How Many Ways Can I Say “Win!”

Vince Lombardi is always credited with the famous quote about winning.  It goes, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”  Lombardi, the late, great coach of the Green Bay Packers actually never made that statement.  I’ll bet a lot of football coaches credited him with uttering those famous words.

However, fear not Lombardi fans.  He danced around that quote any number of times.  Lombardi definitely said, “Winning isn’t everything, but the will to win is everything.”  Personally, I liked it when he said, “Winning is a habit.  Unfortunately, so is losing.” 

I never was big on locker room quotes.  I think the only quote I ever used on my teams in 33 years as a head coach was one by Walt Disney.  It was in a year when the team was going to travel to Disney World in Orlando, FL.  I didn’t put it in the locker room, but I used it in some publication for my players.

The quote was, “If you can dream it, you can do it.  Always remember that this whole thing started with a dream and a mouse.”  That’s what I call winning.  This guy grew up in Marceline, MO, which isn’t that far east of St. Joseph. 

Who knew the power of an over-sized mouse?  However, I do proudly claim to be a card carrying member of the Mickey Mouse Club.  I would wear those stupid ears just in case Annette Funicello came to Clatonia, Nebraska.  I would do anything to “win” over the early maturing Mouseketeer.

Zig Ziglar, the famous motivational speaker tried to piggy-back on what Lombardi had to say.  The quote attributed to Zig was, “Winning is not everything, but the effort to win is.”

In 1948, John Wooden was coaching at Indiana State University.  He invented a pyramid that contained 15 steps that he called the “Pyramid of Success.”  Can you name any of those steps? 

In the early 1970’s, Jerry Hueser was the men’s basketball coach at Kearney State College.  He was the basketball theory teacher when I was first learning the craft.  Coach Hueser actually read the book to us in class.  We had to memorize every step.

I am about to criticize the holy grail of basketball, but I always thought the “Pyramid of Success” was a little corny.  A few of the blocks in the pyramid are really obvious stuff like “Enthusiasm,” “Cooperation” and “Friendship.”  I know many coaches who are as enthusiastic as a cheerleader, cooperate with everyone, and is a friend to all who know him, but can’t win a basketball game.

Take for example the very first block on the pyramid, “Industriousness.”  What exactly does that have to do with coming up with a game plan to beat an MIAA team?  According to the dictionary, industriousness means, “hard working and diligent.”  Aren’t we all?

The last block at the very pinnacle of the pyramid, the great John Wooden puts, “Competitive Greatness.”  Tim Tebow says that means getting your team in the best position to win.  What bothers me about all these blocks and definition is you can’t buy them a Dick’s Sporting Goods.  I can’t even draw what they look like.

The Pyramid of Success is the Bible of basketball.  That’s why I’m sitting here at my computer checking the skies for any sign of lightning.  With all that in mind, John Wooden was quoted about winning, “Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character.”  I can wrap my hands around that quote.

Two of the greatest basketball players of our time have famous quotes about winning.  What does Bird and John Wooden have in common?  They both spent time on the Indiana State campus.  I relate to Larry Bird.  He has a big nose, he never could jump, and he wasn’t exactly a speed demon.  Those could all be said about my appearance and talent.  The difference was about 40% higher shooting percentage from Bird.  Oh yah, millions of dollars earned, too.

Larry Bird said about winning, “A winner is someone who recognizes his God-given talent, works his tail off to develop them into skills, and uses his skill to accomplish his goals.”  Bird should have built a pyramid.

I loved watching NBA basketball when Michael Jordon played.  There always was a chance you would see something that had never been done on the basketball court.  Michael certainly doesn’t build teams with his talents as is proof with the Charlotte Bobcats.  The president and part-owner of the Bobcats, Jordon led the team in a record low nine wins this year. 

However, he could talk winning.  Michael said, “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”  I’m not sure what this means, but he also said, “There is no “i” in team, but there is in win.”

Knute Rockne was the master motivator.  Who really knows if he heard George Gipp, in his dying breath and leaning on one elbow and said, “I’ve got to go, Rock.  It’s all right.  I’m not afraid.  Some time, Rock, when the team is up against it, when things are wrong and the breaks are beating the boys, ask them to go in there with all they’ve got and win just one for the Gipper.  I don’t know where I’ll be then, Rock.  But I’ll know about it, and I’ll be happy.”

Rockne used those dying words to rally his team from a 12 – 6 halftime deficit against number one ranked Army to upset the military academy.  He also said, “If I know a gracious loser, I know a failure.”  That’s a little harsh on sportsmanship. 

Leo, the Lip, Durocher, played major league baseball for 20 years.  However, it was his 22 years as a major league manager that gained him the most notoriety.  He is credited with the famous quote, “Nice guys finish last.”

The Lip rejected that claim when he said, “I never did say that you can’t be a nice guy and win.  I said that if I played third base and my mother rounded third with the winning run, I’d trip her up.”   That’s my kind of quote.

This entry was posted in Athletics by Gene Steinmeyer. Bookmark the permalink.
Gene Steinmeyer

About Gene Steinmeyer

Gene Steinmeyer coached the Northwest Missouri State women’s basketball team for 13 seasons before retiring after 26 years as a collegiate head coach after the 2011-12 season. He retired as the second winningest women’s basketball coach at Northwest as his 2010-11 team won both the MIAA Regular Season and Tournament Championship advancing to the NCAA National Semifinals one game shy of the national championship game.