We Bruin fans love the legacy of Coach. But what is that legacy? Is it the winning basketball and fabulous championship runs, or is it something more? Obviously, the question answers itself.
So I thought to myself, given our current controversy about our new coach, what would John Wooden do in these circumstances given the issues that are bothering us?
After all, we have legitimate concerns about our new coach's actions or inactions regarding a serious situation about ten years ago at Iowa. Our athletic director just wants to move forward and forget the past. Others want the new coach fired before he even starts because they believe what he did or didn't do 11 years ago taints Coach's memory and program so badly that he is unfit.
What would Coach do with regard to our new hire? Would he espouse either of those options? How would he approach it?
Out of curiosity I reviewed about 100 of his most famous quotes, and found the following relevant passages. I don't pretend that the list is exhaustive or that I might not have missed something. But I do think I found enough to help us out.
The relevant John Wooden quotes follow.
"Material possessions, winning scores, and great reputations are meaningless in the eyes of the Lord, because He knows what we really are and that is all that matters."
"I always tried to make clear that basketball is not the ultimate. It is of small importance in comparison to the total life we live. There is only one kind of life that truly wins, and that is the one that places faith in the hands of the Savior. Until that is done, we are on an aimless course that runs in circles and goes nowhere."
"It is most difficult, in my mind, to separate any success, whether it be in your profession, your family, or as in my case, in basketball, from religion."
"Let’s face it, we’re all imperfect and we’re going to fall short on occasion. But we must learn from failure and that will enable us to avoid repeating our mistakes. Through adversity, we learn, grow stronger, and become better people."
"We’re all imperfect and we all have needs. The weak usually do not ask for help, so they stay weak. If we recognize that we are imperfect, we will ask for help and we will pray for the guidance necessary to bring positive results to whatever we are doing."
"Approval is a greater motivator than disapproval, but we have to disapprove on occasion when we correct. It’s necessary. I make corrections only after I have proved to the individual that I highly value him. If they know we care for them, our correction won’t be seen as judgmental. I also try to never make it personal."
"Never be disagreeable just because you disagree."
"Make no mistake, I always want to win, but I never fight with an opponent. My fight is within me — it is the struggle to be the best I can be at whatever I do."
"Regarding balance — it’s the most important component in basketball and it is a very important part of life. We must always keep things in perspective so that we can maintain emotional control."
"There is nothing stronger than gentleness."
"I believe correcting is the positive approach. I believe in the positive approach. Always have."
"You discipline those under your supervision to correct, to help, to improve — not to punish."
"You are no better than anyone else and no one is better than you."
"A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment."
I was humbled after reading some of these quotes, many for the first time. I was very familiar with Coach's "typical" basketball quotes, like "Be quick but don't hurry," etc. But I had never read the quotes about how to correct or discipline people or how to maintain your emotions and be constructive when doing so. And I truly was overwhelmed at how far short I have come in my own life and with my own family and friends in handling these kinds of situations. No wonder Coach once said that the three people he would like to meet personally the most from past lives were Jesus, Mother Theresa and Abraham Lincoln.
So here is my two cents on what all of this means regarding our new coach Alford and "What would Coach Wooden do?". This is just my interpretation. Others are free to disagree, of course.
First, Coach would not agree with simply moving forward and forgetting about the past. He would want to investigate it and if necessary try to correct it, no question.
Second, I highly doubt that he would be happy with the claim that he was so perfect or his legacy so saintly that only mistake-free people could follow in his shadow. I believe he would reject that kind of option as unintended, personal "idol worship," given his own deep religious beliefs and true humility.
Third, I do believe that given his mantra of personal accountability, and the need to learn from adversity, that he would insist on some type of corrective action. In doing so, however, I believe that given his religious beliefs and humble attitude, that he would be slow to judge or condemn but eager to correct in a constructive way.
I believe he would also make clear that he values coach Alford, that he wants him to succeed and grow not only as a coach, but as a person. So he would encourage Alford to learn to be stronger by admitting his weakness, his past mistakes and even confessing to them. I believe above all he would do so in private, not publicly.
Finally, I am not suggesting in any way that Coach is "on my side" in making these observations. In fact, I ask for anyone to give their own personal comments as to how they would answer the question, "What would John Wooden do?"
Of course, a competent athletic director would have done all of this and more in the vetting and interviewing process saving all of us and our program from grief. It is obvious after the initial press conference that none of this was done, but what else can you expect given his repeated disasters in one hiring "process" after another. I get that Alford's response to the question on Pierce was disappointing, but given our AD's clueless, shallow statements on this, it is highly doubtful that he raised this issue in any serious way, if it all, with Alford before the presser.
Again, just my opinion. Feel free to offer yours. What do you think Coach of blessed memory would do?