Former Arizona coach Lute Olson, in his 2006 autobiography, recalls a special phone call from UCLA coach John Wooden in the summer of 1971.
Olson’s Long Beach City College team had recently won the California Junior College championship by beating Cerritos Junior College.
One day during that summer the phone rang. It was Coach Wooden, inviting me to speak at his annual coaches clinic. I’m certain I responded calmly that I would be delighted. That’s the way I respond, calmly, but I’m just as certain I felt anything but calm. I was thrilled. There was no basketball coach — and few men — I admired more than John Wooden. Two years earlier I’d been coaching at Marina High School, and now the most successful coach in the history of college basketball was asking me to lecture other coaches.
Coach Wooden treated me with great respect that day, discussing basketball with me as an equal, even occasionally asking my opinion. I’m practiced at keeping my emotions contained but, dang it! this was a very special event for me. Afterward Coach Wooden and his wife, Nell, asked Bobbi and me to join several other coaches and their wives at dinner. We were all sitting a round table and a waitress came over and asked, “Would you like some wine or a cocktail?”
As well all looked at the wine list, ready for a nice, relaxing glass of wine, or two, Coach Wooden said simply, “No. No, we don’t care for any cocktails or wine.” You could hear the wine lists snapping closed. As far as any of us sitting at the table were concerned, not only didn’t we want any wine that night, we’d never wanted any wine in the past and never would want any wine in the future.
Wooden, by the way, wrote the foreward for Olson’s autobiography.
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