This post will conclude my ramblings about teachable moments. The post is timed, give or take a couple of days, to coincide with the 45th anniversary of a historic sports moment, the original Game of the Century—a basketball game between the defending national champion UCLA Bruins and the worthy challenger University of Houston Cougars, staged at, of all places, the Houston Astrodome, on January 20, 1968.
The anniversary also marks a personal teachable moment. Others may have been affected in similar fashion on that day, but I am unaware of them. The moment is not particularly dramatic, as teachable moments go. Oh, the game, itself, was certainly dramatic, and the game’s implications for college basketball were seminal and momentous. But, it wasn’t from the game, itself, that I learned my lesson. It was from the game’s aftermath, and it came from a very brief interview with Coach John Wooden on TV.
[Updated 1/25/2013: I finally managed to insert a few photos. Yes, it was me, all along. Something about Links vs. HTML code vs. BBC code. I still don't understand what is needed when, but I managed to press the right buttons long enough to insert the photos, which are screen captures from video clips. I love the one with spectators using binoculars in the front rows!]
1968 was a tumultuous time in American history. The streets were alive with civil rights, flower power, and Vietnam War protests. Americans were struggling to overcome decades of discrimination and bigotry. Angry tirades against "the establishment" were common campus topics. The military draft was in full force, and those of us enjoying draft deferments while students at UCLA knew that our deferments were only temporary.
"State of the art" technology of the era would be considered primitive by today’s standards. Music came over the radio or on vinyl records. There were no cell phones, or even portable, wireless phones, back then. There were no personal computers or even electronic calculators. If one wanted mathematical leverage for a south-campus class, one used a logarithmic slide rule to help manage big numbers. Computers were not only not personal, they were decidedly impersonal, as massive, room-filling, mainframe beasts, with raised flooring to accommodate numerous fat cables, and air conditioning set barely above arctic levels.
The first color televisions had appeared in homes within the 1960s decade. Color programming was limited to a few, marquee programs in prime time. There were no satellite dishes or cable TV. To receive a watchable broadcast, you moved and rotated rabbit-ear antennas on top of the TV until you got a reasonably stable picture. The best picture then would pale next to those of today’s high-definition television. There were no remote controls. TVs had analog tuning knobs, including those for for vertical and horizontal "hold." If holds were not set properly, the picture would scroll continuously in an unwatchable firehose stream of images. Reception of color broadcasts required a whole other level of intricate adjustments. Very few students had their own TVs; none I knew had a color TV.
But, it was also a great time to be a UCLA student in 1968. Our football team, led by Coach Tommy Prothro, had come within a whisker of winning the national championship the year before. The UCLA track team was an annual national power, vying with that other place for number one in the country. Volleyball and gymnastics were perennial powers. Coach Wooden’s basketball teams had won three of the last four championships. In the one year they didn’t win, 1966, a certain freshman, Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor Jr., had led his freshman team over the defending national champion Bruins varsity in a pre-season game. The 1966-1967 squad finished the season undefeated, 30 and 0.
By mid-January, the 1967-1968 team had won forty-seven in a row. The juniors, including Alcindor, Lynn Shackleford, and Lucius Allen, could truthfully say that they had never lost a college basketball game. UCLA was the undisputed number one team in the country. But, they weren’t the only excellent team, and not the only team that had a legitimate shot at a national championship. Another such team was located in Houston, Texas, the University of Houston Cougars, who were also unbeaten thus far in 1967-1968.
In 1967, Houston had lost to the Bruins in the first round of the final four, 73-58. Star Cougar player, Elvin Hayes, would say, decades later, "Kareem (Alcindor) had basically everything that I wanted. He was the best player in college basketball. I wanted to be college Player of the Year. His star, to me, was shining very brightly, and I wanted to replace his star with my star that year." The Bruins were scheduled to play the Cougars next, in Houston.
But, this was to be no ordinary road game. The game was to be played in a domed baseball stadium, the Houston Astrodome. In small part, this decidedly un-basketball-friendly venue was chosen so that a large number of people could watch it live. But, the main reason for selecting this site was to target a potentially much bigger audience, a national television audience.
National, you say? Well, this was something new. To this point, only the final-four games of the NCAA tournament were televised nationally, and that coverage had only begun within the decade. To follow their teams playing on the road, most college basketball fans had to catch a score on radio (not an easy task as there was no sports radio, per se, back then), or buy a local paper the next morning. In the south, such as Texas, basketball was a footnote to football. Televising a mid-season, non-conference basketball game to a national audience was certainly unconventional. It was even more certainly a master stroke. March was not yet mad, but it was soon to be.
