Basketball Prospectus: Unfiltered Everything Else is Fluff.

June 4, 2010

They called him Coach

Filed under: Uncategorized — John Gasaway @ 11:19 pm

John Wooden passed away tonight, and when I heard the news I thought of something that happened seven days ago.

I was doing what I do a lot of in the offseason, trying to learn more about basketball. The pursuit had brought me to the office of Butler coach Brad Stevens, who had graciously agreed to give me an hour. As intent as I was on getting as much information as I could out of 60 minutes, I couldn’t help noticing the familiar blue and yellow spine of Wooden’s autobiography, They Call Me Coach, on Stevens’ bookshelf. So I asked Stevens if he’d ever met or spoken on the phone with John Wooden.

No, Stevens said, he didn’t suppose that someone of Wooden’s eminence needed another pesky coach tugging at his sleeve, or words to that effect. I nodded in agreement, but I couldn’t help thinking: Are you kidding? Wooden would love to hear from you, the pride of Zionsville, the wunderkind who’s coaching in the very same building where Wooden played in the 1928 Indiana high school state championship game. Not to mention Stevens, coming off an appearance in the national championship game, is hardly just another coach.

Then Stevens said something that should have occurred to me before but that frankly I hadn’t realized: “This is how much of a role model John Wooden is for me. He retired before I was born, and I still try to learn everything I can from him.”  

Prospectus will be devoting two days to the coach’s legacy.

Monday:
John Wooden’s Century: 1910-2010
John Wooden was the most successful basketball coach of all time. He was also a modest man who was always open to change. Maybe there was a connection.

Tuesday:
Wooden’s Century: Meet Sam Gilbert, Again
The involvement of booster Sam Gilbert with the UCLA basketball program in the 1960s and ’70s is well known. But how much of an impact did he really have on the Bruins’ success on the court? Not nearly as much as you may have heard.

I give you fair warning that each of these pieces is the equivalent of several standard-sized Prospectus items. When you live from 1910 to 2010 and win ten national championships, this is what happens.  

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