Skip to content

Coaches, ex-players remember Wooden

Jun 6, 2010, 8:56 AM EDT

 

The Associated Press ran down a host of coaches, former players and notable figures for their reactions to John Wooden’s death.

Also, you can find reactions from NBCSports.com’s users here.

“It’s kind of hard to talk about coach Wooden simply, because he was a complex man. But he taught in a very simple way. He just used sports as a means to teach us how to apply ourselves to any situation.
“He set quite an example. He was more like a parent than a coach. He really was a very selfless and giving human being, but he was a disciplinarian. We learned all about those aspects of life that most kids want to skip over. He wouldn’t let us do that.”
– Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

“He was always the boss. He always knew what to say. Even in the heyday of winning and losing, you could almost discuss anything with him. He always had that composure and wit about him. He could connect with all kind of people and situations and always be in control of himself and seemingly of the situation.”
– former UCLA star Jamaal Wilkes.

“…[W]e’ve lost a giant in all of sport with the passing of coach Wooden. Quite likely, his accomplishments as a college basketball coach will never be matched. Neither will the impact he had on his players or the greater basketball community. Many have called Coach Wooden the ‘gold standard’ of coaches. I believe he was the ‘gold standard’ of people and carried himself with uncommon grace, dignity and humility. Coach Wooden’s name is synonymous with excellence, and deservedly so. He was one of the great leaders – in any profession – of his generation. We are blessed that the sport of basketball benefitted from his talents for so long. Coach Wooden and his wisdom will be sorely missed.”
– Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.

“My reaction is sadness yet at this point we have to celebrate maybe the most important guy in the history of the game. There has been no greater influence on college basketball not just about the game but the team. He’s greatest coach in college basketball if not all basketball from the standpoint of all of us trying to emulate what he’s done. He gave so much to basketball and education. In my opinion if he’s not as important as Dr. Naismith, he’s right next to him.”
– Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun.

“He seemed to touch the inner soul of people when he was around them. He seemed to do it with so much grace and good will. When he was exalted to the highest, he still remained the man who grew up in rural Indiana and had that Midwestern friendliness, openness, that willingness to see the good in people.
“Everybody knew John Wooden, and everybody knew him in a loving manner. I don’t know anybody who ever had anything ill to say about the man, and that’s remarkable considering how many people he came into contact with. We lost a great man.”
– Bobby Plump, the former Butler star and “Hoosiers” inspiration.

“I have met Coach Wooden, about four years ago at the Final Four when it was here and it was a tremendous honor. He gave me one of his pyramid of success cards that I still have today and got a picture with him, and it was a tremendous honor.”
– Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning.

“When I think of a basketball coach the only one I ever thought of was Coach Wooden. He had a great life and helped so many coaches until well in his 90s. Every time I talked to him he would give me some words of advice. He’s the best of all time. There will never be another like him and you can’t say that about too many people. It’s a sad day but he had such an unbelievable run. I can’t tell you what he’s done for game of basketball and it’s not just the wins. It’s the attitude and the way he carried himself. I just can’t say enough about him.”
– Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim.

“I always sat and chatted with him before our games at UCLA and about five years ago he asked, ‘Can I come out and watch one of your practices?’ … We had a jet pick him up at Van Nuys Airport, just a few minutes from where he lived, and bring him (to Tucson). We had lunch and I asked if he could say a few words to the team. He said yes and spoke for 20 or 30 minutes. He never said a word about basketball, just talked about his philosophy of life and being the best that you could be.
“He has been anxious to be reunited with Nell for a lot of years, so this is not a sad experience for him I don’t believe. I don’t think there is anyone who had influenced the number of people in his life than he had.”
– former Arizona coach Lute Olson.

“This loss will be felt by individuals from all parts of society. He was not only the greatest coach in the history of any sport but he was an exceptional individual that transcended the sporting world. His enduring legacy as a role model is one we should all strive to emulate.”
– UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero.

“This is a sad day at UCLA. Coach Wooden’s legacy transcends athletics; what he did was produce leaders. But his influence has reached far beyond our campus and even our community. Through his work and his life, he imparted his phenomenal understanding of leadership and his unwavering sense of integrity to so many people. His ‘Pyramid of Success’ hangs in my office to remind me every day of what it takes to be an effective leader. He was truly a legend in his own time, and he will be a legend for generations to come.”
– UCLA chancellor Gene Block.

“You need not be a sports fan to mourn the passing of John Wooden. Coach Wooden took the self-sacrifice and teamwork required to be successful in basketball and modeled them into a paradigm for life. Through basketball, he taught generations of players and fans the values of love, friendship, responsibility and humility. ‘Make friendship a true art’ and ‘Give thanks for your blessings and ask for guidance every day’ were among his favorite maxims. I give thanks to God for the life and wisdom of John Wooden. May his soul, and all the souls of the faithful departed, rest in peace.”
– Cardinal Roger Mahony of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

“Even though we anticipated this day, the finality still strikes with a force equal to ton of bricks. There was the common affinity we shared for Purdue and UCLA and that forged a unique bond. My folks, Gene Keady, Pete Newell and coach Wooden were the most influential people in my life. I turned to him for perspective at every critical juncture over the past 20 years. Ninety-nine years of goodness and now he’s back with Nell.”
– St. John’s coach Steve Lavin, who coached for seven years at UCLA and also was an assistant at Purdue.

“John Wooden was a great coach and a great man. He was a man of humility who embodied the best in character and values, and exemplified what coaching is all about. I was fortunate enough to be honored with the Wooden Award in April, an award that now takes on added significance to me personally. I found out that I was being honored on his 99th birthday. To have the opportunity to go out to Los Angeles and see firsthand how great an impact he still has is something I will always be honored and humbled to be a part of. His legacy will endure forever.”
– Florida coach Billy Donovan.

“I am very saddened at the passing of John Wooden. In my lifetime, I was fortunate to call him a friend. As a coach, I always admired his gentle demand for nothing but excellence and his student-athletes delivered. He created role models on and off the court, and because of him, it is something I instilled in my players from my first day as a very young coach. The takeaways we all have been blessed with from knowing John Wooden are numerous. For all of his successes, he was such a humble man. Tonight, we have lost a true American icon.”
– Tennessee women’s coach Pat Summitt.

“Coach Wooden was probably the best coach ever, in any sport. A true gentleman and an incredible leader. Rest peacefully, Coach Wooden.”
– Kentucky coach John Calipari on Twitter.

“There isn’t a more respected, influential and genuine figure in the history of the game than Coach Wooden. This is a tremendous loss, but his legacy will live on through the countless people whom he touched over the years.”
– Purdue coach Matt Painter.

“I grew up in Los Angeles and UCLA was everything to me growing up. And coach Wooden — if there were a Mount Rushmore of American sport, John Wooden would be on it, not only for what he represented on the court, but what he represented off it. So my very best wishes go to the Wooden family. There has not been a finer gentleman in sports than John Wooden.”
– ESPN analyst Jay Bilas.

Mike Miller’s also on Twitter, usually talkin’ hoops. Click here for more.

  1. Latarsha Loma - Jun 13, 2010 at 1:25 AM

    Oh for sure, I love your website :) Richard Cowart

Leave Comment

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!

Featured video

Derrick Gordon says 'Why not me?'