Coach Guy Lewis of the University of Houston was struggling to take Houston to national prominence, but was having a difficult time establishing the program even locally, in football-mad Texas. Along the way, he had had a preposterous idea—staging a game at the Astrodome against a particular team—defending national champion, UCLA. It took Lewis several entreaties to convince UH Athletic Director, Harry Fouke, to pursue the idea. It was Lewis’ outrageous projection of selling thirty-five thousand tickets that finally persuaded Fouke to take up the proposal with his good friend, UCLA Athletic Director J. D. Morgan.
In turn, it took Morgan several rounds to convince UCLA Coach, John Wooden, on the plan. Wooden didn’t want to do it at first. He was worried about the setting and the lighting and the crowd. He really didn’t like the idea. But, Morgan kept thinking about 35,000 fans, and kept telling Wooden how the game would be broadcast all over the country, and how it would be good for college basketball. Finally, on that last point, Wooden had to agree. As it turned out, 35,000 was to be a gross under-estimation.
The game was to have many firsts. It was to be the first regular-season college basketball game televised nationally, and the first college basketball game to be televised nationally during prime time. It was to be Dick Enberg's first national broadcast. And, it was to be the largest crowd ever to attend a college basketball game--52,693.
A raised court was placed roughly where second base would be in the Astrodome, about three feet above the original artificial grass, Astroturf. Normally the best seats in the house, the first few infield rows were over a hundred feet away from the action. Even fans in the first rows used binoculars to try to bring the game closer. Other than the hundred or so officials and dignitaries in court-side folding chairs, no one had a good seat. But, then, the game wasn’t created for live fans. It was created for television.
Whether viewed live or on TV, the game had a surreal quality. The game was played on a distant island, far from the stadium shores where fans were. The sounds, too, played in an uncommon arena, one normally accustomed to baseball distances. When Houston scored, the cheers often wouldn’t reach the players until UCLA had already in-bounded the ball. When shooting, players had to locate, visually, a lonely backboard and rim, set against a vast background of empty space.
While both Coach Wooden and Coach Guy Lewis of the University of Houston had practiced and preached against racial discrimination in their careers and in their lives, Coach Lewis had a tough row to hoe—he had to walk the walk in Houston, Texas. While small-minded bigots were present in every region of the country, you didn’t have to go far to find one in 1968 Texas.
Against this backdrop, Coach Lewis had assembled a multi-racial roster of intelligent young men and fine basketball players. Elvin Hayes was a true superstar, and one of the very few who could successfully challenge Alcindor in the front-court, both offensively and defensively. Hayes had come from a small town in segregated Louisiana to play at the University of Houston, as the university began to integrate its athletic program in the mid-1960s.
But, Hayes wasn’t the only star player on the Houston squad. Nor, was he the only black man. Don Chaney, a long-armed and tenacious defender, would be selected by the Boston Celtics that year in the twelfth position of the first round. Hayes would be selected first overall by the San Diego Rockets. Forward Theodis Lee, Guard George Reynolds, and Center Ken Spain, capable players all, rounded out the Houston roster.
We gathered in Bitterdog’s apartment on Landfair, because Bitterdog owned a television—a seventeen-inch Zenith marvel of black and white technology. Besides myself and Bitterdog, Okie, Bakersfield, and Hummer were all there. Bitterdog had his Miller in clear quart bottles, the best buzz for the buck, he thought. Bakersfield and Okie went for cans of Pabst and Hamm's, respectively, because they were cheap. The refined Hummer had his preferred Michelob in brown bottles. My choice was long-necked Budweiser bottles. The beer would wash down three pizzas from La Barbera’s before the game.
The week before the game , Alcindor had suffered a scratched left cornea in a game against the California Golden Bears. He would miss the next two games against Stanford and Portland. He was questionable right up to Houston game time, but would ultimately start and play.
The game’s broadcasters sat in the Astrodome dugouts, not at court-side, so as not to obstruct fans’ views of the game. Long-time NBA star, Bob Petit, was Enberg's announcing partner. Basketball shorts, in those days, were actually shorts. In addition to Alcindor, Lucius Allen, Mike Warren, Lynn Shackleford, Mike Lynn, and Jim Nielsen would form the core of the Bruins’ squad.
