Monday, August 07, 2006

Wooden Gets the Final Say, as Usual

By Larry Stewart
Los Angeles Times

Attending a UCLA basketball reunion Saturday night at a hotel near Los Angeles International Airport were players from just about every era from the 1950s on, plus current Coach Ben Howland and former coaches John Wooden, Jim Harrick, Gary Cunningham, Walt Hazzard, Steve Lavin and former assistant coach Denny Crum.

Singled out for special recognition were players from Wooden's first three teams — 1948-49, 1949-50 and 1950-51.

After rather long-winded talks by Ralph Joekel and Bobby Pounds from those teams, Wooden said, "I may have failed in many areas in teaching you the game of basketball, but it's obvious I did not fail in teaching you to talk."

Trivia time: The 1949-50 UCLA team advanced to the NCAA tournament, thanks to a half-court shot by Joekel against Washington State. How many teams played in the tournament that year?

Honest John: Plenty of good-natured ribbing took place at the reunion, and Wooden joined in the fun. Barry Porter, who played for Wooden in the early 1950s and went on to an award-winning career as a teacher and coach at West Covina High, was sitting at Wooden's table.

"Barry asked me tonight why I didn't play him more," Wooden said to the crowd. "I told him, 'I've always tried to be honest with my players, so in your case you weren't any good and I didn't like you.' "

That one might have received the loudest laugh of the night.

No letup: Wooden took shots at a few other players, including Bill Walton for overcoming a speech impediment and learning how to talk but failing to learn how to stop talking.

Of Keith Erickson, Wooden said, "Keith just asked me why I never asked him to shoot. I told him I wanted to save him any embarrassment because he wasn't a very good shooter."

Said Erickson: "That may have been one cut-up too many."

An old trick: Erickson was stationed at Wooden's table in the audience to hold a microphone for him. But the first one he had wouldn't work.

Before a replacement was brought in, Lynn Shackelford, who was serving as the emcee at the podium, where the microphone was working fine, said to Erickson, "Did you try turning it on?"

Erickson: "I didn't take that class."

Added Shackelford, who was the Lakers' television and radio commentator during the 1970s: "Live mike, dead mike. Chick Hearn pulled that trick on me a few times."

Trivia answer: Eight. The Bruins lost in the first round at Kansas City, Mo., to Bradley, then lost a consolation game to Brigham Young.

And finally: Despite the problems with the microphone, Shackelford declared the reunion a success.

"We kept Bill Walton off the podium," he said.

(reprinted with permission)



Post a Comment

<< Back To Bruin Basketball Report Home