Saturday, June 5, 2010

Wooden's character beyond reproach

UCLA coaching legend John Wooden passed away Friday night at the age of 99 as one of America's most beloved figures.

I never had the pleasure of meeting the man called, "The Wizard of Westwood."

However, I've known many folks who played with, worked with or had long-standing relationships with him. Never once have I heard an untoward word.

Virtually everyone has someone with something bad to say about them, but not Wooden,

Moreover, Wooden seemed to have garner the respect of everyone - friend or foe - who had the pleasure of his contact.

Google, Bing or utilize whatever search engine you like to read his "pyramid of success," and its basics and simple concepts and theories display his intelligence, grounded mindset and ability to see what 99 percent of us cannot.

The other .9999 percent of us couldn't articulate it nor certainly live up to those principles.

Reading about his actions over the years indicates an off-the-meter character life level to which we only can strive to attain.

In the mid-1940s, Wooden, then the Indiana State Teachers College coach, turned down a post-season tournament invitation because African-Americans were prohibited from participation.

Wooden worked as a truck dispatcher at a San Fernando Valley dairy in the mornings of his first four years as the UCLA coach.

He never was paid more than $35,000 as the Bruins' coach and reportedly turned down an offer of 10 times as much from the Los Angeles Lakers. And this is a man who won 10 championships in 12 years with the Bruins.

Life clearly wasn't about money to Wooden.

Former players say Wooden taught them natural life lessons that would help them become successful in any endeavor. Even during games, players say, winning rarely was discussed.

Do things right always was the bottom line.

Remember, this was a man who taught his players how to correctly put on their socks.

Life doesn't get much more basic.

Gasol speaks his mind like most Euros

Lakers forward/center Pau Gasol spoke Friday honestly about how he believed Boston's Kevin Garnett, 34, has become more of a perimeter player over the years.

That seems pretty evident to me. Even one of the most dominant post players ever - Shaquille O'Neal - is less effective now than he once was. Mostly, that's because our bodies eventually betray us. Gasol will turn 30 July 6.

One day, another player accurately will say the same thing about him.

After covering Vlade Divac, Hedo Turkoglu, Sarunas Marciulionis and Peja Stojakovic it has become clear Europeans generally speak what comes to their mind about others as well as themselves.

In the U.S., that approach sometimes is frowned upon, even by the same knuckleheads who ask the questions.

As media folk as well as just folk, don't ask a question if an honest answer isn't sufficient.

Thibodeau shows brass ornaments

For a couple of years, the word was Boston assistant coach Tom Thibodeau badly wanted an NBA head coaching job.

Then this week, the New Orleans Hornets offered him their gig and he put them on hold. Thibodeau seemingly had options in Chicago and New Jersey, among others.

It's sometime funny how perspective can change. Thibodeau couldn't get a job last year, now he's overflowing with offers. One only could hope Thibodeau has something firm in hand and his opportunities don't dissolve into a mirage.

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