UCLA carries Wooden's memory in Omaha

June, 18, 2010
OMAHA, Neb. -- On UCLA coach John Savage's dirt- and sweat-stained Bruins hat sit two letters carefully scribed in thick, black permanent marker. On the right-hand side, just above the seam where cap meets brim, is written "JW."

[+] Enlarge
John Savage
AP Photo/Eric FrancisJohn Savage and UCLA face Florida in the Bruins' opening game at the College World Series.

"Coach Wooden is a coach of all coaches," Savage said.

So Savage's team has followed his lead in honoring John Wooden, UCLA's legendary basketball coach, whose 10 championships are dwarfed by the number of life lessons taught.

The Bruins also have "JW" stickers for their batting helmets.

Two weeks ago, Wooden died at 99, ending a life full of unmatchable accomplishments and boundless teaching moments.

Savage accepted UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero's offer to become the school's baseball coach on June 1, 2004. Days later, the two met for breakfast with Wooden, the program's patriarch.

Wooden couldn't stop talking baseball.

"His first love was baseball," Guerrero said.

Wooden followed the team through the beginning stages of its run to the first World Series appearance since 1997. The Bruins' gesture ensures, in an era of high-definition cameras and national broadcasts, that Wooden's name will remain synonymous with the program regardless of the sport.

"What can you say?" Savage said. "He's the man."



You must be signed in to post a comment

Already have an account?