Anthony Lynn was just a rookie NFL assistant coach the day John Wooden changed his approach to his craft forever.
Wooden had been asked to speak to the Denver Broncos about Lynn during the 2000 season by the team’s chaplain, a friend of the retired UCLA basketball coach. Lynn had heard of Wooden but hadn’t realized how iconic he was.
“I knew he was a winning coach and all that,” said Lynn, now the Chargers head coach, “and it was a privilege for him to come and talk to us, that was kind of my vision.”
Lynn was so impressed with what Wooden had to say that he then invited him to lunch. As they sat in the team dining room, Lynn proudly showed the old coach the thick scouting report he had put together on the Broncos’ next opponent.
“I was going through it, section by section with him, all my work and what I added to it and everything,” Lynn said, “and at the end of it all, he sort of kind of looked and said, ‘You did all that? And I said, “Yes, sir,” you know, like he should’ve been impressed.
Wooden told the young coach he never compiled a scouting report. Lynn was in disbelief.
“I said, ‘You’ve won 10 national championships and won all of those games and you’ve never scouted your opponent? said Lynn.
It’s true, Wooden told him. He told himself that if he cared more about his team and prepared them as best he could, he wouldn’t have to worry about the opponent.
Lynn was initially deadpan.
“I thought, yeah, that’s cute,” Lynn said, “but I felt like this job was really important and that’s what we needed.”
Two years later, as he prepared another reconnaissance report, it struck him, the true intent of what Wooden had said.
“What he was trying to say, really sweetly, is that you can waste a lot of time worrying about the other team and you have to worry about your fucking team more,” Lynn said with a laugh. . “It always stuck with me from then on, and I don’t spend as much time on the opponent as I do on my own team.
“I feel like he’s right – if you want to win a lot of games, if your team is better prepared and ready to play, then often it will take care of itself rather than worrying about the another team.”
Lynn became an admirer of Wooden in other ways, buying his books on leadership and character building. He credits the late coach’s words with helping him in training, life and fatherhood. All thanks to an impromptu meeting at lunchtime.
“It’s hard to believe he’s one of the greatest coaches in the history of the sport and he showed such humility,” Lynn said. “I had no idea who he was at the time, to be honest with you.”