Bill Paley (mycroftca) wrote,
Bill Paley

I've seen and been hearing reports that John Wooden, famed retired coach of the UCLA Bruins men's basketball team from years ago is presently on a morphine drip in critical care at the UCLA Medical Center.

I find myself ruminating on my limited connections with Coach Wooden.

For starters, from our arrival in Southern California, my Dad got season tickets to the UCLA basketball games, so from the time I was in 7th grade (Lew Alcindor's junior year) until I entered UCLA (Bill Walton's senior year) the two of us didn't miss a game. I know that the opportunity to go to sports events with me gave my father great pleasure...the fact that the Bruins were a dominant team in college basketball at that time was icing on the cake. We used to see Coach Wooden do his ritual on the bench before every game, tugging and pounding on the arm of his assistant coach, rolling up his program, and looking over his shoulder at his wife.

When I was a freshman, I shared an elevator with the coach, when he was showing the campus to some prospects. I just shut up and stood there, but I wanted to tell him how much I appreciated his skills.

I went to his retirement "party", where many of the former players of his Bruin teams came to give testimonials, held at Pauley Pavilion. He was very gracious, and clearly struck by the speeches of his players.

Then, he retired to Encino, the neighborhood of my parents. Apparently, both Mom and Dad had seen him at times, walking in the area, since he didn't live very far from them.

On a local radio show, their sportscaster spoke at length about Coach Wooden, as his own father had been a student of Wooden's many years ago in Indiana, before Wooden moved to UCLA. He refused to call it a eulogy, but you could tell that he didn't expect Coach Wooden to survive this illness.

I'm very sad, today.

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