Coaches, team staff, scorekeepers, and timekeeper sat in a single line of padded, folding chairs along both sides of the raised court. Their eyes were about shin-high to players on the court.
The game proceeded in toe-to-toe fashion. Houston was tied or led the entire first half, but never by much. The score was 46-43 Houston at the half, and Hayes already had 29 points. Alcindor was obviously bothered by his scratched cornea. Trailing in the second half, 46-45, UCLA had a chance to go ahead. But, Alcindor was blocked by Hayes. UCLA got the rebound, but Mike Warren’s shot was also blocked by Hayes. The crowd went absolutely wild. "I think the Texans like their Big-E," commented Petit.
Midway through the second half, Warren had four fouls, as did Hayes. Neither could afford to be agressive defensively. Chaney was a constant pest on defense, deflecting and stealing passes. "Don Chaney, picking up defensively, because Elvin Hayes has to play cautiously," said Enberg. The Bruins’ full-court zone press, itself, had created several Houston turnovers.
After a Warren miss, an offensive rebound, a Shackleford miss, and another rebound, Warren hit a jumper. UCLA trailed 59-57 with 6-1/2 minutes left. "The tempo of the game had changed. Houston is being very deliberate," said Petit. Alcindor got the ball down low, slightly behind the basket. He put up that lovely soft jumper of his, with a chance to pull even but missed badly, long. "Both teams appear tired, and justifiably so," said Enberg.
In the Landfair apartment, we paced, cursed, drank, sweated, and cursed some more.
With 3:11 left and the score 65-64, Houston, UCLA called a time out. UCLA had been behind or tied since the opening buzzer. A Wildroot (hair tonic) commercial came on. "Wildroot. It sure makes a man out of a kid." Enberg asked Petit what he thought Coach Wooden told his team during the time out. Petit replied, "There's plenty of time left. Take a good shot. And, if possible, work the ball into Lew Alcindor down deep." When play resumed, Alcindor was fouled by Spain. Enberg said, "Alcindor is the man to foul on UCLA, at least statistically. On the year hitting just under 62%."
Alcindor hit one free throw. 65-65, with just under 3 minutes left. The tension had been ratcheting ever upward to where we could hardly stand it. No one in the apartment could sit still, and no one could remain silent. "My goosebumps have goosebumps," said Petit. "Mine, too," I thought. In truth, though, "goosebumps" was euphemistic. I was borderline apoplectic with nervousness.
Houston was being very deliberate on offense. "They want to make sure they get a good shot," said Enberg. The ball was passed to Hayes. "There's the man they want to get it to," Enberg said. Hayes banked in a pretty jumper from the right side. In exultation, Guy Lewis leapt from his chair and waved a red team towel with white stars. "Elvin Hayes, with 37 points!" exclaimed Enberg. Warren missed a jumper. Hayes rebounded. Chaney hit a jumper, for a 69-65 Houston lead. Under two minutes left.
Nielsen passed up a shot close to the basket, and passed to Allen. Allen drove, and scored on a layup. He was fouled on the play. "There's a perfect example of Hayes playing cautiously," said Petit. Allen missed the free throw, but UCLA got the rebound, down 69-67. There was still a chance. "Nielsen is the man they’re leaving alone," said Enberg. Allen shot a jumper in the key. The shot hit the front rim. "Wa-a-y-y short," exclaimed Enberg. Hayes rebounded. "And, look at him hug the ball," said Enberg. There was 1:20 remaining in the game, with UCLA down 69-67.
The tension was torturous. In the Houston front-court, Reynolds was in the paint with the ball. Warren batted the ball down, out of Reynolds’ hands, but the ball bounced up right to Reynolds again. He started to put up a shot, and both Warren and Alcindor deflected the ball on the way up. The ball hit the underedge of the backboard, deflected to the floor near the baseline, and into the hands of Shackleford. "It is taken by the Bruins, but it hit the backboard!" said Enberg. The referee awarded the ball to Houston.
We, in the Landfair apartment, went nuts. "Horse f*cking sh*t," said Bitterdog. "Houston touched it last!" "Unf*cking believable," said Okie. "No f*cking way!" shouted Hummer.
