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John Wooden-The Art of the Championship

John Wooden is the ultimate class act of any head coach of any sport in history. Period. Wooden’s record speaks for itself and his professionalism throughout his remarkable career is the benchmark that all coaches should be striving to reach.

John Wooden coached the UCLA Bruins to 10 NCAA National Championships including 7 in a row between 1967-1973. He won 88 straight games, has an 885-203 college record 620 coming with the Bruins, and is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame both as a player and a coach. Not many in any sport can say the above, not many indeed.

Wooden passed away last week at the age of 99. So beloved he was visited by former players, Jamaal Wilkes and Bill Walton in his last moments. His Pyramid of Success is still a bible onto itself used by many in today’s day and age.

To get an idea as to how dominant a coach he was, and yes he also dominant players such as Gail Goodrich and Lew Alcindor, the next closet coaches in terms of National Championships is Adolph Rupp and Mike Krzyzewski with 4 a piece, with Krzyzewski just getting his 4th this past year.

In looking at comparisons, four names jump out at me right away. Red Auerbach, Phil Jackson, Scotty Bowman and Toe Blake and of that group only Red Auerbach and Toe Blake can even come close to John Wooden.

Auerbach won 9 NBA Championships with the Boston Celtics between the years of1956-1967, while Toe Blake won 8 Stanley Cup Championships as the coach of the Montreal Canadiens and 3 more as a player.

Phil Jackson is gunning for his 11th NBA title and won his previous 10 with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers. Scotty Bowman has won 9 Stanley Cups with three franchises, the Montreal Canadiens, Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings.

But in my opinion, what Wooden did is remarkable having won 10 Championships with one team, none of the other coaches above can say that and it is a record that may never be matched in sport. A record that may never be broken.

What happened to the days of the all encompassing coach and manager? Where have they gone? Let’s look at how sports have changed since the time Wooden packed away his trophies.

1) College players used to stay in school for 4 years and the coaches had an opportunity to build winners and most importantly team play, which in today’s day and age can not be done because we have guys coming in and out of college every year or two.
2) Free agency in the major sports play a crucial role in keeping teams together or tearing them apart. Back in the day players stayed with their teams unless they were traded and even then it was not common place. Plus in the college world there is no trading or free agency.
3) Money. Unfortunately for many athletes money is the number 1 issue, not winning the games. Winning becomes secondary. How much money can I make, where can I make it & hey my career is short I got to make as much as possible as soon as possible.
4) Coaches for the most part are paid less than the players and therefore the players have more say than the coach. How many times have we seen over the past decade the players dictating to the coach. Many, many times.

That’s just a sampling but I am sure there are plenty of more reasons why we won’t see the likes of Wooden’s achievements any time soon.

Hats off to a true professional and may he rest in peace.

Thoughts from the Pulpit

1) Lakers/Celtics-Boy what a game 2! 103-94 Celtics. Great action, good storylines, but please, Refs, don’t get so involved. Do we have to see another free throw fest? How about more! It’s crazy, even Kobe almost got fouled out-AT HOME! A few things I can take away from this game:

a) Ray Allen was unconscious. He was amazing and after the 8th 3 pointer and a new finals record, the Lakers made it their business that Ray not beat them again. However, the damage was done with Allen scoring 32 pts.

b) Rajon Rondo, triple double, need I say more about his 19pts, 12 boards and 10 assist effort. He was the man on the floor.

c) Andrew Bynum was terrific with 21pts, 6 rebounds and 7 blocks, he looked fluid after having his fluid drained from his knee. Gasol also had a good game with 25pts and the Lakers “Bigs” outscored the Celtics “Bigs” or Garnett and Perkins 46-18.

d) The benches. This is where the game was won and lost. Celtics 24pts, Lakers 15pts. Lamar Odom was non existent (as was starters Ron Artest & Derek Fischer) Shannon Brown’s defense was terrible and Rasheed, Nate & Big Baby Davis played nice ball.

e) Kobe did not have the miracles that we have seen in earlier series and perhaps was slightly handcuffed by picking up so many fouls.

2) Ubaldo Jiminez wins his 11th, 6 games head into extra innings, the Yankees avoid being swept in Toronto with a 4-3 win and the Orioles break out of their 0-10 run with a 4-3 win in 11 innings over the Red Sox. 

3) The Chicago Blackhawks are in position to win the Stanley Cup as they whitewashed the Flyers 7-4 on Sunday night. I picked this series 4-2 for the Hawks so we’ll see what happens back in Philly, but I think they will wrap it up.

4) Kudos to Yuri Foreman for staying on his feet with a bum knee for 2 rounds late in his championship defense against Miguel Cotto. Here’s hoping you get better soon and come back to reclaim your crown.