The Sons of Westwood
John Wooden, UCLA, and the Dynasty That Changed College Basketball
Publication Year: 2013
Published by: University of Illinois Press
Series: Sport and Society
Time was running out. The old man everyone called “Coach” was dying. John Wooden had lived for nearly a century, spending most of his life teaching basketball and life lessons. As he approached his one-hundredth birthday, people often asked the shrinking little man in a wheelchair if he feared dying. “I am not afraid of death,” he answered barely above a whisper. ...
This book, and my career as a historian, has been shaped and influenced by great teachers. Looking back, my interest in John Wooden began when I was an undergraduate, studying to become a teacher myself. As a lifelong basketball fan and aspiring teacher, I turned to Coach Wooden’s little blue book of wisdom, ...
1. Goodness! Gracious! Sakes Alive!
John Wooden wanted to turn around, but it was too late. Indiana was long gone in his rearview mirror. In the summer of 1948, Wooden and his family packed their car and headed west on Route 66. Over the course of two weeks, they crossed the Mississippi River, traversed the Great Plains of Missouri, and continued through the flatlands of Oklahoma and Texas. ...
2. The Wizard of Westwood
Walt Hazzard had never heard of John Wooden. John Wooden had never heard of Walt Hazzard, either. The UCLA coach disliked recruiting and paid little attention to high school players outside of Southern California. Hazzard grew up in Philadelphia, twenty-seven hundred miles from Westwood. ...
3. The Promised Land
“I came here,” Gail Goodrich declared, “to play basketball.” It was his singular focus. His entire world centered on practice and games. As a boy, he dreamed of playing big-time college basketball, though he imagined that he would play for USC since his father had played there in the late 1930s. Unfortunately for him, few college coaches shared his dream. ...
4. Alone in a Crowd
“Freshmen are not allowed to talk to reporters.” Every time a writer approached Lew Alcindor with a tape recorder, pencil, and paper, he replied with this standard line. During his freshman year, the UCLA athletic department received more than one hundred requests to interview him, an unmatched volume for any player nationwide. ...
5. Everybody's All-American
There was no place to hide. Wherever Lew Alcindor went, reporters poked him with microphones and prodded him with questions, photographers stalked and blinded him with the flash of a camera, and strangers gawked and pointed as if it was impossible to miss a seven-foot black man standing among white Lilliputians. ...
6. Woman Chasers and Hopheads [Illustrations follow page 152]
In the summer of 1968, on a sweltering hot day, Lew Alcindor swaggered down the sidewalks of Harlem, soaking his long, brightly colored African robe with sweat. He did not care about the cruel summer heat. When he wore that loud red, orange, and yellow striped robe, he felt cool and hip. It was his way of saying, “This is me. I am black and I am proud to be black.” ...
7. The Desperate Coach
On the evening of May 4, 1970, eleven hundred UCLA alumni, fans, and parents gathered at the Beverly Hilton ballroom to celebrate another Bruins championship at the annual basketball team banquet. The night began like many other banquets, with boosters shaking hands with coaches, parents boasting about their sons, and players reminiscing about the season. ...
8. The Red Menace
On October 14, 1971, a day before Bill Walton’s first varsity practice, a Sports Illustrated photographer asked him to take a picture with Coach Wooden. Walton hated taking pictures and detested individual attention, especially because basketball was a team game. ...
9. The Rebel and the Saint
Bill Walton loved to argue with John Wooden. They debated everything: the war, politics, religion, clothes, curfew, and team rules. It seemed that every day, Walton irritated Wooden in practice, persistently asking the same questions. “Why do we have to do it this way? Why? Why? Why?” Before the first practice of Walton’s senior year, the All-American center tested Wooden again. ...
10. Cracks in the Pyramid
In 1974 the Sporting News’s Art Spander commented, “In these turbulent times, when other myths are being destroyed, when politicians have less veracity than circus pitchmen, when the economy is bouncing around like a free ball at midcourt, one thing remains constant, UCLA is still winning basketball games.” ...
11. The Godfather
We were just getting ready to celebrate,” Marques Johnson explained. Only minutes earlier, with less than ten seconds left in overtime, Johnson had passed the ball to Richard Washington, UCLA’s towering center. Standing about ten feet from the basket, Washington posted up against Louisville’s Bill Bunton, maneuvered past him with one dribble, and released a soft, arcing shot. ...