The contributions of John Wooden were recognized on May 2, 1983, when UCLA unveiled the $9.6 million John Wooden Recreation and Sports Center. The most honored player and coach in hoops history downplayed the event in characteristic style, saying, “Honors are fleeting, just as fame is. I cherish friendship more.”
On June 26, 1999 at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas, I attended the 33rd annual Victor Awards, the longest-running sports awards show in the history of TV, with Coach Wooden and his granddaughter (my wife) Christy. Coach was presented with a beautiful gold Oscar-like statue for being one of the living legends of sports of the 20th century.
Upon sitting back down next to Christy, Coach handed her the beautiful statue and said, “Honey, I would like you to have this.” It stands in our home to this day as a reminder of what is really important: friendship.
On Aug. 8, 2003 in a small auditorium at Ocean View High School in Huntington Beach, California, Coach Wooden’s friend Jim Harris, the basketball coach of the Ocean View Seahawks, presented Coach Wooden with a small but lovely statue of a Seahawk. The plaque on the statue read “The Golden Seahawk Award.” Coach Harris gave it to Coach in appreciation for the many years Coach Wooden had voluntarily come to speak at his basketball camp: three times each summer.
On the UCLA Campus in the hall of fame, there is a room called “Coach Wooden’s Den.” After Coach died, the UCLA Athletics Department moved Coach Wooden’s Den from his condo and reassembled it onsite in the hall of fame.
The statue of the Seahawk is still where it was when Coach was alive, on a small table next to Coach Wooden’s favorite chair. It stands there to this day as a reminder of what is really important: friendship.
This short verse written by Coach Wooden sums up his feelings on friendship beautifully:
At times when I am feeling low,
I hear from a friend and then
My worries start to go away
And I am on the mend.
In spite of all that doctors know,
And their studies never end,
The best cure of all when spirits fall
Is a kind note from a friend.
Photo by @cwellpics/Twenty20