The John Wooden Interview

Welcome to the John Wooden Interview on Centaur Seasons. My conversation with Coach Wooden took place on...
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Part 1

Length – 2:14

Hi, Mr. Wooden, this is Steve McKee… sounds like you’re listening to the Lakers game! Explanation of interview… “… I’ll keep talking as long as you want to keep talking”

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Part 2

Length – 5:16

Lew Alcindor/Bill Walton… The expectations of winning

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Part 3

Length – 2:49

“The fans are just wanting one thing.” On winning and losing; on winning when losing; on losing when winning.

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Part 4

Length – 5:02

His long life in basketball; the too-physical game today – “basketball is a game of beauty and finesse”; TV & money.

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Part 5

Length – 3:44

“We can’t be surprised that the money starts ruling.” The game in the Astrodome against Houston: “I never wanted to play that game there…”

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Part 6

Length – 5:12

Regret missing out on the big money? “No, everything is relative.”… “Can’t live in the past.” What kept him going? “I enjoyed teaching … I enjoyed working with youngsters.” A lesson from his father.

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Part 7

Length – 2:41

Who coaches the coach? His off-season “projects” to improve as a coach

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Part 8

Length – 7:05

One of his most enjoyable years. Fear of complacency. The Bill Walton Era and the loss to North Carolina State. “Never blame the players.”

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Part 9

Length – 8:41

“The Journey is better than the end.” His favorite poems and his “Pyramid of Success. “I’m not a rah-rah fellow.” Long hair & beards; profanity; the Sixties. “If you’re consistent, you’ll be all right.”

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Part 10

Length – 6:03

His decision to quit coaching. The media in the locker room. Facing the press never got easier.

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Part 11

Length – 1:11

“I would not bring practices home” … “I think my family always came first.”

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Part 12

Length – 3:16

What all coaches, at ALL levels, share in common. The joys of teaching in high school. Trying (and failing) NOT to grow too attached to players

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Part 13

Length – 13:00

Coaches who influenced him … attending Perdue … Getting married. WWII & the Navy. … Likely would have stayed at South Bend HS forever, but for the war. What happiness is to him and what it means … Jumps to college level at Indiana State … Non-basketball job offers.

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Part 14

Length – 3:59

Coaching at Indiana State; refusing to go to the NAIA tournament because organizers said his one black player couldn’t participate.

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Part 15

Length – 7:22

The choice between UCLA and Minnesota. Why UCLA? … Making decisions. The move to Los Angeles … Building a program … “Don’t be a dictator.”

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Part 16

Length – 4:16

“Your happiness comes from things that cannot be taken away from you.” Being offered pro jobs. “I turned down positions where I could have received more.”

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Part 17

Length – 3:25

Will we ever see another UCLA? The set up of the NCAA tournament.

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Part 18

Length – 5:52

Note: Because the tape was being switched here, the beginning of my question is missing. Segment begins at the end of my reciting some of Coach Wooden’s UCLA season records in the late ‘50s, early ‘60s: “… 16-10, 16-9 and 14-and-12.” (Some “down” seasons after a few 20-win seasons.) It appears I wanted him to talk about the many years before he even got to his famous NCAA run.

Coach Wooden defines success. “You have to judge yourself.” Talks about one of his “finest coaching jobs.” The frustration of not having an on-campus facility in those earlier years. How the NBA Lakers helped create more interest in college basketball in Los Angeles.

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Part 19

Length – 5:29

“The team comes first.” Fitting many individuals into one team. “Everyone has a role, and it’s an important role.” Writing letters to every player during the summer. The Bill Walton era and keeping players motivated.

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Part 20

Length – 3:20

The young John Wooden once quit his high school team. He explains what happened and what lessons from that he carried with him forever.

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Part 21

Length – 0:45

When the legendary football coach George Halas, organizer of a barnstorming basketball team, picked up the reigning College Player of the Year for a playoff run …

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Part 22

Length – 2:48

Coach Wooden reports on the Lakers-Blazers game he’s had on TV during the interview. What he misses, and doesn’t miss, in retirement. His life now.

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Part 23

Length – 7:28

“The game you’re playing now, that’s the big game.” Don’t be satisfied “just to get there.” Winning with Alcindor vs. Walton vs. his teams without a superstar. Come backs to talk about the current NCAA format. Teams get in with more losses than ALL the losses of his ten championship teams. (And he had to win the conference just to get into the tournament.)

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Part 24

Length – 1:51

He talks of Nell, his wife of 53 years, who passed away six years before this 1991 interview. High school sweethearts, their pregame ritual – he catching her eye in the stands; she giving him the “OK” sign – started way back then. A final report on the Lakers-Blazers game. Thank yous and good-byes.

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Welcome to CENTAUR SEASONS: A ‘memory blog’ of the basketball beginnings of a half-good, half-bad, all-new college team.

Once, I was a Centaur.

I played basketball for Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales in Center Valley, Pa. I was on four of the school’s first seven teams, was MVP senior year and in 1974 graduated in the fifth class.

My junior year I kept a diary: A History of the Events of the 1972-1973 Allentown College B-Ball Season, as Chronicled by, and With the Personal Memoirs + Occassional [sic] Philosophizing of the Author, One Stephen J. McKee.  One-hundred-forty-five hand-writ pages. (Yes, I was an English major.)

But it occurs to me now: Were I today a “Bulldog” playing for “DeSales University” (both mascot and name changed in 2000), my private “History” would be not a diary but a blog.

So starting November 30  “…Personal Memoirs…” will be re-imagined as CENTAUR SEASONS

A blog before its time, posted 40 years after in real time.

Meanwhile, beginning on September 24, here at CENTAUR SEASONS the preseason has already tipped off, with stories, interviews and reminiscences of the people, the place and the purpose of those early years of Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales.

Check back often. Sign up for CentaurSeasonAlerts. Email CENTAUR SEASONS to friends.

We were not a bad team, we Centaurs. We just weren’t very good. Winning was always the goal, if never exactly the point. How could it be, with victories so few?

Back then Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales was a couple of buildings in some cornfields.  Our commitment to the school’s basketball program was far greater than was the school’s commitment us. So what? We got to play college ball – and paid for the privilege! In return, we got to be part of a team, wear the red and blue, be Centaurs. And we got to create a place that was, right then, as much concept as it was college, making itself up as we went along.

What we got was a once-in-a-life-time chance.

All we had to do was keep showing up -- next practice, next game, next season. And so we did.

Welcome to CENTAUR SEASONS.

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