New Haven Register’s Dave Solomon says it would be folly to compare Auriemma’s streak with that of John Wooden, the UCLA coach whose Bruins team won a record 88 straight games in the 1970s. "We’re talking women’s basketball, a game that continues to struggle for identity nationally, and Auriemma is under no illusion that the record streak of UConn at 71 — or 78 at the end of the season, or at 89 straight, 11 games into 2010-11, has remotely the same impact as when the Wizard of Westwood was building his legend," Solomon writes. "He’s plenty proud, with every right to be, because it helps shine the light on women’s basketball. But you can’t compare what UConn is doing to what UCLA did with Bill Walton, Henry Bibby and Jamaal Wilkes in the early 70s … because it’s incomparable."
UCLA coach Ben Howland and athletic director Dan Guerrero spoke glowingly about Wooden and his impact on the UCLA community. Former players Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Marques Johnson and Andy Hill each recounted poignant and funny memories.
I was particularly moved by the story told by Johnson. He brought up the time Wooden demonstrated his competitive drive. Johnson was a freshman when Wooden saw him shooting pool at a campus hangout. Wooden walked up and demanded his pool cue.
"Uh oh, I’m trouble," thought Johnson.
"Toothpick in his mouth, blue sweater, he leans over the pool table and proceeds to run off about seven or eight balls," Johnson recalled. "Hands me the pool cue, walks out without saying a word."
That’s John Wooden. He may come across as a homespun Midwesterner, but don’t let his "goodness gracious sakes alive" act fool you: He has always been a tough, confident competitor.
I wouldn't trade my UCLA degree for anything in the world, but I might change my graduation date. I was too late for the dominant John Wooden years and too early for Jim Harrick's one shining moment. I was at UCLA for the early Harrick years -- the losses to Penn State and Tulsa in the first round. Tough times. It's been fun watching the program thrive under Ben Howland, and I would love to attend a Final Four in person. Covering the Masters often makes that problematic, but Jim Nantz has figured out a way to do both. It's time for me to see the pageantry and school colors -- blue and gold, of course -- in person.