Former players, including Walton, Hazzard and Goodrich, release statements on passing of Wooden
Here's what they had to say.
From Bill Walton:
“UCLA can easily claim an endless list of alumni who have helped make the world a better place. But of all the special spirits who have given so much, it is John Wooden, who has truly had the greatest impact on the largest number of people.
“It was Coach Wooden’s heart, brain and soul that put him in a position to inspire others to reach levels of success and peace of mind that none of us could ever dream of reaching by ourselves.
“All of the UCLA basketball players that John Wooden taught knew that when he retired from coaching in 1975, it did not signify an end to his life-long commitment to teaching, merely a new beginning. He was just getting started.
“Coach Wooden taught by example. He never asked or expected anyone to do anything that he hadn’t already done himself. He gave us the ability to learn how to learn, and to compete. His keen knowledge and foresight to always be about what’s next, always about the future, enabled him to lead an incredibly active, constructive, positive and contributing life.
“Coach Wooden never talked about winning and losing, but rather about the effort to win. He rarely talked about basketball, but generally about life. He never talked about strategy, statistics or plays, but rather about people and character. Coach Wooden never tired of telling us that once you become a good person, then you have a chance of becoming a good basketball player.
“It has been 36 years since I graduated from UCLA. I have spent those years trying to duplicate that incredible period in my life. Our family home, where it all began so many years ago in San Diego, to this day is still a shrine to John Wooden, with UCLA memorabilia, the 'Pyramid of Success' and pictures of The Coach everywhere.
“Over the years I’ve regularly taken our children to Coach’s Mansion on Margate in Encino, to get for them the timeless lessons of life, including how to put your shoes and socks on, just like he taught us 40 years ago.
“John Wooden represents the conquest of substance over hype, the triumph of achievement over erratic flailing, the conquest of discipline over gambling, and the triumph of executing an organized plan over hoping that you’ll be lucky, hot or in the zone.
“John Wooden also represents the conquest of sacrifice, hard work and commitment to achievement over the pipe dream that someone will just give you something, or that you can take a pill or turn a key to get what you want.
“The joy and happiness in Coach Wooden’s life came from the success and accomplishments of others. He never let us forget what he learned from his two favorite teachers, Abraham Lincoln and Mother Theresa, “that a life not lived for others is not a life.”
“I thank John Wooden every day for all his selfless gifts, his lessons, his time, his vision and especially his faith and patience. This is why our eternal love for him will never fade away. This is why we call him ‘Coach.’”
From Walt Hazzard:
“Today I lost my mentor, my friend, my Coach, John Wooden. He taught us about basketball and life and being the best you can be. My love to the Wooden Family and to all of the Bruins who had the privilege of studying under one of the great teachers of all time. He will be missed by many but by none more than me.”
From Gail Goodrich:
“Nobody was more beloved than Coach. He loved people, and had this tremendous gift to communicate with everyone, regardless of age or background. He always considered himself a teacher, and a teacher he was. When I played for him, he taught me the game of basketball. Later I came to realize, he really taught me the valuable aspects of life. As competitive as he was both as a player and a coach, he was incorruptible. He lived and taught with a simple philosophy that building a winning team or a successful life can be accomplished without breaking the rules or sacrificing personal values.
“No one influenced or impacted my life more than Coach. He was my mentor. I will miss my chats and visits with Coach, but his wisdom and teaching will remain with me forever. I’m blessed to be 'one of his boys.' He was always there for me. I will miss him dearly.
“The angels have come for him; and delivered him to be with his wife, Nell. He looked forward to being reunited with her. His journey on earth is completed. He is at peace with himself. God bless him.“
From Jerry Norman:
“Coach Wooden was one of the greatest coaches in college basketball history. He will be remembered as a devoted husband and father. He will be missed by those that knew him and by all his former players and coaches."
Photo: UCLA Coach John Wooden with towering centers Swen Nater and Bill Walton in 1972.Credit: Associated Press