“Just look at that penmanship,” marveled Adams, UCLA’s baseball coach for 30 seasons before retiring to Bear Valley Springs in the Tehachapi Mountains of Kern County in 2004. “He used to say you could put the NBA 24-second shot clock on him when he was asked to sign a basketball, but he needed the college’s 35-second shot clock when it came to signing a baseball. That certainly is a prized possession.”
Why the 74-year-old Adams would continue to cherish such a small token given to him by the legendary UCLA basketball coach speaks more to a 36-year relationship they started when they shared an office space on Westwood campus for eight years that many may not have known about.
Adams, who played baseball at UCLA from 1959-62, was hired by athletic director J.D. Morgan as the Bruins’ coach in 1975. That was also Wooden’s final season, capped by the last of his 10 NCAA championships.
Morgan wanted Wooden to keep an office at the athletic department, and asked Adams if he wouldn’t mind having a rather high-profile bunkmate.
“When I tell people the story of how J.D. asked this, I say, ‘Well, I’ll have to think about it and get back to you’,” Adams says before laughing.
And as the friendship grew, and the conversations continued, inevitably things would circle back to, of all things, baseball.
Adams’ new book, “Conversations With Coach Wooden: On Baseball, Heroes and Life” (Santa Monica Press, 439 pages, $24.95) reflects more on just the lessons learned by being in the presence of Wooden, who died at age 99 three summers ago, but, inspired by his Pyramid of Success, how he eventually created his own little-publicized Sphere of Commitment as a guide for his players in the late ‘90s.
QUESTION: This isn’t the first book, nor will it likely be the last, about John Wooden and the impact he had on someone’s life. Do you find yourself learning something new from those written before your book? Continue reading