First of all, I have to admit I am HUGE fan of Joseph Campbell. I read 'The Power of Myth' the way people read the bible or the quran; I read it for the life lessons and truth contained within. (Truth, as in the metaphysical definition, not to be confused with facts.) I was a fan of Joseph Campbell's writings before I attended Film School, and found out about the Disney memo about the Hero's Journey. And, because I am influenced by his ideas, the following relationships just jumped out at me.
John Wooden was a midwestern boy with simple values born on the farm. He became a ferocious basketball player known as the Indiana Rubber man because of his ability to bounce back up and continue playing. He was a player that made the most of his efforts, rather than rely on natural ability or athleticism.
Steve Alford is a midwestern boy raised by a basketball coach. He was a lethal basketball player that was named Indiana's Mr Basketball award. (An award than any basketball cognoscenti should be familiar with and impressed by) Moreover, he very early on in his playing days was known for his work ethic. Coach Bobby Knight, when speaking about Alford, would go on to declare, "He's gotten more out of his abilities offensively than anybody I've seen play college basketball. He's about as good a scorer for being strictly a jump shooter as I've ever seen." (Another interesting parallel: both were outstanding free throw shooters.)
So, already on the surface, there are superficial parallels to the Greatest Coach that ever lived.
There are also parallels with another great coach: Mike Krzyzewski. They both spring from the Bobby Knight tree of coaches. Both played college ball for Knight. While Krzyzewski returned as an assistant under Knight, before beginning his own coaching career, Alford's first job as a coach was as a Head Coach for North Manchester in Indiana. His entire career in coaching has been in the Head Coach's seat. This is no small feat. His first coaching gig can be attributed to the Indiana man crush on 'Mr. Indiana' but, for Alford to not only continue coaching, but also slowly climb the ranks, getting higher status jobs; this is impressive.
BEWARE: Every tale is a cautionary tale!
Carlos Castadena stated in his book, Don Juan: A yaqui way of knowledge, "Total Victory or Total Defeat." He was talking about an approach to all things in life. He had once said that all decisions were life or death decisions. This is no different. Total Victory or Total Defeat. The Steve Alford tenure at UCLA will be one or the other. There will be no middle ground. Either he will win big at UCLA and accept all of the media given accolades: The similarities to Coach, the legacy of Knight, the commonality to Krzyzewski; or he will fail miserably. The MSM likes to paint Bruins fans as unrelenting and unreasonable in our standards. But, the truth is, it will be the MSM who vilifies him for not winning championships given the Knight legacy, Krzyzewski commonality, UCLA's built in recruiting advantages.
But, as in all fairy tales, our hero in this story has one little thing going for him. He is willing to take on the adventure. And, that is no small thing.
So, strap yourselves in ladies and gents. The roller coaster ride begins again. This is going to be one fairy tale ride. For better or for worse.