Jim Harrick, on the passing of John Wooden

How are you right now?
“He was my mentor, and he’s a guy I learned so much basketball from. He’s really responsible for everything I’ve ever done. It’s a sad day, even though we knew it was coming. He meant so much to everybody. Probably the greatest thing I could say is he had the least ego of anyone I ever knew. Never let anything he accomplished get in the way he felt. He was a superb man. Boy I tell you, we all looked up to him.”

Coach Howland has said he just feels like the torch-bearer, but the program still belongs to Coach Wooden. Did you share that sentiment?
“Without a doubt. He built it. Everything he did was his. It has his touch. We maintained it. It was his. He put that school on the map, made it as famous as it is today.”

At the Finals game last night, so many players and coaches had wonderful things to say about Coach Wooden. Are you surprised by the outpouring of love?
“It’s called the game of basketball, and we’re all in it. He’s the primary caretaker of the game. The symbol of everything that basketball stood for, for so many people. So many lives he touched. He could sit down and talked to anybody. Loved to talk to coaches, JV coaches, sophomore coaches. Anyone. If you’re ever going to call anyone a coach, it’s him.”

“I’ve followed him for a long time. I saw him at Christmas for a long time. Spent a long time with him just talking. My wife passed away in November, his wife had passed long ago, and he sat with me for so long. He really grabbed me close and held me, told me, ‘I know how you feel.’ We talked for a long, long time. Saw him in the hospital the last time he was there. Talked every few days. We knew it was coming, and his health had really gotten to the point where quality of life wasn’t great.
“But even though you know it’s coming, it’s still sad to lose a man like him.”

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