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Jeff Eisenberg

Reaction to John Wooden's death from around college basketball

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Legendary former UCLA coach John Wooden died Friday evening four months shy of his 100th birthday. Here are some thoughts on his life and his influence from other luminaries in the college basketball realm and beyond:

UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero: I can still recall my first interactions with Coach Wooden when I was a member of the UCLA baseball team and he was in the midst of his incredible run of championships. While attending those basketball games was certainly a highlight for me, what stands out even more was Coach making the effort to come to our baseball games to cheer for us, and what a special feeling that was for our team. Since then, I have had the unique opportunity to develop a close personal relationship with Coach Wooden over the years, and that's something I will treasure for the rest of my life.

UCLA coach Ben Howland: "Coach Wooden, in life and in death, is and always will be the UCLA Men's Basketball Head Coach. His basketball successes and championships were an element of his magnificent, far-reaching life. Coach Wooden's timeless teachings, philosophies and "Pyramid of Success" not only influenced the lives of his players but the lives of millions of people around the world. Friendship, loyalty, team spirit and competitive greatness are not just building blocks in his "Pyramid of Success" — it's how Coach Wooden led his own life and taught others to live.

Former UCLA center Bill Walton: "The joy and happiness in Coach Wooden's life came from the success and accomplishments of others. He never let us forget what he learned from his two favorite teachers, Abraham Lincoln and Mother Theresa, "that a life not lived for others is not a life." I thank John Wooden every day for all his selfless gifts, his lessons, his time, his vision and especially his faith and patience. This is why our eternal love for him will never fade away. This is why we call him 'Coach.'"

Washington coach Lorenzo Romar: "Many men and women have impacted their profession in a positive way. Not many have impacted their profession and impacted people's lives away from their profession. John Wooden is the most humble, most wise man that I have ever met. Those that have spent any time with him were around a legend."

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Former Arizona coach Lute Olson: "I always sat and chatted with him before our games at UCLA and about five years ago he asked, `Can I come out and watch one of your practices?' ... We had a jet pick him up at Van Nuys Airport, just a few minutes from where he lived, and bring him (to Tucson). We had lunch and I asked if he could say a few words to the team. He said yes and spoke for 20 or 30 minutes. He never said a word about basketball, just talked about his philosophy of life and being the best that you could be.

St. John's coach Steve Lavin: "Coach Wooden leaves all of us a lasting legacy from a lifetime devoted to goodness. Coach believed the court was his classroom and basketball was a metaphor for life. He was an eternal learner and teacher. He was the best friend and mentor one could hope for and it is difficult to imagine a college basketball season without John Wooden being with us.

Former UCLA guard Marques Johnson: My funny story about coach, I was in a pool hall on campus my sophomore year and Coach Wooden comes walking by with a toothpick in his mouth, blue sweater and gray slacks like he always wore. He looks in and sees me, comes into the pool hall and doesn't say a word to me. He sticks out his hands for my pool cue and no exaggeration, he ran off about six, seven eight balls in a row. Then afterward he hands me the stick and walks out and I'm standing there with my mouth wide open. Later he told he shot some billiards back in Indiana when he was a lad, but it was still incredible.

Former UCLA star Walt Hazzard: "Today I lost my mentor, my friend, my Coach, John Wooden. He taught us about basketball and life and being the best you can be. My love to the Wooden Family and to all of the Bruins who had the privilege of studying under one of the great teachers of all time. He will be missed by many but by none more than me."

Purdue coach Matt Painter: "There isn't a more respected, influential and genuine figure in the history of the game than Coach Wooden. This is a tremendous loss, but his legacy will live on through the countless people whom he touched over the years."

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Former San Diego coach Brad Holland: "Every time I ever had the opportunity to talk to coach or hear him speak, I always felt like I went away a better person. I always felt inspired. You felt good about yourself and about the world. You felt like you could sort of do anything after you spent time with him. He was that inspirational."

Pacers president Larry Bird: "John Wooden, basketball, Indiana. One doesn't go without the others. His contributions to the game, both for the state of Indiana and on a national level, are unmatched. We at Pacers Sports & Entertainment have been, and are, quite proud to have a game or games every year in Conseco Fieldhouse that carry his name along with the word Tradition, a great tribute to a great man. This is a loss for all basketball fans, but in particular for those of us who grew up in Indiana."

Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke: "Kate and I were fortunate to meet Coach Wooden on numerous occasions. What came through all the words - each time we met - were Coach Wooden's leadership principles, dry sense of humor and love of his wife, Nell. John Wooden couldn't tell me enough about Ward 'Piggy' Lambert and his positive impact on both basketball and Purdue."

Tennessee women's coach Pat Summitt: "I am very saddened at the passing of John Wooden. In my lifetime, I was fortunate to call him a friend. As a coach, I always admired his gentle demand for nothing but excellence and his student-athletes delivered. He created role models on and off the court, and because of him, it is something I instilled in my players from my first day as a very young coach. Tonight, we have lost a true American icon."

Dodgers announcer Vin Scully: "Those of us who knew him and knew him well are the ones who were blessed by his life. And as usual, when it gets down to it, Shakespeare said it best: 'His life was gentle and the elements so mixed in him that nature might stand up and say to all the world, 'This was a man.' You know John was a big baseball fan, so I know he does not want you to be down. He wants you to get back to the ball game. That's exactly what we'll do in his honor."

Lakers forward Luke Walton: "When my dad got to UCLA, he was a wild dude. Coach Wooden helped calm him down and teach him some valuable lessons in life. The older my dad got and as we got older, those were some things he was really persistent on us with."

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Former UCLA guard Gail Goodrich: "No one influenced or impacted my life more than Coach. He was my mentor. I will miss my chats and visits with Coach, but his wisdom and teaching will remain with me forever. I'm blessed to be "one of his boys". He was always there for me. I will miss him dearly.

Former UCLA guard Jordan Farmar: "The pyramid of success was big in my growth as a person and a player. Doing the right things for the right reasons, working hard and being enthusiastic about what you do are the cornerstones for any successful situation, whether it's school, work, ball, whatever. Just having him around and having him be a figure who was part of my life was good for me."

Kentucky coach John Calipari: "The Big Blue Nation joins all of basketball in extending sympathy & well wishes to the family of John Wooden & the UCLA basketball family. Coach Wooden was probably the best coach ever, in any sport. A true gentleman and an incredible leader. Rest peacefully, Coach Wooden."

Lakers forward Lamar Odom: "When I was in college, I was coached by a Wooden disciple, someone who believed in his concepts and had the pyramid on his desk in Jim Harrick. It's funny when you're a teacher, you affect so many people. Even though I was never coached by John Wooden, he still trickled down to me."

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