The Wizard of Westwood has passed
June 4, 2010 8:00 PM   Subscribe

posted by jabberjaw at 8:01 PM on June 4, 2010

I can't find a really good video of Wooden and the shoes/socks. Here's one.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:07 PM on June 4, 2010

"Be quick, but don't hurry." - John Wooden.
posted by Fizz at 8:08 PM on June 4, 2010

posted by Windopaene at 8:09 PM on June 4, 2010

posted by fizzix at 8:09 PM on June 4, 2010

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

posted by toodleydoodley at 8:10 PM on June 4, 2010

posted by Kinbote at 8:12 PM on June 4, 2010

Oh, man. The greatest coach in the history of the game. Any game.

posted by Nothing... and like it at 8:16 PM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yes, you were quite fortunate, CPB! (I got no closer than 4 floors away when he visited the company I worked for that sponsored one of his namesake events.) I don't know anyone who ever met him who didn't like him more after the encounter.

And what the critic from Slate didn't realize is that "Basketball's innate progressive spirit" needed Wooten's "rigidity, bureaucracy, paternalism, and anal retentiveness" to help sell the sport to much of America, and that he was incredibly capable of combining his rigidity with genuine warmth and likability. No "iron fist" ever wore a "velvet glove" better.

At first, I thought it was a shame he didn't make it to a 'triple digit' age, but he never would've wanted to be that 'showy'.

posted by oneswellfoop at 8:25 PM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Another version of the Pyramid(pdf) I have hanging at work for inspiration. Basketball is much more than a game and Wooden was much more than a coach.
posted by Manjusri at 8:34 PM on June 4, 2010 [3 favorites]

"He is as square as a pan of fudge and honest as a toothache, but I love him."

posted by Floydd at 8:43 PM on June 4, 2010


(Thanks for putting this together, Cool Papa Bell. This is how an obit post should be done.)
posted by .kobayashi. at 8:48 PM on June 4, 2010

Happiness begins when selfishness ends

posted by ohyouknow at 8:54 PM on June 4, 2010

Does anyone know why he retired at age 64?

posted by lukemeister at 8:58 PM on June 4, 2010

"Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming."

posted by plastic_animals at 8:59 PM on June 4, 2010

Does anyone know why he retired at age 64?

From the UCLA obit:

Wooden said that his most gratifying UCLA season was his last, 1974–75, when the Bruins won a national championship despite having only one returning starter, David Meyers. Four players from the previous year had been drafted by professional teams, including Walton and Wilkes.

But even before the 1975 NCAA Championship game, Wooden had made his decision to leave coaching. After the national semifinal game, a stunning 75-74 double-overtime victory against the University of Louisville, Wooden said he found himself not wanting to talk to the media. He said he had never felt that way before and knew it was time to get out.

He went to the locker room, gathered his players around him and announced his decision. Wooden later recounted to UCLA Magazine that he told his players, "I don't know how we'll do Monday night against Kentucky, but I think we'll do all right. Regardless of the outcome of the game, I never had a team give me more pleasure. I'm very proud of you. This will be the last team I'll ever coach."

posted by plastic_animals at 9:02 PM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

He must be so happy to be back with Nell.
posted by Father Tiresias at 9:03 PM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Coach Wooden was a great friend to UCLA gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field and a big fan of the team. His influence went so far beyond basketball.

posted by swerve at 9:09 PM on June 4, 2010

And he was married to his beloved Nell for 53 years, and after her death in 1985, he still wrote her a love letter every month and set it on her side of the bed.

His autopsy report is just in. Cause of death: a million paper cuts.
posted by pracowity at 9:18 PM on June 4, 2010

That Rick Reilly article about Nell is some moving stuff.

posted by DigDoug at 10:10 PM on June 4, 2010

He and my grandfather were contemporaries, just a year apart. My grandfather graduated from UCLA in 1932. He was a terrible basketball player, but loved the sport too much not to participate somehow. He was the team manager all 4 years he attended UCLA, when Caddy Works coached some of UCLA's least talented teams. The family joke was that Poppa should've played -- he couldn't have made them any worse.

