Friday, October 12, 2007

They'll Take It From Here, Coach Wooden

By Bill Dwyre
Los Angeles Times

[reprinted with permission]

The years are adding up as fast as all those NCAA basketball titles he won. John Wooden will turn 97 Sunday, and those who think that makes him blessed have it wrong.

The rest of us are blessed.

We used to ponder the unthinkable. Now we assume immortality and refuse to think otherwise.

It will be a weekend of celebration. The former UCLA basketball coach turned philosopher and humanist will go along to the parties and be the most bemused person there.

He has never quite figured out that the rest of us have figured him out, that we now understand how basketball was merely a front for a career of teaching life and perspective.

Friday night, close friends and many former UCLA players gathered at the home of former player Andy Hill, a member of three of Wooden's 10 NCAA title teams. Sunday will be time for immediate family, a group that has mushroomed with grandchildren and great grandchildren for party of about 40.

Today, we will let a selection of his former students do the public celebration. Their names are familiar because their classroom was Pauley Pavilion. They could be considered Wooden's all-time All-American team, but you'd have to go about 30 deep to truly do that justice.

So Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Mike Warren, Henry Bibby, Gail Goodrich and Bill Walton -- imagine what a three-guard, double-post offense that would have been -- have the podium.



Abdul-Jabbar is 60, an assistant coach with the Lakers. He was the star on three of Wooden's NCAA title teams and is the leading scorer in NBA history. He has written six books and is currently working on a documentary about the Harlem Rens professional basketball team of the 1930s.

"I would not have had any success as a parent if I had not had John Wooden as a coach," he says. "He gave me ideas of what the boundaries are. My children are all college graduates, none have substance-abuse problems and none have children out of wedlock."

Abdul-Jabbar, then known as Lew Alcindor and referred to by Wooden as "Lewis," remembers learning to never doubt his coach's wisdom.

"My sophomore year, we were playing Colorado State," he says. "It's at Pauley, but it is close. At a timeout, late in the second half, his instructions were surprising, contrary to logic, contrary to something I thought we should be doing. They had the ball and I was looking for defensive instructions, how to stop them this time down. Instead, he told us to foul one of their guards as soon as he got across half court. They were in the one-and-one, so that really didn't make sense to me.

"But we did as we were told, and the guy missed the front end of the one-and-one. We got the rebound, went down and scored and the game was over.

"Never again did I question him."



Warren is 61, and was recruited from South Bend Central High in Indiana, where Wooden had once taught and coached. He was on two NCAA title teams and has had a successful acting career. Currently, he works on ABC's "Lincoln Heights" and is doing on a documentary he calls a love story. It is about John and the late Nell Wooden.

"One of the reasons I left the Midwest was to get away from my parents," he says. "They were great parents. No one in my life has been more important than my parents. But it was time for me to be on my own. So I go 2,000 miles and there he is, John Wooden, just like them.

"I arrive and I am 18 years old, a grown man now, of course. And there are parties and something going on day and night in the UCLA campus. I'm there, enjoying it all.

"Then I get a call to see Coach Wooden. I'm fine. Excited. Figure we would talk about basketball. Then I get to his office and he's looking at me. Those beady eyes. He asks me if I know why I am here and I tell him yes, to play basketball. And he says, no, I'm here to get an education and if I don't shape up, I'm going to get neither basketball nor an education. He says my parents would certainly not appreciate the way I am conducting myself.

"The next quarter, I was on the Dean's List."



Bibby is 57, in his third season as an assistant coach with the Philadelphia 76ers. He is a former coach of USC and the Sparks of the WNBA. With Bibby as starting guard, UCLA won three titles.

Bibby played high school basketball in Franklinton, N.C., population 1,300. There were 19 students in his graduating class. Wooden heard about him during a basketball camp appearance in Bowie, N.C., and visited him and his parents.

"It was 1968, it was the South," Bibby says, "and yet they looked at him as nothing more than a man, right from the start. There were no race issues at all. With them, it was never about UCLA. It was about John Wooden."

Bibby says he went to Wooden's house four or five years ago, to talk about jobs, ask for advice, just catch up on things.

"That day changed my life," he says. "It was like going home to your parents. I saw how it was never about one player, but about all his players. He didn't care about the game or the winning, just the people."



