The statement of a recently departed, early-to-leave, Ben Howland defector?
No. This statement is not about Ben Howland and it does not come from one of his players.
It is about Coach. Our rightfully revered John Wooden.
The player? The recently departed Edgar Lacey -- "the Bird" -- who quit the 1968 National Championship team mid-season.
In Lacey's obituary, the Daily Breeze includes the following:
"(The Houston game) was the last straw," Lacey said. "It all started in my sophomore year when he tried to change the mechanics of my shooting.
"And now I have no one to blame but myself for staying this long. He has sent people by to persuade me to reconsider, but I have nothing to reconsider. I'm glad I'm getting out now while I still have some of my pride, my sanity and my self-esteem left."
Wooden told The Times he thought Lacey should return to the team.
"I have never said anything but that he's the best forward we have," Wooden said. "I wish he'd think it over. Regardless of how he feels about me, I do care about him."
Why do I find this sufficiently important for a fan post?
Because, at a time when there is an undercurrent that blames the NBA defections on an inference that the players leaving do not like to play for Coach Howland, I think it important, as a teacher, to take a stand:
The role of a teacher is not to be liked. The role of a teacher is to teach.
All who teach would like to be loved. But all who teach understand that that goal is not always possible. For most, it is sufficient to be effective -- to change lives for the better. And, to be respected.
There are those who were not around during Coach's time who want to romanticize everything about the era. Those of us who were there -- those of us who love Coach the most because we lived his time with him, first hand, know that the romantic notion that all of the players loved him and/or loved playing for him, was not true. They learned from him. They respected him. And, as they matured and put their experiences with him into perspective, most loved him.
Coach was strong willed and focused. Some, today, might call that stubborn and narrow minded. And, the truth is that not every player agreed with his every word or decision and loved every moment of practice and play. But, they learned and improved as both ball players and people.
There are stories of conflicts that we now see as funny. But, ask the young Bill Walton if he thought the hair cut story was funny at the time. And, ask the very successful TV executive, who later wrote and incredible book on what he learned from Coach, whether he "enjoyed" his time as a Bruin.
One major difference between what Coach faced and what CBH faces -- the players in the Wooden era really had no where to go -- the NBA was not luring them to leave, enticing them with big bucks. There were no agents and few AAU coaches and sycophants hanging onto to them -- "advisors" ready to slop at the trough of riches the young defectors might earn. For a great part of the time there were no "one and dones" because freshmen could not play varsity basketball. They had a team of their own -- and a year to get set in school before they were thrown into the national spotlight and enhanced competition.
For the most part, John Wooden had 4 years to get his lessons on basketball and, more importantly, life, to sink in. And, he did not have to compete with the lure of money to capture his students' attention.
Coach rightfully expected his players to stay four years, to learn, grow, mature, and graduate. CBH can have none of those expectations.
I've made it clear -- I hate the one and done, or two and done, syndrome. I think it demeans the concept of the "student/athlete" and establishes great universities as farm teams for the pro's.
Around here, I am out voted. It's probably a generation gap issue. I love the way it was when I was in school. You all have learned to love the way it is now.
But, if you accept that kids come to play for a couple of years, at most, to set up joining the NBA to make riches -- before they graduate -- why can't you accept that they actually do that? Why must it be that they are leaving because they do not like CBH?
I see the problems in the program, and have written some of the FanPosts most critical of CBH during the season.
But, I continue to have a problem with the unsubstantiated inference that the kids turning pro are doing so because they don't "enjoy" playing for CBH.
I am trying to keep an open mind on the issue. People I trust very much on BN tell me that it is true. And, one of the front pagers has promised more on the topic in an upcoming post that substantiates, with facts, the argument.
I have been thinking about writing this piece for a while. I've held back waiting for the specifics underlying the "they are leaving because they don't like playing for Howland". But, then I read Edgar Lacey's obituary. And, I saw the quote at the top of this post in the Slimes (I'm in LA and my Mom gets the paper.)
I could not let the opportunity pass. John Wooden is my hero. Ben Howland is not John Wooden. And, never will be.
Whether I am right or wrong on the facts about whether the players are "enjoying" Howland, does not matter.
It is the wrong standard to apply when judging a teacher. It would have been wrong to apply it to Coach and it is wrong to apply it to CBH. Teaching is not a popularity contest.
We ought not judge any teacher by whether or not he or she is "enjoyable" -- teachers ought to be evaluated by the end product, whether they made their students better at what they do and better people. And, sometimes, it takes years for both the student and those around him or her to understand the impact a teacher has had on his or her life.
Ben Howland should be evaluated by his "end product".
If he cannot teach his students to play to the best of their ability for a full game, to "succeed" in Coach's terms, he must go.
If his players learn to play the way Coach would call them to play -- if they learn the true meaning of "success" and "satisfaction", he is doing his job.
And, if they reach that standard, I will not care whether they whine that they are not "enjoying" themselves.
It simply does not matter.
Some of life's most important lessons are not fun. And, we do not see their value until we grow up.