Tags: amigos, dh stories, nbamazing, rest in peace, warriors
[update: fyi, my friends @ hoop also ran this column over at hoopmag.com]
back in the ’90s i used to make a yearly call to coach wooden … his number was listed in the phonebook back then–believe it or not–and he would always answer his calls.
so when i wrote for sport magazine from 1992-2000 and needed a special quote, THAT’S when i’d give coach a call … mind you, i never wanted to abuse the privilege and bother the 80-something-year-old legend by calling him more often than that … but once a year, i figured, was enough time to stay in touch with coach, while also getting his insights on life & basketball.
and everytime i spoke with the former ucla basketball coach, it was like “tuesdays with morrie” … we’d talk for 20-30 minutes, and in that short time, i’d get more insight there than i did in some semester-long courses in college.
he was a special man with a special way of viewing life.
john stockton was his favorite nba player. the only player coach wooden said he’d pay to see.
now mind you, for years, i never had a good relationship with stockton. i would try & try to break the ice with him, but the utah jazz point guard always gave me stone-cold answers … i could never get through to that guy.
in one of my annual convos with wooden in 2002, coach told me he had just had a nice long lunch with stockton and what a pleasure it was, going into detail what they talked about … so, naturally, next time i saw stockton, i told him about it … and–you know what?–he finally melted.
all of a sudden, i couldn’t get stockton to shut up about the man … off the record, he went on and on and on about how much he admired coach and everything he learned from him in his conversations with coach.
and of course, whenever i had future on-the-record conversations with stockton when later writing for hoop magazine, he opened up to me, just because we had that lil wooden connection.
i’m gonna miss john wooden. the man. the coach. the teacher … in wooden’s 99 years on earth, i’m sure the wizard of westwood must’ve touched 999,999 lives, just like mine.
“thanks for everything as always, coach! … goodbye.”