On the TUNNEYSIDE of SPORTS April 4, 2016 #587 Up next… “The Wizard”
After further review…As we conclude “March Madness” tonight (April 4th), it brings to mind the coach who has won the most NCAA Championships than anyone in history: John Wooden, aka “The Wizard of Westwood” (the western Los Angeles location of UCLA). My initial acquaintance with Wooden was when I was coaching basketball at Lincoln High School in East Los Angeles in the early 1950s. Our T*E*A*M in those days didn’t have any player over six feet, but our kids were quick. We adopted Coach Wooden’s full court press, and it worked well. Attending every coaching clinic where Wooden spoke helped set up that style with his philosophy of “Be quick, but don’t hurry!”
Fast forward to later that decade, when I was officiating high school and junior college basketball and was selected to officiate the Los Angeles City High School Championship game. It was a run-run-run game with two exceptionally talented teams, the final score an NBA-like 88-86 in the regulation 48 minutes. Following the game, the other official, Norm Schachter, and I (two-man officiating crews were the norm in those days) were getting ready to take a shower, when a knock came at the door, quiet but forceful. I asked who it was and the voice replied: “John Wooden.” With no idea the coach was even in the building, we were skeptical, and so I asked again, “Who is it?” As quietly and forcefully as the knock on the door the voice repeated “John Wooden.” I opened the door. And there stood – JOHN WOODEN!
Although I had attended his coaching clinics, we had never met. Coach Wooden said “You both worked a great game, and it was a tough one.” Norm and I replied in unison, “Thanks, coach, that means a lot coming from you.” Coach Wooden then turned to me and said, “I’d like to recommend you to work in our Pacific Coast Conference (as the Pac-12 was called in those days).” I was flattered and responded, “I’d be honored.” That began an 11-year PCC college basketball officiating career for me. The 1960s were championship years at UCLA for Coach Wooden and, while he and I dutifully observed our separate roles as coach and game official, I was honored to officiate over 30 games, both at Pauley Pavilion (the Bruins’ home court) and at away locations.
But the real story of Coach Wooden was – and is – his dedication to his wife Nell, who passed away on March 21, 1985, from cancer at age 73. Coach was at her bedside day after day, either holding her hand or simply sitting in quiet prayer. National championship trophies – even the 10 earned by John Wooden at UCLA — have a “shelf-life,” but legacies of love have a way of enduring beyond the clamor and excitement of athletic contests.
Will you treat your successes with the same philosophy that Coach Wooden exemplified?
To contact Jim, go to www.jimtunney.com or email him email@example.com.
New Book! “Another 101 Best of TunneySide of Sports” is now available for $20. which includes tax and mailing and an autograph, if requested. The book takes issues from the world of sports and transforms them into positive messages for productive living. Email to the above or send to P.O. Box 1440 Pebble Beach, Ca. 93953. Thank You!