Tharp, R. G. and Gallimore, R. (1976).  Basketballs John Wooden: What a coach can teach a teacher.  Psychology Today, 9 (8), 74-78.


During the 1974-75 season, we observed the UCLA basketball coach at work. The purpose: Research the practices of a master teacher to generate new hypotheses and investigative avenues. At the beginning of the 1974-1975 basketball season John Woodenπs teams had won 9 NCAA championships, including 7 in a row from 1967 to 1973. He won with teams of great talent and some with relatively less. The study spanned one season, the one many believe was the best of his career, and perhaps the best of anyoneπs career: The 1974-1975 UCLA team won a 10th NCAA title, an accomplishment among the greatest in the history of intercollegiate athletics.

We received Coach Wooden’s permission to observe and record his actions during afternoon practices. His teaching fell naturally into a frequency-count system. His teaching utterances or comments were short, punctuated, and numerous. There were no lectures, no extended harangues. Although frequent and often in rapid-fire order, his utterances were so distinct we could code each one as a separate event. He rarely spoke longer than 20 seconds. Because he was so easy to code, we quickly established blind reliability of coding every utterance demonstration into one of ten categories. Altogether, we observed 30 hours of practices, and recorded and coded 2,326 discrete acts of teaching. There was one distinctive category:  A Wooden (negative model, followed quickly by a positive and then a repetition of the first negative model). The major findings of our coding scheme can be summarized as follows:

75 % of all utterances carried information, much of which was repetitive (Instructions, Hustles, Modeling, & Woodens).

Minimal use of praises and reproofs.