Best Wooden memories

UCLA fans, here’s the place to post your best John Wooden memories and thoughts. This is a truly sad day for the world, as Coach Wooden was more than a sports figure, but a true luminary.

Please be kind, because I will immediately ban anyone with negative comments. This is not the place.

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  • sactownbruin

    It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.

  • ucla84

    This is a little thing, but there was just something about Coach.

    My mother lives – and I grew up – maybe three blocks from Coach’s place, so it wasn’t unusual to see him around the neighborhood from time to time.

    I’d moved away, but was in town, and walked into my bank one day. I walked in one door, took care of my business, and started to walk across the branch to leave through another door when I bumped into…a cardboard standup of Coach. (He had, apparently, agreed to some sort of endorsement deal with the bank.) I stood there and smiled for a minute.

    Then, and I don’t know how to explain it, I just knew. I turned 90 degrees and saw him sitting – alone – at a desk in this nearly empty bank branch, hands folded on the desk and smiling at my reaction to running into his standup.

    I walked over, introduced myself, and we exchanged pleasantries. I realized that, the whole brief time I was talking to him, something just felt right…good…something out of the ordinary in a good way.

    I always felt that way during the extremely brief encounters I had with him, but I noticed it that day. I don’t know if you believe in auras or whatever, but I do now.

    Thanks for being the best role model anyone could have Coach. Here’s to your extremely joyful reunion with Nellie.

  • Robert

    He was a shining light that provided love and wisdom to so many people. At his basketball camp that I attended as a youngster, he asked if he could sit down and join me for breakfast. I was stunned because it was his camp and I had seen him on tv and here he was making me not just a camper but a friend.

    God bless John Wooden and comfort his family and loved ones.

    He is one of the great public role models of the 1900s and will be sorely missed.

  • Bruin18

    I was lucky to have known Coach Wooden almost my entire life (63 yrs). When my dad died 10 years ago he called my mom and told her that one day he and Nellie and my mom and dad would someday all be together again. My mom is still alive but Coach and his dear bride are indeed together. Thank you coach. I can never express what you have meant to me.

  • Mike H class of 90

    Another nice article for those who want to check it out…RIP, coach…

  • Richard Robbins

    I can’t think of another person that I have admired as much in my lifetime as Coach. I only saw him in person once, other than across Pauley, but he touched my life.

    As a youngster I grew up watching the classy way that he approached the game. As an adult I understood more and more that the game was just a game, and the man was the class without any “act”.

    Say Hi to Nellie for us Coach!


  • bbruin

    The best coach ever and he was an even better teacher and human being. His teachings are inspirational. I particularly like his book – Wooden A lifetime of Observations and Reflections….

    I will miss his presence, it was a comfort to have him on the planet with us.

  • tim warren

    Last year, Sporting News conducted a survey of over 100 Hall of Fame athletes, championship coaches, etc to see who they thought might be the best all time American coach, any sport, any level.

    Although he had been out of coaching for 34 years at the time, Coach won in a landslide. Vince Lombardi was second.

    Here’s the link:


  • JJA42

    It doesn’t involve me directly, but I thought it said a lot about the man.

    This past gymnastics season I am sitting in my usual spot, which if you remember Pauley is actually where Coach sat for many years behind the UCLA bench. (I sit there to (a) try and absorb the wisdom and (b) it is furthest from the beam and still on the floor.) We are going against Stanford so it was a big meet. The visitor’s locker room is to my right and warm-ups are ended so the Stanford team is making their way past me before the meet is about to start. Then, all of a sudden, each one turns around and RUNS the other way back towards what would be half court. I am sitting there thinking, “what is going on?” I stand up to look.

    Coach was there and they all went over to say Hello. It’s 2010. He’s 99 years old. It is not even a basketball game. And they all RAN because he was there and they had a chance to shake his hand. Teen age gymnasts from another school. Amazing.

  • neil schoolnik

    Coach wooden made you want to be a better person, whether it was as an athlete or simply justa s a human being, That is the enduring legacy of this giant of a man. He just wanted you to be the best you could.


