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UCLA students rally for ailing coach John Wooden

About 300 UCLA students broke away from their books on the eve of finals Friday to rally for ailing former basketball coach John Wooden.

Gathering tightly around the iconic Bruin Bear, they raised their hands high in the air and performed the university's eight-clap chant.

"Wooden, Wooden, Wooden" the crowd hollered.

Word of the brief rally spread through Facebook, with some students joining the crowd on their way to class. The 99-year-old Wooden, once a frequent attendee at men's basketball and women's gymnastics contests, has become a sporadic presence on the Westwood campus in recent years.

For many undergraduates, decades removed from Wooden’s famed championship run, the details of the former coach’s legacy are hazy. But the student body has come to revere the coach as a figure who transcends basketball. His likeness and quotes are posted around campus, and standing ovations are the norm when he attends events.

Senior Rhett Jones called Wooden the ultimate Bruin. He said one of his professors brought up Wooden in class – not for his success in sports, but to encourage his students to emulate the coach’s famous Pyramid of Success.

“He wanted us to remember the cornerstones: industriousness and enthusiasm,” Jones said. “He still comes up now. It’s a testament to his character.”

Rebekah Hartie, a freshman, said Wooden has attained a “mythic status” on campus. But she said she hoped the current attention to the coach would encourage students to go back and learn more about his achievements.

“He’s definitely been inspirational to me,” she said. “I mean, all you have to do is walk in the gym and you see his Pyramid of Success.”

Hartie said she was impressed that Wooden opted to have the student gym – open to all on campus – named after him, rather than the more exclusive athletes gym or an athletic facility.

“It shows he cares about all Bruins, not just athletes,” the anthropology major said.

Students are organizing a larger rally outside Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where university officials say Wooden is in grave condition, on Friday at 8 p.m.

-- Robert Faturechi

Comments () | Archives (7)

When UCLA wanted to name the basketball court in Pauley Pavilion after John Wooden, he agreed, but only on condition that his wife's name be included as well. Today it is known as the Nell and John Wooden Court. Not the John and Nell Wooden Court. The Nell and John Wooden Court.

When UCLA wanted to name their brand new athletic center after John Wooden, he agreed. But he wouldn't allow the building to bear his name unless it was open to all students, not just NCAA athletes. Today the John Wooden Center is a thriving hub of activity where regular students have access to world-class fitness facilities.

The humility and generosity of John Wooden ensures that his legacy at UCLA shall remain immortal with the passage of time.

I attended UCLA in the late 60's having moved to California in 1964 from Chicago, where I watched in awe the Bruins win #1. I stayed up many a late night listening to Dick Enberg on Channel 5, I believe it was. I had the great thrill of attending some claases with players but will never forget the Pyramid of Success which was just being discussed for the first times among outsiders. I have admired Coach Wooden's other life for decades and have come to regard him as a true giant among us. Our thoughts are with him and those who know and love him.

Coach Wooden's legacy is very much appreciated on the other side of Los Angeles as well. His leadership and greatness transends the rivalry between UCLA and USC. We have Coach Wooden and his family in our thoughts and prayers as well. A robust Fight On to Coach Wooden, meant in the truest form of the phrase.

I grew up in LA In the late 60's and early 70's and watched in awe what Coach Wooden did for the UCLA basketball program. When I attended UCLA in the 1980's I was able to see for myself the legacy that this great man gave to our school and the City of Los Angeles. Raising my own family, I worked hard to teach my children the philosophies of Coach Wooden and am proud to say my eldest will be attending UCLA this fall. Thank you John Wooden for everything you've done for me, my city, my school and my family.

John Wooden is one of the greats. Words fail me. It is wonderful how the students still respect and admire him. I have tears in my eyes as I write this. I know he has lived a full life but it is still hard.

It is difficult to express ones feelings about Coach Wooden, who always wanted to be a teacher not a coach. My son, Scott, and I met him about 3 years ago. Just the three of us. He was munching a bag of popcorn and offered us some. We, of course, said, "No thanks Coach." He then said to us, "Sit down and talk a bit." We sat on either side of him and chatted as if he had known us forever. We took a photo which he signed and we have them hanging in our offices. It is not easy to think the journey might be near and only wish him comfort and with God's help keep him with us a while longer. That is selfish of course, as Nell has been waiting for him a long time now and perhaps it is her turn. As Wayne Gretzky said to him on his 99th...."From one 99 to another, but you are The Greatest."

I attended a fund raiser at UCLA a several years ago. Wandering about before the speakers began, I walked by a pleasantly smiling older man sitting in a wing chair sort of off by himself-it was John Wooden. Not to pass up a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I shyly sad "hi" & introduced myself as, among other things, a high school football coach. After some pleasantries I asked him what he says to his players at half-time. His reply has stayed with me: if someone is not doing his job I take him aside to tell him on the way to the locker room. If we need to change the game plan, we discuss that. And then, I tell them what they did right...
Walton was right, Coach Wooden is our galactic gift.


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