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Saturday, June 5, 2010

"Coach" passes on

The legendary basketball coach John Wooden has gone to the big fieldhouse in the sky. "The Wizard of Westwood" was 99 and died Friday night.

John Wooden changed the game of basketball. He had three basic rules. Don't be late, don't use profanity and don't disrespect you teammates. He was a man who acheived his great success at UCLA while making $35,000 a year.

I was lucky enough to meet Coach many years ago. He seemed so small, so fragile up close when you spoke with him. He spoke with a gentle bragging, just a matter of fact acknowlegement about his successes and his life.

It took Wooden 14 years at UCLA before he won the first of 10 NCAA Championships. In today's "what have you done for me lately" coaching circus...this seems incredible.

We cover University of Louisville women's sports here at CARDINAL COUPLE...but sports as we know them...male or female...were changed by Wooden. He created a dynasty in college that will never be equalled again in the game. You can talk about the UConn Huskies and Geno's reign over women's hoops...but his great accomplishments pale against what Wooden did.

Wooden was an Indiana farmboy. He coached in Kentucky briefly at Dayton High School. A small northern Kentucky school..right outside Covington. I played basketball in the tiny gym at Dayton back in the early seventies. A small, nondescript gym...bleachers right up against the court and deadspots in the wood. A plaque in the gym honored Wooden, unfortunately the players at Dayton that year were far removed from the skills of Wooden's UCLA teams.

As we prepared to get back on the bus to return to Louisville after drubbing Dayton by 30+ points, our coach led us out to see the plaque one more time. I don't recall exactly what he said, but he talked about Wooden's ideals. Never giving up, pride and respect for the sport and those who participate in it. Hard work and dedication.

I don't know if that small school and that small gym still exist. I do know, though the the large legacy of the coach who once patrolled those floors will live forever.

Rest ye easy, Coach. Thank you.


Don't freak out because of all the fire engines and sirens the rest of the weekend here in Louisville. It's Crusade for Children time. Carry a little extra change around with you today and tomorrow and donate to this very worthy cause. The Crusade was my late father's favorite charity and all the volunteers that work the intersections, ride the fire trucks and walk the streets collecting money get a big tip of the hat and sincere thank you from CARDINAL COUPLE.

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