As he usually did during games, Wooden remained seated for almost the entire game. But, at this moment he rose from his chair and hollered something, apparently to the referees. "Coach John Wooden, off his seat, and encouraging the Bruins," said Enberg, "and not liking the call!" Both Wooden and Assistant Coach Jerry Norman, still politely seated in a folding chair, gave an "Aww, baloney!" down-sweeping gesture with both hands. Wooden sat back down.
I thought, "Yeah. Coach Wooden sees it like I do; we're getting screwed..."
Houston prepared to in-bound the ball under their basket following a time out. Petit commented, "During that time out, I believe Coach Lewis told his team one thing: Control the ball! Get it in bounds and hold it. A minute and twelve seconds to go!" Reynolds lobbed an in-bounds pass to Chaney near mid-court. Chaney passed back to Reynolds, right of the key. Reynolds dumped the ball to Spain with his back to the basket at the free throw line. Alcindor immediately stepped up and fouled Spain.
"That is the first foul on Alcindor, and it was a wise play by the big center," said Enberg. "The Bruins did not want Houston to use a lot of the clock, and they fouled the man they feel is the poorest free throw shooter." Spain missed the shot. "It proves to be a wise move by big Lew Alcindor," said Enberg.
UCLA called time out with 57 seconds remaining, down 69-67. A Shell gasoline commercial played. "I imagine John Wooden told his team, bring the ball up and get it into Lew Alcindor. In case they lose it, don’t foul, because both teams now have six fouls, and any foul will be a one-and-one situation," said Petit. Enberg added, "Evenly matched in almost all departments, with the single star thus far, Elvin Hayes."
Shackleford in-bounded to Warren, who passed to Alcindor in the low post. Alcindor underhanded a little pass to Allen who was angling in from the right, but the pass was slightly behind Allen, so he had to stop his drive. There were two Houston players guarding four UCLA players. The other three Houston players were in the paint, surrounding Alcindor. Being in the crowd near Alcindor, Allen almost had the ball stolen. But, he got the ball back and was fouled by Spain. UCLA was now in the bonus.
"Think of the pressure on Lucius Allen," said Enberg. Petit added, "I guarantee, this is the toughest situation a basketball player can be in. Two free throws in the last part of a game. You need 'em both to tie."
Allen’s first shot was a high-arcing rainbow. The shot barely grazed the back rim, and dropped through the net cleanly. "He cooly drops in the first one," says Enberg. "This one would tie it," said Enberg before Allen’s second shot. The second free throw, equally high arcing, hit the front rim, hit the backboard, hit the back rim, and dropped through. "It finds a friendly home, for Bruins fan," said Enberg. Tied 69-69, with about 40 seconds left. Petit added, "Two tremendous pressure free throws by Lucius Allen. What a great, great player. Tough situation, and he came through!"
"Yeah, Lucius!" said Okie. "F*ckin’-A!" yelled Bakersfield. "Atta way, Bruins!" I exhorted.
Hayes shot a ten-footer, but the shot was blocked by Nielsen, seemingly cleanly. But, cleanly is not the way the refs saw it. "Blocked by Nielsen! But, he fouled him in the process!" said Enberg. Now it was Nielsen’s turn to react in protest. He raised both his arms and swiped them down, in his version of an "Aww, baloney!" gesture. 00:28 seconds remained. "Jim Nielsen had both hands on the ball, but he fouled Elvin Hayes with his body," said Enberg. Alcindor went over to calm Nielsen, who hadn’t yet acknowledged the foul with a raised hand. Alcindor took Nielsen's left wrist and raised his arm.
"And, now it's Elvin Hayes with the pressure," said Enberg. Hayes had been quiet in the second half, offensively and defensively, mostly because of foul trouble. Hayes hit the first free throw cleanly. Like Allen’s second shot, Hayes’ second hit iron, but dropped through cleanly. "Hayes has broken the tie. It's 71-69!" said Enberg.
"F*ck!" said Bitterdog. "Jesus H. Christ. That was no foul!" said Bakersfield. "Horse f*cking sh*t!" yelled Hummer.
Warren dribbled into the front court. His pass to Alcindor was deflected by the quick hands of Don Chaney. The ball went high in the air. All 6'10" of Elvin Hayes went high to get it, but couldn’t control it. Hayes tipped the ball. Spain, defended by Alcindor, went up to get it, but as he came down, hoarding the precious ball, he hopped slightly, and the refs caught it. "Traveling by Spain!" said Enberg. "The Cougars had come up with the ball, but Spain skidded to a stop, and UCLA gets a second life!" The crowd booed lustily, an avalanche of disapproval swamping the tiny court in the cavernous stadium. 00:21 seconds remained.
