Today is a special day for everyone here at BruinsNation. Today would have been John Wooden's 101st Birthday. Today is a good day to pause and remember a legend not just to UCLA fans but to the country that is still relevant today. Nan Wooden Muehlhausen recently announced that UCONN's women coach Geno Auriemma will win the John R. Wooden Legend of Coaching Award. Geno attributes part of his success to following the Wooden way:
Auriemma acknowledges that his team runs the same offence that Wooden perfected 37 years earlier. But it's not just the Xs and Os. The top block of Wooden's pyramid of success reads: "Competitive Greatness: Perform at your best when your best is required. Your best is required every day."
That's been Auriemma's mantra all along.
Auriemma met Wooden once and like for many people and coaches was honored just to sit and listen to the only one we will ever call Coach:
After requesting an audience with the UCLA legend, Auriemma was asked to take a seat next to Wooden, who placed a hand on the UConn coach`s knee.
"I just sat there and listened," Auriemma recalled Friday. "Whenever he would pose a question, I would answer and try not to sound stupid. He was describing for me how he saw the game of women`s basketball and comparisons he could make to the game when he was coaching.
"I always knew after that he admired the women`s game and appreciated the way we play at UConn. It was something I`ll keep with me for a long time."
. . .. A longtime admirer of UCLA`s program and Wooden, who died last spring, Auriemma does not try to compare the accomplishments.
Auriemma is a fitting recipient of the Wooden award.
This year it is worth remembering that Coach won his first two championships playing home games as the Sports Arena, the temporary home of this year’s Bruins. Coach’s teams even had to endure double headers back then with U$C.
This year’s Bruins will have a traveling road show while Pauley is renovated but obstacles never stopped Coach.
This year I thought I would select three little nuggets from my worn copy of Coach’s autography "They Call Me Coach" to show while he was not just a great coach but a great mentor, leader, and person.
1. Patience. As a high school student, he quit basketball when he disagreed with his coach when he "tangled" with another player. (Coach in a fight?!?) He stayed away for two weeks until the high school coach begged him to come back. He says this:
I'm sure this incident accounts for the fact that throughout my coaching career I tried to understand the young men who stood up to me. That's why I listened to their side, and why I almost always took back a boy who had walked off the team.
Wooden was later to throw many players off his team only to let them come back, often to be his assistant coach as the case with Jerry Norman (the assistant coach during the early championships) and Denny Crum.
2. Perseverance. As all Bruin Fans know it is on Nell and John Wooden court that UCLA plays. Their marriage was an important part of who Wooden was and an important part of UCLA lore. What they probably don’t know is just before they were married in 1932 the bank where he had put all the money he had went broke and wiped out their life savings. They could not afford the wedding ceremony they wanted and had to borrow $200 to get married. Coach spent his first week of marriage helping at a basketball camp to earn a desperately needed $25.
3. Composure. While most people know or assume Coach Wooden was a religious man, they may not realize how much that helped him through all his times coaching. He always keep a little cross in his pocket.
It was clutched in my hand during all the games I coached and I still grab on to it, whenever I anticipate tension. . . . It’s been worn down quite a bit from me clutching it in my left hand during games. I feel it definitely enabled me to better control my emotions. When I had a firm grip on it, I was reminded to take care.
I could write all night. Happy Birthday Coach and thank you for inspiring us all.