THE GIANT SHADOW THAT IS JOHN WOODEN

Posted on Mar 25, 2013

John Wooden, legend, casts a giant shadow at UCLA. Just ask Ben Howland. In his ten seasons as UCLA’s head men’s basketball coach, Howland took the Bruins to the NCAA tournament seven times, to the Final Four three times and to the championship game once.

Killer credentials. But after losing ugly to Minnesota in the first round of this years’ tourney, according to the UCLA Daily Bruin, the coach was told his services were no longer required.

John Wooden? We all know the drill. Ten titles in 12 years. The utter dominance; the 88-game win steak. (Forgotten now is that it took Wooden 17 seasons in L.A. to win his first championship. But never mind.) The Wooden legacy is certainly undeniable and surely unrepeatable. But never mind again. (Just ask Ben Howland.)

Here at CENTAUR SEASONS we spent last week remembering the John Wooden and his UCLA Bruins by listening to segments of a never-before-heard audio conversation I had with the Coach in 1991.

Tuesday:  A TEACHER, NOT A COACH

Wednesday: THE PLEASURES OF WINNING — W/OUT ALCINDOR, W/OUT WALTON

Thursday: A QUITTER, BUT ONLY ONCE

Friday: AT INDIANA STATE, BREAKING A BARRIER

On Tuesday, tomorrow, another interview segment will be posted, the first of four this week. And next week, more of same: Tuesday through Friday four more conversations with Coach Wooden.

CENTAUR SEASONS tells the story of the early years of the Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales basketball team. The brand-new school in Center Valley, Pennsylvania, ran a team onto the court for the first time in the 1968-69 season. I showed up two years later and played through the 1973-74 season.

We were not, let’s just say, as good as John Wooden’s Bruins. But our Centaur Seasons were played during the Bruin years — and that’s more of a connection than you might think.

As these two early CENTAUR SEASONS blogs explained:

WHERE’S THE CENTAUR (PART 1): Finding Little Allentown College in the Big Basketball Picture.

WHERE’S THE CENTAUR (PART 2): Finding Little Allentown College in the Big Basketball Picture.

The big picture, of course, was John Wooden and the UCLA Bruins.and once you’re done finding the Centuar, see if you can metaphorically spot the now-removed Ben Howland.

So come back tomorrow (and the rest of this week — and next!) for more conversations with John Wooden, exclusively here at CENTAUR SEASONS.

 

 

 

 

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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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