Bumped. GO BRUINS. -N
Photo Credit: E. Corpuz
Ever since Friday night I have been in a reflective mood. Sad that Coach has passed, but realizing it was inevitable. I had the great fortune of meeting and speaking with Coach numerous times. My initial meeting and the most important one was in 1973 at his basketball camp in Thousand Oaks. I was a shy, sheltered 9 year old away from home for the first time. As a result I began homesick. Coach Wooden was informed and much to my surprise made sure he ate breakfast and lunch with me everyday during the week-long camp. He even called my parents letting them know what was going on. You can imagine my parents surprise when Coach Wooden phoned them personally. During these meals he would make sure to encourage me and impart his wisdom. I remember him telling me I can go home and fail or overcome and become a stronger, better person. Luckily I chose the latter. When my family came to pick me up he took us into his office and gave me a UCLA championship mug, t-shirt and autographed copy of the Pyramid. He told me how proud he was of my success during the week and when faced with any obstacle in life to attack it to the best of my ability and I will succeed.
I attended more camps and was never homesick again. A few years later in 1980 Coach was a featured speaker at a fundraiser my high school basketball team produced. After the speech Coach stayed to sign autographs. I had a picture of us from the 1973 camp. As I waited in line I was going to tell him the story again, but I did not have to. Coach looked at me and the photo and remarked "Jon you have come a long way since you were that little homesick young man". He signed the photo with the tag-Thanks for posing with me. I was dumbfounded that he remembered me. In 1982, while at UCLA I was walking on campus and ran into Coach by Pauley. He greeted me, by name, first and then introduced me to Lewis (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar). Then again in 1986 he was on campus signing a new edition of "They Call me Coach". As I approached he looked at me as I handed him the book, "It's Jon with no H correct?"
My last meeting with Coach was at the Rose Bowl in
1995 2006. My family was walking by the Press Box side going to meet some friends when I spotted a car pull up in a reserved lot. Out pops Coach and his family. I decided to thank him once more for what he did for me over the years and to introduce my children. I introduced Coach to my wife and 2 children. He spoke to each one for about 2-3 minures each, teasing my son about him enjoying football more than basketball. I could sense they wanted to usher him into the Rose Bowl before 100,000 people came up to him. Then the most amazing thing happened. This 95 year old man shook my wife's and children's hands calling each one of them by name as he did. Most of us have problems remembering anyone's name after meeting them, much less being able to do it at 95. I am thankful they were able to meet him.
My experience with Coach changed my life forever. I became more confident, outgoing and unafraid of challenges. I was amazed, despite the fact I never played for him, that he recalled my name and circumstances of how we met. He was a true "intergalactic treasure".