    The year was 1995 at a send off for the tournament bound basketball team. My 14 year old son and I attended a luncheon send off for the team. All of the then current coaches and team members were there, as well as Coach Wooden. My son took a basketball with him just in case he could get some of the players to sign the ball.

    Coach Wooden was at a special table for autographing and I want with my son to that table. My son gave Coach Wooden the ball and asked if he could sign it the Wizard of Westwood – John Wooden. The Coach looked straight at my son and very nicely, but firmly, said that he never liked being called the Wizard of Westwood because it was too self-centered and that the teams he coached had won the championships, not him. He then smiled at my son and said he would gladly sign the ball with his name and the words “former basketball coach of the UCLA Bruins”. My son smiled back and said thank you.


    BTW – my son went around and got every player and then current coach to sign the basketball as well. It is proudly displayed in my son’s home in a protective case.

    Rest in Peace Coach and I know you are happy seeing your wonderful Nell again.

  • Evan Olins

    I started watching UCLA basketball at the men’s gym, Pan Pacific, SamoCC, etc,.in the early 1950’s. In the late 1950’s I was a Phys Ed major at UCLA. Classes in specific sports were coached by varsity coaches. John Wooden had not yet achieved his on court success that would soon follow, so he participated in our basketball class for a few sessions, unlike football where only assistant coaches taught us. Of course I didn’t have the experiences or relationship with him that his varsity players did but it’s still fun to tell people John Wooden coached me in basketball at UCLA. I do then elaborate on the specifics so as not to mislead. On a more current note, Ernie Sheldrake was here in Kona a few years ago and came to our local gym to workout. I enjoyed his memories of UCLA basketball on those old inadequate courts before the Sports Arena, and of course Paluley.

  • MichaelRyerson

    Not much of a story I’m afraid but…mid-60’s, a friend is showing me around campus for the first time so I won’t get lost, finally we break for lunch and go to the Student Union to buy some food and then find a place to sit down for a while. He says, ‘Let’s go over to Pauley and eat.’ So we walk over, through what was then much more open spaces and I can see the doors are closed and I say, ‘Oh they’ve got it closed up.’ And he says, ‘Yeah but it’s never locked.’ So we let ourselves in and sit in the dark watching practice. I look around and there are maybe 15 other students watching or remarkably some doing their homework! lol. Anyway, we were watching a National Championship team go hard against each other in what was a tight, 90 minute practice. No standing around. Drills and teaching going on in every corner of the building and then a meeting at the midcourt, a rousing eight-clap and some laughter. Through it all Coach Wooden, wearing a light warm-up jacket and old fashioned UCLA shorts snapped chest passes, pulled players aside to talk briefly, or quietly stood off to one side to watch. Amazingly, I think all his practices were open, he wasn’t putting in any secret plays for a specific opponent or concerned with what some casual observers might think about his program. He just did his business, calm, direct and positive. Through the years we’ve all thought we got to know him, even if just a little bit. Some of the things I’ve tried to teach my son came directly from him and I’ve tried to conduct myself with the same decency (without always succeeding). In some small way, I’m a better person because of John Wooden. The world is a poorer place without him in it. He looked forward to seeing Nell again. They’re holding hands right now.

  • Becky ’87

    In the mid-1970’s, there was an early sports-talk show on TV called The Steam Room, in which a sports figure would join the host and answer questions from the audience. Coach Wooden was one of its inaugural guests, and as the producer was a friend of my parents I had the thrill of not only being at the taping but also of being chosen to ask Coach a question. So, brash pre-teen that I was, I asked why he didn’t protest games when the officiating was bad enough to affect the outcome of the game. In what I now understand to be a classic Coach teaching moment, his answer was that the officials do the best they can.

    Fast forward about 30 years, I’m now a 40-something adult at a basketball game in Pauley, and the line for Coach’s autograph is shorter than usual. As he signed my program, I mentioned the old show and my question. He asked if I remembered his answer. I told him that indeed I did remember it well, and that I put his advice to good use when dealing with the 20-somethings that I supervise at work… and also with the 50- and 60-somethings who supervise me.

    Thank you, Coach, for making me a better person.