Tuesday, June 08, 2010
I grew up in a basketball crazy family. And that's putting it mildly. Somewhere around 1950 or 51 my mother decided that if she ever wanted to spend an evening with my father, she better pack us kids up and take us to the gym. We were at basketball games about five days out of the week. When we were old enough to sit by ourselves, mom worked the refreshment stand. I, of course, practiced being a cheerleader doing cartwheels on stage at St. Mary's Lyceum as if no one was watching. They were.
And then there's the story about how my dad got kicked out of a game for getting 12 technicals. He went and got The Madonna and sat her right in the middle of the court and told the ref's that she wasn't moving until he was allowed back in the game. She was TWO YEARS OLD!
The reason for all these basketball flashbacks? John Wooden, the coach every person who ever coached basketball aspired to be, passed away this past week at the age of 99.
Anyone who grew up in Lawrencevile knows my father's coaching style was more like Bobby Knight. They all have their favorite "Coach" story about my dad. But he idolized John Wooden and the UCLA Bruins. Our family dog, a big ol' sheepdog, was named Kareem. I know. We were weird.
I have been online this week reading some of the news accounts of his life. In an age when it seems the athletes run the show and leave college after a year or two, reading accounts from his former players is truly inspirational. He took the responsibility of not only teaching these kids to play basketball, but he prepared them to be leaders in life off of the basketball court as well. As Kareem Abdul Jabbar said it wasn't enough to just teach him to play basketball. He wanted to coach scholar athlete's. I read somewhere that when he recruited Kareem, who was then known as Lew Alcindor, Coach Wooden memorized poems by Lansgton Hughes, a black modern poet. He used that as a bridge to relate to his 7'2" star. It worked.
I could go on and on here, but I thought I would mention a few Wooden-isms. Famous Quotes by John Wooden.
Don't measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.
If you don't have the time to do it right, when will you have the time to do it over?
It's what you know after you know it all that counts.
Never mistake activity for achievement. (I like that one!)
Winning takes talent, to repeat takes character.
Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.
And my personal favorite. What you are as a person is much more important than what you are as a basketball player.
These are just a few of the reason's why there will never be another coach like John Wooden, and teams that he coached at UCLA. Not even sacred Duke with their Polish Prince.... They don't even come close.
I'm saying this as Red Quinlan's daughter. The same Red Quinlan who made his teams wear suits to every game. Even during the 70's. The same Red Quinlan that former players still are afraid to let him know that they smoke cigarettes. Even though they are well into their 50's and early 60's. And the same Red Quinlan that would talk basketball strategy to his kids every evening during dinner. It helped me get a date once when I was in DC. I was watching a game on TV in our "lounge" room at the apartment complex where I lived. I started talking basketball with the guy sitting next to me. Finally he said to me, "Would you like to go out with me. I never talked sports like this with a girl before?" We went out once or twice. It didn't work. I knew more about basketball than he did. In the 70's, that was a no-no!