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Whenever talking about how a new NFL head coach was influenced to reach his position, most of them always reference obvious football influences. Matt Eberflus is no different. He credited Gary Pinkel and Rod Marinelli as two prominent guides during his rise through the coaching ranks over the past 30 years. Nick Saban as well. However, it is important to remember that good coaching isn’t exclusive to one sport.
People shouldn’t be surprised that many of the all-time greats from football, baseball, hockey, and others often exhibit remarkably similar styles—both in approach to the game itself and the management of people. When looking back over the many years of high-level athletics, few men were better at both than John Wooden. The Wizard of Westwood won 10 national championships during his tenure at UCLA basketball, earning a reputation as one of the greatest mentors in history. His players respect and revere him to this day.
It seems Eberflus is a big fan of Wooden as well.
That became apparent during his latest interview with Bears media. He was asked what he looks for from players in minicamp and OTA practices since the pads aren’t on. His answer included a nod to the late college basketball icon.
“Mentally. So mentally what you assess this time of year is can the guy pick it up? Is he fast mentally? Can he think on his feet? Is he able to make the adjustments on the fly? That’s #1. Then #2, physically, what you can see is the athletic ability. I like to see athletes we’re acquiring here, really good athletes that can run and have speed. Can they operate and be quick but not in a hurry, as Coach Wooden would say.”
Matt Eberflus is a smart man to take teachings from Wooden.
Several future head coaches in every major sport have claimed at one time or another that the Bruins legend influenced them. Among them include Bobby Bowden, Joe Torre, Steve Kerr, Tony Dungy, Tom Coughlin, and Pat Summit. Champions all. Much of Wooden’s success came from his ability to create structure for his players. One of the ways he did that was through his renowned Pyramid of Success, a series of characteristics and traits Wooden identified that made up successful people.
His famous “Be quick but don’t hurry” was one of many quotes he derived from those experiences. Matt Eberflus has clearly read books about the man and taken a lot of what he said to heart. That can only be a good thing for the Bears. If he incorporates similar teachings into his own coaching style, this team should start winning in the near future.
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