FanPost

Wooden Memories: The first time I met Coach

Bumped. GO BRUINS. -N

Thanks to a kind response to my posting, "64-60 in 1971," I promised to try to add some more vignettes about the Wooden championship years.  And I'd like to start with as fond a memory as one could have.

The year was 1969, and I was a not very skilled high school basketball player.  I didn't make the varsity, which was a good thing, because they (Palisades) were good enough to go to the L.A. City Championship game in Pauley Pavilion.  So of course I had to go watch the finals against Reseda.  Our team was mostly volleyball players who could leap (our star, Chris Marlowe, would go on to the Olympics); their team had two big names (Greg Lee, City player of the year, and Gary Franklin, both of whom were on their way to UCLA).  Pali won, and won big, so it wasn't much of a game -- though we Dolphins were of course thrilled as we had never won City before (nor since).

At halftime I was standing in the concourse, halfway up, waiting for the dead time to end so we could finish off this championship.  And Coach Wooden walked up to talk to me.  Here is the most famous college coach in the nation (had just won his 3rd title in a row and 5th total) and on his own he comes up to a nondescript (nice way to say geeky) teenage spectator to ask how I was enjoying the game.  It wasn't just a throwaway line; he engaged me in a short conversation.  He had important people to talk to and important work to do, but to him everyone is of great value and worthy of his time, and he has a heart for young people, so he focused on me.  He always says the greatest word is Love, and in a simple, quiet way, he shared it with someone he would likely never see again.  This shows the measure of the man in a way that no box score ever could.

As a postscript, we would meet again, and he would have a much greater impact on my life -- which is another story if you want one.  As another postscript, two years later I would end up in the UCLA dorms with Gary Franklin and we struck up a nice friendship.

<em>This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of BruinsNation's (BN) editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of BN's editors.</em>

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