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Coach's Words

Ben Ball warriors are in the middle of Finals week right now in Westwood. They are not going to have a lot of time to recover and rest as they will be in Anaheim on Friday getting ready for the 2008 Wooden Classic. They are going to be at Honda Center, doing a clinic for the Southern California Special Olympics basketball team and the Orangewood Children's Foundation around 4 pm, which will be followed by team practice at 4:45 pm.

The guy at the center of all these festivities is of course none other than the Greatest Coach (not just in basketball) ever to lead any team in this country. Coach Wooden took some time out earlier this week to talk to reporters about this weekend’s little tournament and much more impacting our lives. Coach talked about how sports can often help people get through the tough times:

 “In a material way, it gives an outlet to people and lets them accept things a little better than they would without some sort of outlet," Wooden said in a conference call Tuesday. "It can be an outlet for many things. I think they could be a detriment, too, as far as that goes. For example, (sports) don't build character, they expose character. I really believe that to be true."

Coach also talked about President Lincoln and the President-Elect Obama:

One of Wooden's heroes is Abraham Lincoln. He has every Lincoln book and loves to relay Lincoln stories. He's also intrigued by President-elect Barack Obama and believes change will be good for this country.

"In many ways, it's something that's been a long time coming," Wooden said. "I think it's going to be tremendous, not just for sports but for everyone as time goes by. Many people I talk to are taking a different view. I like that."

Wooden is expected to attend activities for the Wooden Classic in Anaheim on Friday in addition to the games on Saturday. UCLA plays DePaul in the second game of a doubleheader at Honda Center.

Wooden uses a wheelchair, but he's as positive and upbeat as ever.

Coach is hopeful about this year’s Ben Ball warriors brushing off all the concern trolls, who sound off their little alarm bells in every chance they get:

His analysis of the team was hopeful. There have been mental errors, he said, but nothing a little experience can’t cure.

The Bruins have also stuttered on offense, managing only two points in the final three minutes of a close game at Texas. Wooden did not seem overly concerned.

Most writers and critics I know don’t feel that UCLA has a great offense,” he said. “If you have a great defense and patience on offense, you’re going to be tough to beat.

Wonder why the Coach doesn’t sound all that concerned? Well, the guy who is taking care of Coach’s program (“the Caretaker of Westwood”) is working with his young team do exactly that: improve the defense and also settle down (in other words become more patient) on offense:

Howland would like to see that field-goal percentage closer to 40 and said the cure is to keep working hard in practice until his players learn to "pressure the ball but stay in front of it."

The turnover rate involves one of Howland's favorite subjects -- the jump-stop. In other words, he wants his players to fight the common habit of leaving their feet when they pass.

The veterans know this all too well, but the team's freshmen are still learning. And though they might execute the jump stop in practice, they sometimes forget in games.

"Games are a little different," junior swingman Michael Roll said. "Everybody gets excited."

One of the guys, who will be just a little bit “excited” will be Tyler Trapani. I don’t think I have tell folks who Tyler is here on Bruin Nation. Needless to say he is going to be a little fired up this weekend heading into Anaheim with rest of his team-makes. During his first exam week in Westwood Tyler is doing everything he can to make his great-grandfather proud:

Trapani, a math major, plans to follow in his great-grandfather's footsteps and into coaching.

"I've got to keep the tradition alive," Trapani said.

This exam week, he's keeping his favorite of Coach Wooden's many sayings front and center.

"Failing to prepare is preparing to fail," he said. "I use that one quite a lot."

We all do Tyler. Those words are part of the fabric that make up this Nation.