Sunday, June 06, 2010

John Wooden

Integrity! That's how one spells John Wooden.

A man with a conscience, a superb mentor, the best kind of teacher; a man who modeled what he expected his students to be, not just to learn, but what he hoped they would become.

He didn't try to do a make-over of any particular player. Instead, he gave those ten years of basketball players an outline, a structure on which to formulate their own life experiences. He gave them a hook on which to hang their jerseys.

He worked with the best and if you look at the young men who came under his tutelege, you'll see that the vast majority grabbed hold of the lesson Wooden offered and became not just national class athletes, but contributors to society in many other even more meaningful ways.

99! Wooden was 99 when he gave it all up. A century of being the best he could possibly be while at the same time honoring the best in others created a legend well worth remembering.

I feel blessed that I was an avid UCLA fan while Wooden was coach. His example supported vast numbers of people outside his personal venue via his actions and reactions in interviews about as well as during televised games. Watching the Bruins, watching Wooden model the best sportsmanlike behavior gave millions the opportunity to take on some of his characteristics.

I suspect many a high school or college b'ball coach who knew Wooden adopted his attitude towards players, the game, and life in general. After all, it was obvious that he must be right; games were won based on an attitude of respect and fair play, effort and integrity.

I haven't thought of John for a long time. Seeing the headline in the Los Angeles Times this morning reminds me, though, that I will still miss his presence.

God rest!