After hearing of the great John Wooden's death at the age of 99 Friday, I listened to all the testimonials from the folks who'd had the good fortune to know him. One of Coach Wooden's greatest admirers (from afar) was New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin, and two years ago, they spent three hours together in Los Angeles. I talked to Coughlin soon after that meeting and he sounded like a kid who'd just met one of his heroes.
I asked the Giants on Saturday if Coughlin might want to share his thoughts on Wooden's passing. Here's the e-mail I quickly received:
"There is a great sense of emptiness today," wrote Coughlin. "We all knew this day was coming, and there was nobody more prepared for it than Coach Wooden because of his devout faith in God and his love for his late wife Nell and the knowledge that he would one day be together with her again. He was a man at peace.
"Still, that sense of emptiness comes from knowing we have lost a national treasure. I was very blessed and fortunate to have had a chance to visit with Coach Wooden a couple years ago just after the league meetings in California. My wife Judy had been encouraging me for years to make a point of going to see Coach Wooden, and with the help of mutual friends, I was able to.
"I spent three hours talking, but mostly listening, to Coach Wooden. It seemed like five minutes. What I have always appreciated about his philosophy is its simplicity and that it transcended sports. He wasn't just a basketball coach, he was and is a life coach, and for that, we can all be thankful. He was the best living example of his teachings about teamwork, preparedness and humility."
Tara Sullivan of the Bergen County Record also weighed in on Coughlin's admiration of Wooden today. I'm not really in position to say whether Wooden was the greatest coach who ever lived, but his legacy will likely be measured in how many lives he affected.