Saturday, June 5, 2010


I came home from a long day, trying to ready myself for a long (but exciting) weekend, to find some sad news on my internet homepage. John Wooden, the Wizard of Westwood, dead at 99 years of age.


What must that feel like to walk this planet for nearly a century? In the past 99 years, how much did he witness?

  • Women winning the right to vote.
  • The Great Depression
  • The Holocaust
  • Armstrong's Walk on the Moon
  • The assassinations of two Kennedys and Dr. King
  • De-segregation and the eventual election of our first black President
  • Two World Wars, the Korean War, Vietnam, and two more wars in Iraq
  • Hiroshima and Nagasaki
  • The OKC bombing, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina
  • Both the fear and the fall of Communism
  • The birth of television, the evolution of cinema, and the appearance of personal computers, the internet, and gadgets like the iPhone.

How does one person reconcile such change in the world around him? How does one person wrap his brain around how drastically different life is at the end than it was ninety-nine years before? How does one heart sustain the sadness on that list? How does one heart contain the joy from the other parts of history, those of the of the world and of his own private life?

I cannot fathom it.

My high school basketball coach was the first to introduce me to the legend of Coach Wooden. His simplicity and grace and wisdom were a siren song to me, and my interest and study of him and his philosophies only grew throughout the years. John Wooden stopped coaching before I was even born, and although his achievements in basketball are incredible and awe-inspiring, it is his life away from the court that fascinates me most.

He was a man of simple nature. He believed in the basics; that the fundamentals, if laid correctly, would guide you to success. In life, in basketball, and in love. This was a man who kissed his junior high sweetheart, married her, treasured her for 53 years, and wrote a love letter to her every month for the last 24 years since her death. For me, that is an accomplishment greater than 100 national championships, and it saddens me that this, this love and dedication, is not what he is remembered for most.

One of my top 100 wishes was to hear him speak in person, in some sort of hope that his wisdom and patience would float through the air and nestle within my spirit. Now that wish will go forever ungranted.

I don't know where this post is going. It's late, and I'm tired. But it's a day I want to remember because as a coach and a teacher, he was one of the most revered of his time. But as a human... as a man... that is where I suspect most of the magic lay, and I hope that wherever one lands when they are gone from this swiftly spinning rock, he is hand-delivering that love note to the most important person of his 99 years.

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