Goodrich is 64, lives in Greenwich, Conn., and works as an analyst for NBA TV and for ESPN International. Goodrich starred in the first two of Wooden's NCAA titles, in 1964 and '65.

"I remember in the locker room before that first title game in '64," he says. "We were 29-0, playing Duke, and Coach Wooden started to talk. No fire and brimstone. He just told us that we got there playing a certain way -- full-court press, taking full advantage of our quickness -- and regardless of the outcome, we should play the way we knew.

"Then, he did something I'll never forget. He asked us all if we remembered who finished second last year. Nobody said a word. I actually did remember. Loyola of Chicago had beaten Cincinnati. But I didn't say anything.

"He waited, then said that nobody will remember who finishes second tonight."

Goodrich says he once tried a behind-the-back pass and the ball went into the stands.

"In the locker room, he went off on me, but as only he can do," Goodrich says. "He never cursed, but when he started out with his 'Goodness gracious sakes alive,' I knew I was in big trouble."



Walton is 54, almost as big a star in the world of sports broadcasting as he was at UCLA and in the NBA. He starred on two NCAA title teams.

He talks to Wooden frequently, in person and by phone, and jokes that, as a person who once had a speech impediment that made him verbally withdrawn, he may have overdone his turnaround.

"The famous broadcaster, the late Marty Glickman, taught me how to get past my speech problems in order to be a broadcaster," Walton says. "Now, Coach Wooden is always saying to me how sad it is that Marty is not with us anymore so he could get me to shut up."

Walton might be the most loyal of all Wooden loyalists. And he always takes note when he sees where that loyalty originated.

"When Shaq was getting to be a star big man," he says, "they made a commercial and brought other big centers in for the shoot. I was there and Kareem and several others and Wilt. They also had Coach Wooden, as part of it, sitting in a director's chair. So Wilt, always dominating everything, gets us all together and he says to Coach Wooden, 'Johnny -- always called him Johnny -- so, look around you, you're the coach. Who gets to start?'

"Wooden doesn't even hesitate. He says to Wilt, 'Which one of you won three NCAA titles?' Then he looks at Kareem."

Because he always has so many, Walton will get the last word. His teammates here would understand.

"People who don't know John Wooden come up to me and say, 'Ah, come on, you talk like he's perfect.' I tell them that he isn't perfect. That, actually, he's better than that."


Dwyre can be reached at

(photo credit:


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Bruin's Other Freshman Ready To Contribute

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

After leading his high school team to a state championship last season, the incoming freshman is finally fulfilling his dream of wearing the blue and gold in Pauley Pavilion.

No, we're not talking about Kevin Love.

A matter of fact Love didn't even win his state championship last season - but Chace Stanback the "other" Bruin freshman did.

Stanback averaged 25.8 point and 11.9 rebounds in leading his Fairfax Lions to a 28-5 record and a victory over Oakland McClymonds in the California Division I championship game. He garnered individual honors winning the state Division I Player of the year.

While his fellow freshman, Kevin Love, is a gregarious kid who has a natural gift for dealing with media and the public, Stanback is more reserved and soft spoken yet possesses a quiet steely confidence about himself.

In his four seasons at Fairfax Stanback steadily improved his game each and every year which impressed Bruin Head Coach Ben Howland enough to recruit him and offer a scholarship. Stanback gave UCLA an early verbal commitment in his junior year.

"Chace has a great attitude and work ethic, and works hard to improve his game." Howland said.

It's his work ethic the Bruins are counting on this season from Stanback as he learns the system and develops his game.

The 6'8 210lb freshman is already familiar with most of his new teammates since he grew up in the local area and played in summer pick-up games against them.

At Fairfax he played a single year with Josh Shipp.

"I played with Josh when I was a freshman and he was a senior," Stanback said. "I looked up to him and learned a lot that year and then watched him play great at UCLA".

Stanback understands he's the new kid on a team flush deep with returning veterans at the wing position, but he's ready to contribute when called upon.

"I want to give the team anything they need," Stanback said. "If they need a score, I'll try to score, if they need me to shut someone down - I can do that as well."

BBR Notes: The Bruins will hold their first practice tonight from 10:00PM to 12:30AM; however, the practice is closed to the public and media.

