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Wooden: the humble teacher behind the championships

Coach John Wooden’s legacy and values continue to impact new generations of Bruins and non-UCLA students alike.

Hamilton is a UCLA alumnus and a former Daily Bruin columnist.

By Daily Bruin Staff

Oct. 14, 2010 12:03 a.m.

BY Peter Hamilton

What do John Wooden and Tyler Hamilton have in common? They were both born on Oct. 14. It’s just that Tyler was born one year ago and John Wooden was born 100 years ago.

Who is Tyler Hamilton? He is my progeny, a potential third-generation UCLA Bruin right behind me, my bride and my mother.

Who is John Wooden? For you freshmen Bruins who think Wooden’s name is on the recreational center because he donated money, let me introduce you to the only Bruin to attain tenure in the pantheon of collegiate geniuses.

Sir John Wooden is to UCLA and to basketball what Sir Isaac Newton is to Cambridge and to physics (yes, I knighted Wooden because he realistically could slay a dragon).
Now, before I lose readers who aren’t fond of watching five individuals run around a court bouncing a ball, let me explain.

Wooden viewed basketball as an epic stage for leadership, devotion and athleticism. He taught his players in the truest sense and attained universal recognition as the quintessential teacher ““ a man so professorial that all who have seen the “Teaching Pyramid” he created nod in agreement.

Don’t believe my hype? Go to Google Images, search under “John Wooden Pyramid of Success,” and you will get about 19,200 results. The pyramid he created is so good that if Newton and Albert Einstein were to view it as an equation, the pyramid would reveal itself as the Unifying Theory of Life.

A large claim, I realize, but not when you understand that John Wooden utilized his pyramid to do the unthinkable in the world of athleticism. He won 10 championships in 12 years with four undefeated seasons.

How did he do what no other person has ever come close to doing?

He believed in hard work, discipline, family and God. I realize those are arcane terms today. Still, I doubt it would provide Wooden any solace if I put forth the notion that as long as those values remain antediluvian, his record will never be eclipsed.

Wooden was a humble man who did things for the love of hard work. His first basketball was made by his mom, from rolled-up rags she stuffed into leggings. His first basketball hoop was a broken tomato basket his father nailed to the side of the family barn.

Imagine giving a 10-year-old a handmade basketball today. Do you think they would say, “Gee, I think I’ll practice so hard with this motley ball and broken hoop that I will glean the message of hard work, industry and humility from it, and translate my experience into reality by becoming the greatest coach/teacher in the history of the world”? Unlikely.

But that brings me to the other person in my initial comparison: my son, Tyler Hamilton.
It was exactly 365 days ago when I was in the nursery where my son had just been delivered and another proud father approached me and asked, “Are you a basketball fan?”
I said, “Once upon a time.”

He responded, “Your son and John Wooden now share the same birthday.”

Those words gave me goose bumps, literally. Just the mention of John Wooden’s name created electricity in my system.

Truth be told, I no longer care for basketball. I now view it as the antics of five individuals running around bouncing a ball. But John Wooden will always be another story.

While I grudgingly admit that I don’t have a copy of John Wooden’s favorite book (the Bible) by my bedside, I have kept “Wooden” next to my bed ever since my Bruin of a bride gave it to me as a graduation present.

I’ll go even further to say it is the only book I have read in the past decade or may ever read again. Once upon a time, I was an English student at UCLA, but books now hold as much appeal for me as basketball currently does. I prefer to do things at this point in my life, not read about them.

So, when I heard my son and Wooden both share Oct. 14 as their own, I felt called upon to do something ““ called upon to impart to my son some fatherly advice similar to the wisdom that Joshua Wooden provided his own progeny.

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