"What you are as a person is far more important than what you are as a basketball player."
John Wooden was one of the greatest men I ever knew. One of the reasons I played sports. An inspiration to a certain talented (but far too arrogant) young man trying to find his way in his (sometimes) misbegotten youth. Wooden was thought of more as parent and mentor than coach. I wish I had the honor of knowing first hand, as he retired from coaching before my freshman year.
I never played for Wooden (not being basketball inclined), but he was a presence when and wherever he showed up in Westwood. He was truly a gentle giant, and everyone with any sense or dignity silenced themselves to hear him speak.
Wooden's rules (not negotiable): No profanity, never be late and never - ever - criticize your teammate. Most anything else was open to discussion - on John's terms, of course.
His resume of talent is incredible: Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Bill Walton, Sidney Wilkes, Walt Hazzard, Jammal Wilkes, Lucious Allen - just to begin with. His influence over generations of players and coaches is the stuff legends are made of.
John Wooden easily qualifies. He will be missed, mostly because we don't see many like him come along in our lifetimes. He married the only woman he ever dated, but Nell sadly preceded him in 1985. It was said sometime in the past few days, John said he was "ready to see Nell again".
Her gain, our loss. RIP John.