"About time they got one right!" yelled Okie. "Damn straight!" I said. "F*cking-A Right!" shouted Bakersfield.
Warren passed to Allen near the top of the key. 00:17 seconds, Houston up 71-69. Hayes and Spain were sandwiching Alcindor. 0:15 seconds. There were no good pass options in or near the paint, but Allen spotted Shackleford, unguarded, in the right corner. 0:13 seconds.
In slow motion, I could see what would happen next. The Bruins, under Wooden, were always controlled and confident in crunch time. "Be quick, but don’t hurry." Shackleford would catch the ball, and launch one of those gorgeous, left-handed, rain-making moon shots of his, shots that would be three-pointers today. The ball would go through the net; Houston would melt, and the Bruins would go on to win...
Only, none of this happened. Mike Warren, who had been slicing into the lane looking for a feed, did not realize that the pass was intended for Shackleford. Warren leaped to the ball, but couldn’t catch it, and tipped it out of bounds. Houton’s ball. Time 00:12.
"Oh, my god, no!" yelled Bitterdog. "Ay-eee, carumba!" wailed Okie. "F*ck me!" I said.
The Houston bench erupted, all players standing with arms raised. "It'll go to Houston! And that could be the ball game!" announced Enberg. On the court, Elvin Hayes also raised both arms in triumph. "Time out, Houston! Houston 71, UCLA 69!" With both arms still raised, Hayes walked over to the Houston bench. A Noxzema shave cream commercial played.
"F*cking-f*ck-f*ck f*ck" howled Bakersfield. "God damn it to hell!" said Okie. "My ass!" yelled Hummer.
On return from the break, Petit said, "Houston, of course, will try to kill the twelve seconds, will try to hold the ball, and run the clock out. UCLA must gamble, must press. They're two points down with twelve seconds to go."
The soft in-bounds pass went toward Hayes. Shackleford, a tremendous defensive player throughout his career, gambled, lunged, and nearly stole the pass, getting a hand on the ball. But, Hayes secured the pass with two hands. Shackleford fell to the floor, out of bounds, and got up quickly. Hayes pulled the ball into his midsection, protectively. 00:09 seconds remained. Hayes dribbled around in the back court, right under the UCLA basket. Three Bruins surrounded Hayes, Alcindor, Shackleford, and Warren, all trying desparately for a steal, without fouling. "It's the hound and the dogs!" exclaimed Enberg.
Despite the pressure, Hayes kept possession, found Chaney on the sideline, and passed to him. 00:03 seconds. Chaney dribbled out the clock at mid-court, and at the horn, launched the ball high in the air. He ran to greet teammates, as the hundred or so spectators, reporters, and photographers with court-side seats stormed the court. Elvin Hayes was lifted to the small crowd's shoulders on the court. "Number forty-four, Elvin Hayes, the Houston hero, and the Cougars now have the longest winning streak in college basketball with a 71-69 upset win over UCLA!" said Enberg.
"I f*cking hate Guy Lewis!" said Bakersfield. Bitterdog shook his head and said "F*cking Hayes!" "If Lew had been right…" I lament. "Bullsh*t calls" griped Okie.
"Houston snaps UCLA's 47-game winning streak! Pandemonium at the Houston Astrodome!" said Enberg. Like a good announcer should, Enberg allowed the crowd noise and exultation to speak for itself, remaining silent for many seconds while the crowd roared. Mock, crude "fireworks" made of flashing colored light bulbs exploded on the message board, accompanied by sounds of explosions. The TV cameras pulled back, and for the first time in the Landfair apartment, you could see what huge gulfs there were between fans in the seating sections and the court. There was enough room for at least a full-sized basketball court plus court-side seating along both sidelines. There were also huge spaces along the end-lines.
The excruciating tension gave way to crushing agony, as we stared, mostly silent, at the Zenith TV. Seeing Warren tip away our last chance was not the way the final UCLA possession was supposed to go. The lousy calls and biased officiating (as we thought, at the time) were the difference, we were sure. To a person, we wanted to punch walls, kick whatever was near, and lash out.
As for myself, I was busy replaying the closing minutes in my head. I couldn’t believe it. Why? If only Lew had not been hurt. If only Warren had let the pass to Shackleford go. If only that take-away under the Houston basket hadn’t hit the backboard. If only UCLA had made just three more free throws. If only; if only; if only.
