Another dynamo. Bill Roen, the Bluest Bruin I know, was then called upon to introduce our guest speaker. He was Andy Hill, the author of the well-received Be Quick, But Don’t Hurry! - a book of wise advice from and about John R. Wooden, AKA “the Coach.” Andy was quick to admit that he was from “the other end of the bench” from the likes of Kareem Jabaar, Bill Walton, and other legendary players on Coach’s teams, but he did love the game and made the squad and carries a treasure of wisdom and memories from those days and his later relationship with Coach.
Wooden coached the UCLA men’s basketball team from 1948 to 1975, after coaching for two years at Indiana State, where he was earning his Masters in Education and teaching English. He is probably the most famous Hoosier basketball star himself, being the first player to enter the Hall of Fame with three All-American Awards, but we digress. He had a losing season as a coach in his first year at UCLA—his last over the next 36 years. In his last 12 seasons there, his teams won 10 national NCAA championships. They won consecutive national titles from 1967-1973 every year. Prior to that, no coach had even won more than 2 in a row. They went undefeated four seasons and won 88 games straight. His record at Pauley Pavilion was 149-2. I guess one could say he set an unbelievable, an impossible standard for all UCLA coaches who came after him.
Most college basketball fans know a few Wooden stories, so Andy tried to give us a little different side of Coach from the time he spent with him decades after he graduated from UCLA. He noted that Wooden started at UCLA at $6,000/year and by his retirement in 1975, had worked his way up to $36,000/year. UCLA was actually not his first choice of employer - at the time, he was waiting for an offer from Minnesota, as he wanted to stay in the MidWest. In 1998, a poll was taken for the “greatest sports coach ever.” Wooden won the contest by
a landslide, with legendary Packer’s coach Guy Lombardi a distant second. In his last public speech, he said “the players deserve all the credit” for the extraordinary record his team accomplished.” His greatest “secret” was “focus on what you can control—yourself.” At age 95, he told Andy that he made a big mistake when he created his famous “Pyramid of Success” without the ingredient of “love.” “However” he added, I’m working on expressing my
emotions and getting better every day.” He broke everything he wanted to teach down to its simplest elements, put them in order, and repeated them over and over. Andy said he realized that when everyone he spoke to about Coach remembered the same questions he asked and values he spoke of. He had all that patience, though many said he was the “fiercest competitor I ever met.” Ooops, I’m getting carried away.
On August 7, 2003, President George W. Bush presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian honor, to John R. Wooden.