UCLA basketball staff will be holding its annual coaching clinic on November 3rd from 8:30AM to 3:30PM. The cost is $50.00 per coach or $170.00 per staff (no more than 4) $60.00 for walkups.

(photo: Bruin Basketball Report)


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Mbah a Moute Looks To Round Out His Game

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

Entering the 2007-08 season with two varsity letters and two Final Fours under his belt, Mbah a Moute speaks with the confident air of, well, a prince.

No longer does Mbah a Moute pay heed to the external voices whispering into his ear that he needs to improve his outside shooting in order to play at the next level.  Instead, the junior forward is working on simply improving his overall game.

"Many people put a lot of emphasis on my shooting, and I did a lot
of shooting over the summer, " Mbah a Moute said. "But I feel I have to
work on my ball handling, passing, driving - all the other things in my game because I just can't put all the emphasis on shooting and forget everything else."

With the arrival of Kevin Love, Head Coach Ben Howland has stated Mbah a Moute would spend minutes at the wing this season  - a position Mbah a Moute had hoped to play more at last season.  But his attitude and approach to the game is different this year.

"I'm not really focused on what position I play this season," Mbah a Moute said. "I now
understand I can play anywhere on the floor and help the team and that I just need to work to
improve my entire game.  Whether Coach puts me at the 3 or the 4, I just have to be ready to play.

Mbah a Moute worked hard over the offseason to improve his conditioning and to strengthen his knees.  At times last season, he suffered from knee tendinitis which seemed to prevent him from exhibiting the same level of explosiveness he showed during his freshman year.
"I did a lot work over the summer stretching and strengthening the muscles around my knees and hip area," Mbah a Moute said. "Our trainers pointed out that could be what caused the pain last season.   

Mbah a Moute is looking forward to having freshman Kevin Love on the court with him.  Although the team's leading rebounder the past two years knows he'll have quite a challenge to repeat again this season with Love grabbing a good share of the rebounds.

"It makes it a more competitive situation because he's such a great player and rebounder," Mbah a Moute said.  "I'm competitive, he's competitive.  Just having him here makes us a better team."

Over the summer, Mbah a Moute had the honor of playing for his home country in the FIBA Africa tournament.  Although his team lost in the finals to Angola, Cameroon still has the chance to earn an Olympic bid through an upcoming qualifying tournament. 

"Playing in the Final Four was a great experience but playing for the national team was totally different," Mbah a Moute said.  "You can't really compare the two because they each have their own taste.  At UCLA you have the pressure of living up to the tradition of a great program while in the (FIBA) tournament you're representing your whole country. I was fortunate to do both."

(photo: Bruin Basketball Report)


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Bruins Ready To Start The Season

By KS Wong
Bruin Basketball Report

The UCLA Bruin basketball team stepped onto Nell and John Wooden Court in Pauley Pavilion donning their new gold "C" uniforms to meet the media Tuesday afternoon.

The special designation on the uniform represents the university's achievement of becoming the first athletic program to win 100 NCAA championships.

UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland welcomed the media and began his interview, as he has the past few years, proclaiming his team would go as far as its health would allow it.

"We have a very experienced team coming back," Howland said. "Provided we stay healthy, we have a chance to have a great year."

The Bruins begin the 2007-08 campaign with only eleven scholarship players on the roster due to the unexpected departures of Arron Afflalo to the NBA and transfer of Ryan Wright. A collegiate team is allowed thirteen total scholarships.

Already the team has suffered a bevy of injuries from over the summer.

Sophomore James Keefe injured his shoulder in a pick-game earlier this summer which required surgery. His recovery is ahead of schedule at this point and he may return in mid-December in time to play against Idaho St. Keefe will begin polymetric exercises next week.

Two weeks ago Lorenzo Mata-Real suffered a sprained foot when he stepped on a player's shoe during a pick-up game. Mata-Real is expected to begin light basketball drills this Friday for the first time since the injury and is expected to be ready for the preseason opener.

Forward Nikola Dragovic, unknown to Howland at the time, had double-hernia surgery over the summer while he was back in Serbia. Dragovic is fully healed and should be ready to play by the start of the season.

Red-shirt junior Josh Shipp has been recuperating from offseason hip surgery. Howland stated he was very pleased with Shipp's individual workout yesterday and expects him to be at full strength by the start of the season.

