Bumped. Always great to read stories about Coach. GO BRUINS. -N
It's been some time since my previous Wooden Memories posts (64-60 in 1971; Wooden Memories: The first time I met Coach; and Wooden Memories: Stars of '64), so there's some catching up to do. Let's start with a bit of trivia for the non-oldtimers: did you know that Coach Wooden never played a freshman in a national championship game until his last one, in 1975? There were no "one and done" non-student athletes, for you couldn't play varsity ball as a freshman before then.
It was wonderful having a freshman team, known as the Brubabes. We were lined up for many hours before the frosh game, which preceded the main event in Pauley. My freshman year the Brubabes had Bill Walton, Keith Wilkes, Greg Lee, Gary Franklin, and Vince Foster. Most interesting at the time, Walton came in with all the hype but on the Brubabes I thought the best player overall, and certainly the most consistent, was Wilkes who had come in under the radar. I knew about Lee and Franklin, of course, as my high school had just beaten them in the L.A. City championship game. Foster ended up transferring to San Diego State; the others won two NCAA titles and set the still-standing record of 88 straight wins.
Some players were fabulous as freshmen and not great later on, and vice versa. I thought Larry Holyfield was unbelievable and had the hardest time understanding why he never became a starting forward ahead of Larry Farmer -- but he eventually became a starting guard, which always seemed a bit strange.
Another interesting example is Pete Trgovich. He came in highly advertised, but I disliked how he played on the Brubabes. There was this one game against Allen Hancock Junior College, I believe, where Pete scored around forty points; the man he was guarding scored something like fifty. If someone had told me that evening that he would carefully learn from Coach and as a senior not score very much, but play shutdown defense on Kentucky's star guard to win the 1975 championship game, I would never have believed it. (But of course I should have.)
The most famous Brubabe game occurred when I was in junior high. "Brubabes" is an ironic name for a team who had Lew Alcindor, Lucius Allen, Lynn Shackleford, Kenny Heitz, and Kent Taylor. Back then they played an annual Varsity-Freshman game, and the two-time defending NCAA champs (the Varsity) got whipped by the Brubabes. (They would go on to finish second in the conference,which back then meant no tournament invitation -- don't you think they might have won it all in 1966 if freshmen were eligible?) Kent Taylor would transfer to Houston, so he is the answer to the trivia question, who won alongside Alcindor, beat Alcindor, and lost to Alcindor?
Other years the Brubabes weren't nearly as strong, but that meant the games were more competitive and sometimes they actually lost. It also meant there were entertaining walk-ons, including one who to this day is one of my lifetime best friends.
I have often heard Coach state that college athletes should not be permitted to play varsity ball as freshmen, that they should focus on their studies and getting acclimated to the college experience. That is one reason why we geezers recall the Wooden years as "the good old days."