While recognition for John Wooden continues to pour in and the sports world relates quotes from coaches, players, statesmen, even the president, I thought it would be a genuine touch to hear comments from two not-so-famous people who knew Coach Wooden on a personal level. These memories speak volumes about the character of the person when the spotlight was not “on”. I thought they deserved their own post.
The first recollection is from a friend’s son, Aaron DeVandry, who had the opportunity to chat with the Coach in a casual and relaxed setting. The post is reprinted with Aaron’s permission from his blog, Life in the Springs.
“William Shakespeare once wrote the following, which I think sums up John Wooden perfectly:
His life was gentle; and the elements
So mixed in him, that Nature might stand up,
And say to all the world, THIS WAS A MAN!
About 8-10 years ago, when I was waiting tables at Marie Callender’s in Northridge, Mr. Wooden was one of the regular customers. He would come in and eat at least every other week, sometimes every week, on (IIRC) Monday evenings. Usually sat in the same booth up front.
One of my favorite stories of that time happened right before Father’s Day. We struck up a conversation and he asked about my dad — I told him how my dad was a coach as well, mainly in soccer, but also baseball and basketball. He finished his dinner, and came back an hour later with a brand new basketball autographed and addressed to my dad. Mr. Wooden did that on his own for no reason other than he’s a really nice and generous man.
One of the funnier things about it was that he also handed me the receipt for the ball. He had bought it across the street at the sporting goods store (when it was still Sportsmart), and told me (tongue-in-cheek)that if I didn’t like it, I could return the ball. LOL. Yeah right.”
Another personal reflection comes from Maggie, a good friend of my cousin Patcee:
Thanks for the piece on John Wooden. You know he went to our church in Santa Monica for years and he and Nell were very good friends of my folks. They used to go out for lunch all the time and when they joined our church, my Mom and Dad were their “shepherds”. The last time we saw him was at his book-signing at Borders a couple of years ago and he was very happy to see us all again…especially my Mom. What a truly genuine and wonderful person he was. I have one of his sayings on my fridge….don’t complain, don’t whine and don’t make excuses and I really try to live by that (obviously doesn’t work all the time!!).”
According to an Associated Press article, Coach Wooden will be honored at the UCLA graduation on Friday:
LOS ANGELES — A colorful tribute to late UCLA basketball coach John Wooden is planned for Friday’s graduation ceremony.
The university said Tuesday that student-athletes and scholars representing the graduating class will carry 99 blue-and-gold flags into the College of Letters and Science ceremony.
UCLA Chancellor Gene Block will speak about Wooden’s legacy at the 8 p.m. ET ceremony at Drake Stadium on campus. About 4,500 students are expected to participate.
Wooden died last Friday at age 99. He guided the Bruins to a record 10 national championships, including seven in a row, in the 1960s and ’70s.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
“Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding.” Proverbs 3:13 NIV