As for incoming players to the program, the Bruins are adding freshmen Kevin Love and Chace Stanback.

Kevin Love, whose arrival to Westwood has been one of the most highly anticipated in some time, should have an immediate impact this season. However when asked if Love would begin the season in the starting line-up, Howland would not commit to the move just yet.

"Right now my starters are Darren, Josh, Luc, and Lorenzo." Howland said referring to his returning starters from last season. "A number of players will be vying for the last spot."

Although realistically, it would be difficult to fathom Love not in the starting line-up at the start of the season. The 6'9 Love provides the Bruins an immediate upgrade in the low post and his rebounding and outlet passing should immediately change the complexion of the team on both ends of the court.

Among the other returning players, Howland is extremely positive on the offseason development of sophomore Russell Westbrook. While he expects Westbrook to play minutes backing-up Darren Collison at point-guard, he also says Westbrook will play the two-guard alongside Collison at times during the course of the game.

"Russell may have made more improvement than any other player in the program this offseason," Howland said. "He is really strong, very athletic and explosive , more so than he was a year ago. On defense, no one should be able to get by Russell, he is so much stronger now and actually grew some over the summer."

Howland said his team's primary focus is to win the Pac-10 this year and then let the chips fall as they may thereafter.

"The Pac-10 is by far the best conference in the country," Howland said. "Winning the Pac-10 is so important because it gives you the best chance to get back to the Final Four since it allows you to play close to home during the early games of the tournament."

The Bruins begin team practices on Friday night. The first game of the season is a preseason contest against Azusa Pacific on November 2.

(photo: Bruin Basketball Report)


Photos From UCLA Basketball Media Day 2007-08

(photo: Bruin Basketball Report)


The Season of Love


The 2007-08 UCLA basketball team was introduced at Media Day in Pauley Pavilion this afternoon.  Check back later for BBR coverage of the day.


(photo: Bruin Basketball Report)


Sunday, October 07, 2007

Bruin Recruiting: Prep News Roundup (10/8)

By Bruin Basketball Report

Prep News Roundup is published every Monday.


Kevin Love, UCLA. One college hoops insider suggested he would be an "instant double-double machine" in college. That was before Love's junior year in high school. It's possible Love will put up attractive numbers, but more important, he will serve as the foundation for a more functional attack. The Bruins now will be able to go inside-out with their offense, instead of relying on jumpshots. And, from his outlet passes, they at last will be able to run. Sporting News 10/5


There’s a ton of talent at the top of the Class of 2010. Jeremy Tyler, a power forward at San Diego (San Diego, Calif.), is a beast in the paint and an automatic double-double. His power game vaults him to the top of the rankings, but there’s plenty of competition. RISE Magazine 10/2

In mid-January, New London will attend the Big Apple Invitational at Baruch College in New York City and play San Diego High School. The Big Apple Invite annually draws the top high school programs in the country. San Diego, ranked in the national top 20 to begin last season, has perhaps the country's top sophomore in forward Jeremy Tyler, who has drawn interest from the country's top college programs, including UConn. Tyler participated in UConn's basketball camp in August. The Day 10/4

Fans might want to circle the date of Jan. 12. That's when Reeves Nelson, player for Modesto (Calif.) Christian, will play in a tournament at Lexington Catholic. Nelson is a do-everything 6-6 swing player. His game suggests a bigger version of Dane Bradshaw, whose intangibles helped fuel Tennessee's success the last two season. Or, if you prefer, Nelson might be a smaller version of a former Modesto Christian player, Chuck Hayes, whose intangibles make UK successful earlier this decade. Nelson's pickup games this fall have drawn the interest of coaches around the country. For instance, North Carolina had a representative watching play on Tuesday. The best may be yet to come. Nelson, a high school junior, only turned 16 in September. And he's a solid 232 pounds. Lexington Herald-Leader 10/7

J’Mison Morgan, 6-10, 275, South Oak Cliff High, Dallas: Has visited KU, LSU, UCLA and Alabama. Also has had Kentucky and Baylor on his list. Will choose a school on his birthday, Nov. 2. KU Sports 10/7

(photo credit: Kelly Kline/RISE Magazine)