Friday, June 4, 2010

Goodnight, sweet Coach

John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach, has died at the age of 99.

Among his many accomplishments as coach was a legendary winning streak that was a part of my childhood.  From the linked article:
From the moment that center Bill Walton stepped on the court at the start of the 1971-72 season, the Bruins seemed untouchable. With the smooth-shooting Keith Wilkes at forward, the "Walton Gang" stormed through consecutive 30-0 seasons, winning their sixth and seventh straight titles.

It was during this era that the Bruins won 88 consecutive games, a streak that ended with a loss at Notre Dame on Jan. 19, 1974.
My Dad had attended UCLA for a couple of years and followed the Bruins as a fan.  As a kid, I remember him watching Bruins basketball on TV, and they never lost.  Never, that's just how it was, until Notre Dame finally brought that insane winning streak to an end.  I remember my Dad telling me that some of the players on the Bruins squad had almost made it through their entire college career without ever losing a single game.  That is just astounding.

I bought Wooden's book Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court a few years ago.  I already knew about his amazing accomplishments with the Bruins, and had always heard great things about him as a person, but in reading this book I was astonished at the caliber of his personal character.  This was a man with a pristine moral code, a man who practiced what he preached and didn't fall back on excuses.  He was a man of an era that ceased to exist a long time ago, and that's our loss.  If the world was ruled by men like John Wooden, it would be a significantly better place.

Keep in mind that this man with his extremely old-fashioned ways coached in Los Angeles in the sixties and seventies, and found wild success without abandoning his values or morals.  And while his young players may have chafed under rules that were throwbacks to a different generation (no facial hair, no profanity), they also thrived and excelled under them.  They may not have always liked Wooden's rules, but they made history by adhering to them.

Coach Wooden's official website (make sure your sound is on to hear Coach)

UCLA pays tribute

This is a tough loss for Angelenos.  Sure, 99 years is a good run, but that doesn't change the fact that the world is a poorer place losing a man like John Wooden.

Godspeed Coach.

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