June 4, 2010

John R. Wooden, 1910-2010

Pausing from the general tenor of this site, I wish to ask that a moment of silence be observed for the legendary UCLA basketball coach -- Johnny Wooden -- who passed on earlier this day and has gone to join his beloved Nell Wooden who left him some years before.

There are 11 NCAA Championship banners hanging in Pauley Pavilion. Ten of them are from John Wooden's teams and he won them over the space of 12 years. This is a feat that will probably never be equaled again -- certainly not by one coach at one institution. But much more than those championships, there are some fine young men who learned valuable lessons in winning these banners.

I had the singular distinction of attending and graduating from UCLA (1964-1968) during his greatest successes and was honored to have met, listened to, and spoken with him on a number of occasions during my time there. In an era (the middle to late sixties) so fraught with college and societal unrest, his talks were of the solid principles that would guide one through the turmoils of life whether athlete or no.

He was everything that you will read about him; he was quiet, soft-spoken, principled, and dignified. Many, many of his players took more away from UCLA than just a diploma and an NCAA championship ring. They learned traits and qualities that many professional athletes -- in deed, many people -- seem to lack in this day and age.

I had the privilege of meeting and befriending Lew Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul Jabbar), Steve Patterson, Mike Warren and a number of his players. They all were consumed by the academics and athletics at UCLA. But, despite their worries of school and the basketball campaigns that attended their scholarships, none -- NONE -- spoke of anything but love and respect for John Wooden and the principles he taught.

Thank you coach and God bless you.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, the Wizard of Westwood could coach, couldn't he? And recruit, and mentor, and lead, and inspire, and....

    God rest John Wooden's soul, he was the best.