In the early 1990s, the sports marketer hired Wooden to make a presentation to car executives.
The years did not dull this talent, Wooden remaining in demand well into his 90s.
"Never overdid it, no shtick, just good solid wisdom," Steiner said. "A step above common sense — that's how I describe him. He would say something and you said to yourself, 'I should have thought of that.' "
Keep on going
It helped that Wooden never peddled himself, never shilled on television, keeping his image pure. It also might have helped that he was no longer coaching.
When he was at UCLA, some people suggested that he won so often because he had the best talent. Tim Floyd, the former USC coach now at Texas El Paso, said it was the same thing Lakers Coach Phil Jackson now faces.
"So they didn't appreciate what a tremendous coach [Wooden] was," Floyd said. "After coaching, people paid attention to what he had to say about not only basketball but about life."
In the mid-'90s, former UCLA player Keith Erickson visited Wooden and noticed his calendar filled, sometimes two or three appointments a day. Erickson suggested he take life a little easier.
Wooden offered two reasons to keep pushing. First, he said, it gave him something to look forward to. Second, the former high school English teacher still felt an urge to inform and inspire.
"I want to be a better person," he told Erickson, "better tomorrow than I am today."
Another of his former players, Walton, isn't the least bit surprised. Back in 1975, he had viewed Wooden's retirement from a different angle.
"It did not signify an end to his lifelong commitment to teaching, merely a new beginning," the Hall of Fame center said. "He was just getting started."
Times staff writers Gary Klein, Diane Pucin and Chris Foster contributed to this report.