We’ve been wondering how RTC could pay tribute to John Wooden besides the photo we posted on the day he died along with one of our favorite quotes of his, a maxim we felt summed up the heart of the man…if a single quote can accomplish such a thing. We’re a few guys in our late 20s and 30s, which means Mr. Wooden was done coaching by the time we were small children — and not even born, in one case. None of us ever had the chance to meet him later on in life. There’s no matching the tributes that have come from his players, friends, and professional writers who knew him. Therefore, while we’re certainly in awe of who he was and what he meant to the game, and that he’s considered a hero even by people we consider heroes, for us to pontificate on his life would be more of an insult than a tribute. The best that guys like us can do is to assist in his immortality by continuing to tell future generations of fans what he stood for, and to continue as fans of the sport knowing that a lot of what’s good about our game, even to this day, is because of him. Considering all the tributes and anecdotes over the past few days, we also offer our respects by dedicating our day-starting feature to him this morning. The regular Morning Five will return tomorrow, but for today, here’s the Wooden Five — a collection of five of our favorite links/stories about Coach Wooden.
1. Integrity, anyone? In 1947, while at Indiana State, Coach Wooden refused to take his team to the NAIA tournament for which they had qualified. When you read why, you’ll see what people have been talking about when they refer to him as a man of “timeless principles.”
2. Former player Bill Sweek (UCLA ’69) told The Sporting News about a time when he bucked his coach, immediately regretted it (and had to face a little fire from the man), and how Wooden’s forgiveness helped turn it into a teaching moment for the good of the entire team.
3. We’ve always loved that story — both versions of it — about Bill Walton’s challenge of Coach Wooden’s team tonsorial policies. One part of the story that’s not often mentioned is that after Walton rushed to comply, he made it back to the end of practice that very same day.
4. Can you imagine Wooden coaching anywhere else but UCLA (and Indiana State)? It’s spooky to think about how a snowstorm and 30 minutes of Minnesota reticence changed so many lives. Even though he preferred the position with the Gophers, he had already given UCLA his word. We think it worked out.
5. No notes. No nonsense. No further introduction needed: