Published June 04, 2010
In the history of college basketball, no coach or school has come close to John Wooden's 10 NCAA championships.
Unassuming throughout his Hall of Fame years as a player and coach, Wooden's life was just as awe-inspiring as his records.
"For anyone to try to live up to the standards he set, it just isn't going to happen," UCLA coach Ben Howland said in an ESPN interview. "But we can all try to be more like him."
Wooden died Friday night at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where he had been hospitalized since May 26. He was 99.
Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim said when he thinks of a basketball coach, "the only one I ever thought of was Coach Wooden."
"He had a great life and helped so many coaches until well in his 90s. Every time I talked to him he would give me some words of advice. He's the best of all time," Boeheim said. "There will never be another like him, and you can't say that about too many people. ... I can't tell you what he's done for game of basketball, and it's not just the wins. It's the attitude and the way he carried himself. I just can't say enough about him."
Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun, too, spoke more of the man than the coach.
"My reaction is sadness, yet at this point we have to celebrate maybe the most important guy in the history of the game," Calhoun said. "There has been no greater influence on college basketball, not just about the game but the team. He's the greatest coach in college basketball, if not all basketball, from the standpoint of all of us trying to emulate what he's done. He gave so much to basketball and education. In my opinion if he's not as important as Dr. Naismith, he's right next to him."
Kelly Inouye-Perez, UCLA's softball coach, met Wooden when she was a player there in the 1980s, and she still has the recording of the message he left her when she was selected to coach the Bruins.
"I think, if anything, we are going to remember all what he has done for the game and will forever carry on his words, his wisdom, all of those things," Inouye-Perez said at the Women's College World Series. "We get to say that we're a part of his UCLA family, which is really cool.
"I'm just fortunate to say that I got to meet him and be a part of his world and be able to say that he was part of the softball world," Inouye-Perez said.
Even those from outside basketball were thrilled when they had a chance to meet the man who coached to UCLA to a record 10 national championships.
"I have met Coach Wooden, about four years ago at the Final Four when it was here, and it was a tremendous honor," four-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning said. "He gave me one of his pyramid of success cards that I still have today and got a picture with him, and it was a tremendous honor."
One of baseball's best managers always wanted to meet Wooden.
"I never met him. Meeting him was on the bucket list. Came close a couple times, but never did meet him," St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "Obviously, I've read everything about him, so just being selfish and personal, I have regret that I never had an in-person meeting with him. Amazing life."