Throughout his coaching career, Sigi Schmid has pointed to one man as his greatest influence in the coaching ranks. That man passed away on Friday and nearly every coach of every sport in America grieved the loss of one of their profession’s greatest - John Wooden.
Schmid played his collegiate soccer at UCLA from 1972-1975, catching the final four years of Wooden's coaching career. Well after his retirement, Wooden continued to be a mainstay around the UCLA campus and for one aspiring young soccer coach - a constant source of advice.
Over this past weekend, Schmid reflected on the career of Wooden and the impact he had on his own coaching career.
“As a student there I had some friends who were on the basketball team and I used to watch practice all the time,” Schmid recalled. “Seeing him work, seeing the way he always tried to bring the best out of each individual and by bringing the best out of each individual, that made them a great team.”
Schmid was introduced to Wooden by Sidney Wicks, who played for Wooden at UCLA from 1969-1971 and was an assistant coach under Walt Hazzard from 1984-1988. That meeting and the subsequent conversations that followed, helped shape many of Schmid’s coaching philosophies to this day.
“He believed in the fundamentals of the sport, which is important in every sport. You could see him practice those every day,” Schmid said. “He could be loud at times, but he was more soft-spoken. As a result in practice, players were almost craning their necks to hear what was being said. It increased the attention span.”
The Wizard of Westwood, as Wooden was known, walked the sidelines for the UCLA Bruins basketball team from 1948-1975, retiring with 620 wins and 10 NCAA championships with the Bruins. He is still considered by many to be the greatest ever college basketball coach.
“There are some people in life that exude a presence and an awe about them and that’s the kind of person he was,” Schmid said. “We've lost a very unique and a very special person. A lot of guys have the Pyramid of Success in their offices signed by him. It's a huge loss, but we were very fortunate to have him here for 99-plus years. He's a very, very special person and UCLA and sports (in general) are going to miss him.”
Wooden died of natural causes Friday night at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. He is survived by his daughter Nancy and son Jim, seven grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.