From Jeff Munroe
I spent a day with the legendary basketball coach John Wooden once. He was 93-years-old at the time.
Yes, I know that I am shamelessly namedropping in the first-ever Perspectives blog post, but give me the benefit of the doubt and keep reading. It’s a good story.
I spent a day with John Wooden once and I asked him if he ever thought about that fateful night when he accepted UCLA’s offer to become their men’s basketball coach. Way back in the late 1940’s, Wooden had two schools interested in him – Minnesota and UCLA. He wanted to go to Minnesota, but they had to clear up a couple of technical issues before he could accept the job. Representatives of the two schools were to call him one agreed upon evening -- Minnesota at six p.m. and UCLA at seven p.m. If Minnesota couldn’t get everything cleared up, he would accept the UCLA job. Six p.m. came and went and Wooden’s phone didn’t ring, so when UCLA called at seven, he accepted that job. A short time later the University of Minnesota Athletic Director called and said he was in a terrible snowstorm and could only now get to a phone to let Wooden know everything was all clear for him to take their job. Wooden said sorry, but he had already given his word to UCLA. The rest, as they say, is history. John Wooden would go on to coach at UCLA for the next 27 years and lead his teams to an unparalleled 10 NCAA men’s basketball championships. It’s hard to imagine so much riding on that missed phone call – almost as hard to imagine as a time when people had to travel through a snowstorm to find a telephone or a time when giving your word meant everything.
“Do you ever think about that night?” I asked him. “Do you ever think about how your life and history might have been different if that snowstorm hadn’t happened?”
He looked at me, shook his head “no,” and abruptly said, “It’s useless to think about such things.”
Are you kidding me?