the time, that was the thing to do. Nobody is perfect. But you can strive for perfection. I never mentioned winning, but I was constantly trying to make a little improvement every day. You don’t see much progress, but there’s a little bit. The next day, there’s a little more, then a little more and after a while you have considerable progress.

I go to UCLA about twice a month now. I go to all the home basketball games and I speak at a sports psychology class. When I go, I’m sometimes asked for advice. But I won’t give it. I’ll give you my opinion, but not advice.

If I were ever prosecuted for my religion, I truly hope there would be enough evidence to convict me.

You can do more good by being good than any other way.

I had an emergency appendectomy when I was due to leave aboard the USS Franklin in the South Pacific during World War II. They cancelled my orders. The person who took my place was killed by a kamikaze. I assume I would have been in the identical place that he was. Another time, I was due to go on a Saturday to a summer basketball camp in North Carolina. Something came up at UCLA and I couldn’t go until Sunday. The plane that I had the ticket for went down and everybody was killed. I don’t know what you call it. Some call it fate. I don’t know if I believe in fate. Things happen, but we don’t know the reason.

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation. Character is what you really are; reputation is what you are perceived to be.

I don’t believe in praying to win. The prayer I’d like to hear beforehand is for nobody to get hurt and that you participate to the best of your own individual ability.

No matter how fine a person is at anything, he can always improve. No one ever reaches maximum potential.

It’s like Abraham Lincoln said: “The worst thing you can do for those you love is the thing they could and should do for themselves.”

I don’t think I was a fine game coach. I don’t think I was a great strategy guy. I think I was a good practice coach. I could tell you right now what we did at every practice I had at UCLA — every day, every minute. It’s all on paper.

If the players weren’t focusing in practice, I’d say, “That’s it. Out. Come back tomorrow and be ready to go.” Almost always, they’d say, “Give us another chance.” And almost always, practice would go fine after that.

Balance. Balance. Balance. That’s what’s needed. Not just physical balance, but emotional balance, spiritual balance.

When the rule against dunking was enforced, I told Lewis [Kareem Abdul-Jabbar] that it would make him a better player. He’d have to work harder on his hook shot, work harder on his bank shots around the board. The rule would do nothing but make him a better player. And, I added, “You won’t forget how to dunk when you get to the pros.”

You can’t put dignity and personality into a person who doesn’t have any.

Don’t let making a living prevent you from making a life. There is no progress without change, though change is not necessarily progress. Sometimes we’re so concerned about teaching our children that we forget parents should be taught, too.

We learn from everyone, in some way or another. When my son was in high school, he wanted a car. I said, “You work hard in the summer and save up for half and I’ll pay the other half.” He saved up, and I came home one day and Nellie was just distraught. Jim had given his money to a friend. I said to Jim, “Do you think you’ll get it back?” He said, “Dad, what did you always teach me? He’s my friend. Haven’t I heard you say your greatest joy is doing something for someone with no thought of something in return?” Hearing your own words come back at you can make you smile. Later that year, his friend paid him back. The two most important words in this world are love and balance.

We didn’t have any drills where you just stand and shoot. Players were constantly moving. Every fundamental drill was a conditioning drill. My players knew that we stopped on time, just as they knew we started on time.

I used to tell my players: “My job is the two hours I have you on the floor for practice every day. Your job is what you do between those practices, because you can tear down faster than we can build up by lack of moderation.”

“I do it because he does it” is not a good reason.

Passion is momentary; love is enduring.

I’ll never adjust to the loss of Nellie. We were married for 53 years. No man ever had a finer wife and mother to his children. Prior to her loss, I had some fear of death. Now, I have no fear of death. I look forward to seeing her again.

If I am through learning, I am through.

What is right is more important than who is right.

I had a rule against facial hair for players. I didn’t want hair or sweat getting in a player’s eyes and obstructing his vision. One day Bill Walton came to practice wearing a beard. I said, “Bill, have you forgotten something?” He said, “Coach, I think I should be allowed to wear it. It’s my right.” So I asked him, “Do you believe in that strongly?” He said, “Yes, I do, coach.” I said to him, “Bill, I have great respect for individuals who stand up for those things in which they believe. And the team is going to miss you.” Bill shaved and returned to practice. There were no hard feelings.

I had three rules for my players: No profanity; don’t criticize a teammate; never be late.

Never make excuses. Your friends won’t need them and your foes won’t believe them. Do not mistake activity for achievement.

I wanted everyone on the team to feel important. I sometimes established a closer relationship with the players who didn’t play too much than with the stars. I was constantly making the effort to pat them on the back and show them that they were needed.

I don’t like to be like the guy in church who coughs loudly just before putting money into the offering plate.

I told my players I didn’t care what their politics were, I just hoped they believed in them. I might not like their actions, but I can’t dictate politics.

But I remember once Bill Walton laying down on Wilshire Boulevard and stopping traffic during a demonstration. I said to him, “Suppose there’s an ambulance rushing somebody to the hospital and it can’t get there.” He said, “I didn’t think about that.” I said, “Those are the things to think about. You have a right to your beliefs and your actions as long as they don’t interfere with the rights of others.” I learned more from Lewis about man’s inhumanity to man than from anybody else.

What am I proud of? After we’d won a national championship game, a reporter asked one of my players what kind of racial problems we had on the team. The player looked at the reporter and said, “You don’t know our coach, do you? He doesn’t see color; he sees ballplayers.” And he turned and walked away. That’s what I’m proud of.

The thing I miss in retirement is the practices. As Cervantes said: “The journey is better than the inn. I think the game is the inn and the journey is the practices.”

There is no clock-watching when a leader has respect.

Pride is a better motivator than fear.

Fairness is giving all people the treatment they earn and deserve. It doesn’t mean treating everyone alike.

Mistakes occur when your thinking is tainted by excessive emotion.

True happiness comes from the things that cannot be taken away from you. All material things can be taken away.

Coming off the floor after the NCAA semifinal win over Louisville in 1975, it just hit me. Time to go. It was an emotional thing. I can’t explain it. I went to the dressing room and congratulated my players on a fine game. I said, “I don’t know how we’ll do Monday night against Kentucky, but I think we’ll do all right. Regardless of the outcome of the game, I never had a team give me more pleasure. I’m very proud of you. This will be the last team I’ll ever coach.” They were shocked. I went to the press and told them, and my athletic director almost fainted. My wife didn’t know. I didn’t know myself until it happened. It was an emotional thing.

Never say never.