John Wooden and Time

Duke basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski, has said that you can debate who is the second best college basketball coach of all time, but there is no debating who was best. The very best there ever was, John Wooden, the legendary coach of Lou Alcindor (Kareem Abdul Jabbar), Bill Walton, and the Bruins of UCLA, passed away earlier this week at the age of 99.

A  midwesterner who made his mark in Tinseltown, Wooden’s teams earned a record 10 NCAA championships, a mark that will stand the test of time. (No other coach has more than 4.)

After reading through a slew of tributes to Coach Wooden and pondering his famous list of quotes (“A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.”)  what surprised me most was learning that Wooden didn’t win his first championship until his 16th year at UCLA.

It is hard to imagine — in today’s frantic speed up the microwave pop-corned world of instant expectations — an athletic director giving any  coach 6 years, let alone 16. It’s reassuring to know that even the “Wizard of Westwood” needed some time to create a program that would stand the test of time.


One thought on “John Wooden and Time

  1. The honorific “coach” is used in America the same way “Dr.”, “Rev” or “professor” is; the role carries a teaching role and a moral suasion at any level below coaching professionals. Canadian university athletes, playing to often empty stands, do nevertheless have a tradition of great teacher-coaches. Frank Tindal (football, Queen’s) Dave King (hockey, Univ. of Saskatchewan) and Byron McDonald (swimming, UofT) are just a few.

    And lest we forget our own school, it is remarkable how many teacher coaches have had a profound influence on the development of young people, both here and elsewhere: Rodger Wright comes immediately to mind (Class of 70) as an inspirational track and cross country coach, as does Dave Hadden who presided over a football dynasty in the early 80’s; both headed other Canadian independent schools.

    But closer to home I’d take our PHE teachers hands down as the best group of people you could want working with boys: so here’s to Coaches Badali, Hutton, McKay, Sturino, and all the rest who always encourage and never criticize.

    Adam de Pencier
    English Department
    Upper Canada College

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