My grandfather always made good use of the lifetime ticket pass UCLA gave him for his service to the team, but when Wooden started coaching in '48, he made it a point to go to every game. He worshiped Wooden from back when Wooden helped Purdue win the National Championship in 1932, and when Wooden came to coach at UCLA, Poppa never missed going to a game, taking my father with him, bribing ticket-takers with hard candies to let my dad in for free, my dad sitting on the steps next to the single seat my grandfather would get with his lifetime pass.

Most times UCLA came north to Harmon Gym to play the Cal Bears in the 70's and 80's, when I was growing up, John Wooden would come. My grandfather, by then retired and living in the Bay Area where both of his children and their families had settled, would go to the games with my father and me, and he'd point out John Wooden sitting at half court. "That's the greatest coach who ever sat the bench," he'd say. "That's John Wooden."

Poppa would always shuffle up to Coach Wooden, they'd shake hands, Coach Wooden would pretend to remember Poppa and would laugh at Poppa's jokes. They'd talk for a couple minutes about UCLA's freshmen prospects, about their wives, about the virtues of 1972's team versus 1963's, and then Coach Wooden would look down at me and say that I'd grown since the last time he'd seen me.

Poppa died six months ago. I'm sure soon enough he's going to walk up to Coach Wooden again, shake hands with him, and Coach Wooden will pretend to remember him and laugh at his jokes.
posted by incessant at 10:34 PM on June 4, 2010 [7 favorites]

So long, Coach. Thanks for the autograph in your book, but more than that thanks for the enduring wisdom and inspiration. And oh, yeah, the basketball championships were fun, too.
posted by yiftach at 10:48 PM on June 4, 2010

The best coach that Minnesota almost got to hire.

posted by ZeusHumms at 10:59 PM on June 4, 2010

I'm a bear not a bruin, but I certainly offer up an 8-clap.
posted by Edward L at 11:04 PM on June 4, 2010

I listened to a radio interview with him a few years back. Here's a guy in his 90's, and he is still sharp as a tack and as classy a guy as you could ever dream up. It's not just a loss to the sports world, but to all that is good in life as well.
posted by azpenguin at 11:10 PM on June 4, 2010

Bill Walton was a star player, but he had a beard. Coach did not allow beards. Bill insisted. Coach said "We'll miss you, Bill". Bill shaved.
posted by Cranberry at 11:43 PM on June 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

posted by callmejay at 4:26 AM on June 5, 2010

But Wooden did concede a little bit to Walton, though. Despite Walton's crunchy demeanor off-court (Wooden on that: "Off the floor I worried. I worried when he was thrown in jail with the group that took over the administration building, I worried when he stopped traffic on Wilshire Boulevard, and when he interrupted classes giving his views on the Vietnam War."), Walton was one of the hardest workers and most intense players in college basketball history. Just a scary mix of energy and precision, especially for a big fella.

Walton would get incredibly amped for games and sometimes had trouble taking himself back down afterwards. So, naturally, Walton liked to smoke a few joints after games. Wooden found out, calls him into his office, and chews him out about the drug use. As Walton is shuffling out, Wooden shrugs and tells Walton that, "If you have to, you have to. Just don't tell anyone else."

posted by NolanRyanHatesMatches at 5:20 AM on June 5, 2010

posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 5:50 AM on June 5, 2010

posted by brandman at 7:36 AM on June 5, 2010


I understand him but he's also an enigma.
posted by PHINC at 7:50 AM on June 5, 2010

You can go straight to 2:40 on that first video and not miss anything.
posted by L'OM at 8:11 AM on June 5, 2010

You know, if more sports figures were like this guy you could actually claim them as role models.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:58 AM on June 5, 2010

Thank you for this post. I don't follow sports at all, so I had no idea who John Wooden was, but I read all of the articles. What an amazing, inspring individual.
posted by spacewaitress at 11:23 AM on June 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

A dissenting view.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:05 PM on June 5, 2010

posted by MarshallPoe at 5:33 PM on June 5, 2010

Nice post (and well deserved). Here’s Our Top Ten Favorite John Wooden Quotes from The Christian Science Monitor last October. (I get #1 wrong all the time: "Never mistake activity for achievement.")
posted by LeLiLo at 1:15 AM on June 7, 2010

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