The Wooden's Wisdom Logo

Motivate Your Team! Cheer Up A Friend! Inspire Yourself!

Issue 305 - First Impressions

Woodens Wisdom
Wooden's Wisdom - Volume 6 Issue 305
Craig Impelman Speaking |  Championship Coaches |  Champion's Leadership Library Login



Coach Wooden used this humorous quote from the 20th century pastor Henry Emerson Fosdick to remind us to not jump to a final judgement simply based on a first impression:
First Impressions aren't necessarily valid, e.g., "Once I met a fellow who irritated me a little. Later I found out how wrong I was because he irritated me a lot."
Coach Wooden’s refusal to use his first impression as his final evaluation of a player was critical to his success.
After he retired, Coach Wooden said his first impression of Doug McIntosh when he saw him practice as a freshman in 1962 was: "I didn't think he would play a minute for us on the varsity."
The next year, McIntosh was a key reserve for the Bruins as they won their first national title in 1964 - playing 30 minutes in the championship game against Duke and grabbing 11 rebounds. He became a starter for his junior and senior seasons, anchoring the pivot for Wooden's 1965 champions as a junior. Coach described Doug as one of two players who came as close to realizing his full potential as any I ever had.
When Kenny Washington arrived at UCLA in 1963 from South Carolina after being picked up at the Santa Monica Greyhound bus station, the first impression of the UCLA basketball Coach, at best, must have been one of surprise, if not disappointment.
Washington had been promised a basketball scholarship to UCLA sight unseen based on the recommendation of current player Walt Hazzard. Hazzard, who had played against Washington during the summer in Philadelphia, told the UCLA coaches Washington was 6’5", 230. They were surprised when Washington got to campus. He was 6'3", 165. Coach Wooden, in spite of his first impression, kept his word and gave Kenny the scholarship he had been promised.
Washington, like McIntosh, became a key member of UCLA’s first two NCAA championship teams in 1964 and 1965. The 6'3" Washington was particularly effective in his two championship game appearances, netting 26 points and grabbing 12 rebounds in the 1964 championship game and scoring 17 in the 1965 championship game and earning a spot on the All-Final Four team.
The first UCLA assistant coach who was sent to scout Hall of Famer and former UCLA All American Jamaal Wilkes when he was in high school, came back with a bad first impression. He said Wilkes was quick but not a good shooter. Wilkes had had one of his very few bad nights. Coach Wooden believed: "You are better off not seeing a prospect play at all than seeing him play just once."
The second Coach who was sent to scout Wilkes came back with the opposite evaluation: Great Shooter. Wilkes was so accurate as a shooter during his 12 year NBA career (which included 4 championships to go along with his 2 at UCLA) that his jump shot was referred to as "the fifteen foot layup".
Are you rushing to judgement on people based on your first impression?

Yours in Coaching,
Craig Impelman




Watch Video

Application Exercise



"Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once."



Whether it's Heaven – or whether it's Hell –
Or whether it's merely sleep;
Or whether it's something in Between
Where ghosts of the half gods creep –

Since it comes but once – and it comes to all –
On the one fixed, certain date –
Why drink of the dregs till the cup arrives
On the gray date set by Fate?

Is life so dear – are dreams so sure?
Are love and strife so strong,
That one should shrink from the fated step
To a road that is new and long?

The soul – the grave – and the after- trail –
The Mystic Rivers flow –
How have the living earned their guess
Where only the dead may know?

Grantland Rice (1880-1954)






For more information visit




Enter a list of email addresses, separated by spaces, to send this issue to.

Email a Friend

Return to Issue List

Our Services
Why Wooden's Wisdom
Presentation Team
Wooden's Wisdom Leaders
Leadership Resource Center
Member Login

© Copyright 2024 | # of Times Wooden's Wisdom Issues Opened: 6,822,070

Hosting & Design