Enberg had promised post-game interviews with both coaches. In my grief, the only comfort I could imagine would come from Coach Wooden’s comments. Coach would echo my takes. I saw him come out of that chair, upset. He would cite the bad bounces and questionable calls. He would remind us that Alcindor had not been 100%. He would point out that, despite the stacked deck of playing in Houston with the funked-up basketball court, how very close we came to winning. Coach Wooden would tell ‘em. I was sure.
Back from commercials, Enberg spoke into the microphone. On cue, Coach Wooden approached Enberg for the interview, as he had agreed. But, wait. What the hell? I could not believe what Coach Wooden was doing. In the defining moment of the aftermath of this stupendous spectacle, he was doing positively the wrong thing. It cannot be! He was smiling!
After that crushing disappointment, after all those bad breaks, when Coach should have been lambasting fortune or officials, he was smiling! Fer Chrissakes, I could not believe what I was watching. The man was smiling!
I had been expecting Coach Wooden to react how I was feeling—full of anger and disappointment and bitterness and sorrow. But, of course, Coach displayed not one bit of rancor. He didn’t even appear disappointed. He lauded Houston for playing a fine game. He praised his own players for playing hard. He commented about the spectacle being good for college basketball. And, that was it.
Throughout the entire, brief interview, Coach Wooden either smiled or otherwise appeared satisfied. And, the smiles were genuine. They were not begrudging, disappointed smiles. They were not used-car-salesman, deception smiles. They weren’t even it-hurts-to-lose smiles. If you didn’t know how the game had gone, from Coach’s face, you would have thought that UCLA had won. His smiles, the reaction that struck me dumb, were heart-felt, genuine, and real.
In retrospect, his entire body language and voice reflected several of his life-long adages, adages that I was just beginning to appreciate, adages that I had probably attributed mostly to coach-speak at the time. "Players with fight never lose a game; they just run out of time." "All of life is peaks and valleys. Don't let the peaks get too high and the valleys too low." "Success is never final; failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts." "Young people need models, not critics."
All of these maxims, and more, were on live display in that little interview—not as preachy words, but as demonstrated example. At the height of my disappointed agony, Coach showed me a reaction that I had not for one second ever considered—peace and contentment. Not whining about bad breaks. Not lashing out at others. Not bitterness over not winning. Just genuine inner peace and, apparently, happiness. It was unfathomable to me. In that one interview of less than two minutes, Coach had demonstrated several of his most profound beliefs in a way that resonated deeply in me, and have stayed with me ever since.
It may seem funny that a simple facial gesture could possibly have a life-long impact on someone, but it really did happen just that way for me. John Wooden’s smile, coming when it did, burned into my soul like a laser. I will remember that personal teachable moment to the end of my days.
From his success as a basketball coach, and from the lessons that he espoused that had the ring of authentic truth, such as the Pyramid of Success, I knew that John Wooden was special. But, at that singular moment, Coach Wooden had taught me a cornerstone of elemental truth, and of later parenthood, that I couldn’t have learned any other way: The absolute best way to teach is by example. You can memorize the wisest proverbs in the world, and you can lecture your children with them until you’re blue in the face. But, if you really want to teach your kids how to be good people, you show them.
You show them, not just when it’s convenient, and not just when you will receive credit for it. You don’t plan your examples to coincide with big events and anticipated applause. You show them in everyday life, in moments large and small. You show them, first, by being true to yourself, consistently, because that’s what’s ingrained in your soul. You show them, not because the spotlights are on, but because that’s who you are. "You can do more good by being good than any other way."
Most of all, Coach Wooden demonstrated to me on that day one of his greatest adages: "Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable." Nice words. Easy to say. Not so easy to put into practice. Impossible for me, on that day.
Coach Wooden wasn’t smiling because it was the right thing to do at that moment, in front of TV cameras. He wasn’t putting on a brave face for the sake of an audience. He wasn’t hiding his disappointment, because he wasn’t disappointed. He was smiling because he was at peace. UCLA had given it their best shot. Elvin Hayes was spectacular. Houston played well, and won. Houston won, but we were successful, too.
Coach Wooden was a spectacular teacher, because he didn’t just mouth the words. He lived the lessons. With all my heart, Coach Wooden, thank you for that teachable moment forty-five years ago. You are an inspiration.