COACH WOODEN AND ME
OUR 50-YEAR FRIENDSHIP ON AND OFF THE COURT
John Wooden is renowned in the niche of coaching icons, the man who created a dynasty at UCLA basketball. But what set Wooden apart was his manner – not a sideline dictator or a slick-talking type, he instead was the coach as homeroom teacher (which indeed he was). Famously, his first practice for the season always began with a lesson to his players on the proper way to put on their socks.
On his way to hoops greatness, Kareem AbdulJabbar spent four years at UCLA. Then known as Lew Alcindor, he was as different to his coach as could be: young, militant African-American from New York to homespun Midwesterner. The two, however, were kindred spirits in their appreciation of the fundamental.
In his post-basketball life, Abdul-Jabbar has forged a reputation as a public intellectual, who has written about civil rights, social history and even a novel about Mycroft Holmes. For him to write about Wooden was a natural – but as Kareem says, only the passage of time allowed him to comprehend what his coach meant to him.
GOODFOR: Anyone who has a teacher they fondly remember.