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John Wooden is the greatest coach ever -- in any sport, not just college basketball. Page 2 will not argue about this.
Wooden: Well, I never tried to determine the religion or the politics of an individual. I wanted to always stay open-minded -- and I wanted them to have something in which they believed. The two players you mentioned were extremely unselfish individuals, such team players, that there was never any problem. 1a. Do you believe athletes have a responsibility to get involved in social issues?
Wooden: To a certain degree. They have to not be afraid to let their own actual feelings be known, if they really believe in them. Back in the time that Walton was playing for me, he was anti-establishment, but he had every right to be. As long as you do not deny others of their rights, I think it's fine. If everybody agreed on everything, it would be a very dull, monotonous world.
Wooden: You have to adjust as time goes by. I certainly know that I adjusted as time went by. But my basic philosophy of the game would not change at all. I never taught under the shot clock. I never taught under the 3-point goal. Those things would make me make changes in my style of play, but my basic philosophy would not change one bit. 2a. What kinds of adjustments did you have to make over the years?
Wooden: At one time, I required players to wear slacks and a sport coat while traveling. But then our university president at UCLA, and the professors, too, started wearing turtlenecks and jeans, so I changed my expectations. I only required that they be clean and neat. I never relaxed my feeling about beards or goatees, but I did relax a little bit about the hair. I never wanted it too long, but as time went by I let them wear it a little longer than I had before. 3. Is it true that you used to instruct your players on how to put on their shoes and socks before each game or practice?
Wooden: Absolutely. I picked that up when I was teaching in high school. We had a lot of blisters, and I found out that a lot of the players didn't smooth out all the wrinkles around their heels and around their little toes, places where the blisters are apt to occur. Then I found out that they didn't lace their shoes properly and oftentimes they wore shoes that were a size too large.
Wooden: I never permitted a player to criticize a teammate. If I saw a player criticizing a teammate I would, you know, uh, talk to him! I wouldn't permit that. I also insisted that a player never score without acknowledging somebody else. I tried to conduct myself in such a way that I wanted my players to act. I think our youngsters, whether they be basketball players or our children at home, need models more than they need critics. I wanted talking, but I never wanted any taunting. I see entirely too much of that today, and I think coaches can stop that if they wanted to. If I caught a player doing it, I certainly would not let it go unnoticed -- he'd hear from me.
Wooden: I'd abolish the dunk and move the 3-point line back. 5. You've often described yourself as a teacher. What do you most enjoy about teaching?
Wooden: Watching youngsters improve. If I didn't see improvement in my youngsters from the beginning of the year to the end, I thought, I'm to blame, because I'm the teacher. When I had players that didn't improve to the degree I thought they should, I felt responsible and it bothered me. Two players came as close to realizing their full potential as any two I ever had. One was Conrad Burke (1956-1958) and the other was Doug McIntosh (1964-1966). As freshmen, I didn't think either one of them would play a minute for us on the varsity. The very next year Doug McIntosh played about 30 minutes in the national championship game against Duke. He didn't have the physical ability that many had, but he became a starter the next year. Conrad Burke was a starter for two years -- at one time I thought he would never play any meaningful minutes for us. Neither of them were very good jumpers, but they were good rebounders because they assumed every shot would be missed, and they got their hands up and tried to get the ball, instead of assuming somebody else was going to get it. They weren't good shooters, but they had high shooting percentages, because they didn't take bad shots. 5a. What is the key to being a good teacher?
Wooden: Patience. No two cases are identical, but the teacher must always have patience. And you have to listen to those under your supervision. I think anyone in a position of supervision, if they're not listening to those under them, they're not going to get good results. The supervisor must make sure that all of those under his supervision understand they're working with him, not for him. I think if you work for someone, you punch the clock in and out and that's it. If you're working with someone, you want to do more than that. 6. Who are the coaches you most admire or respect?
Wooden: As a matter of fact, some years ago, when he was with the Bulls, when I read that he was interested in Zen philosophy, I got some books on Zen philosophy, just because I read he had used that a lot.
Wooden: Let's see, one would be Christ, one would be Mother Teresa and one would be Abraham Lincoln. Yes, I would like those three. 9. Do you ever wish you were still coaching?
Wooden: I miss teaching. I don't miss the games. I don't miss the tournament. I miss the daily practices. 10. Do you ever dribble or shoot a ball any more?
Wooden: No, no, no. And I don't miss it. I just wish my knees were better. John Wooden's new book with Andrew Hill, "Be Quick -- But Don't Hurry," was released last month by Simon & Schuster.
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