Coach Wooden, RIP

I first learned about John Wooden when my college basketball team was on a trajectory of consecutive wins in 2000. As we passed 70 consecutive wins, we started targeting Coach Wooden's record of 88 wins in a row with the '71-'74 UCLA men's team. We surpassed the record for DIII (SUNY Potsdam men's 1987 team hit 60). We surpassed the record for NCAA Women's Basketball of all Divisions (Connecticut made it to 70 wins in a row in 2003, after we ended our streak).

NCAA Record Book

We lost our 81st game, against the small religious school across the street. Sports Illustrated was there to report on our streak. And we lost. But we made it far enough that only one team in NCAA, any Division, had more consecutive wins than us. And that was Coach Wooden's 1970's Bruins.

When my team won their fourth national championship, we got these beautiful rings that had a big "81" inscribed in the side. I would look down and see that 81 and feel connected in this crazy way to my former coach, to Coach Wooden, and to the principles they both demonstrated.

A few of my favorite Wooden quotes:

"Success comes from knowing that you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming."

"Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do."

"Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there."

"If you're not making mistakes, then you're not doing anything. I'm positive that a doer makes mistakes."

And, ironically, it was John Wooden who led me to believe that maybe it was time for me to quit basketball during my junior year:

"What you are as a person is far more important that what you are as a basketball player."

A couple of weeks ago I took off my ring for a league basketball game, and when I went to put it back on I couldn't find it. Given that I played off the bench, I'm not exactly sure about asking for a replacement, but I've got to say I've missed that ring immensely.

And today I miss it more.

Rest in Peace, Coach.

No comments: