Walton Recalls Old Daze With Coach Wooden


Hordes of hoops fans may be tuning into the NCAA basketball tournament, but many traditionalists still long for a time when the game was about fundamentals and teamwork—not the dazzling aerial feats and post-slam-dunk preening of today.

With March Madness in full swing, that contrast is perfectly captured by The UCLA Dynasty. The HBO Sports documentary, which premieres March 26, chronicles the teams that won an unprecedented 10 NCAA titles between 1964 and ’75 under legendary coach John Wooden.

At a screening last week on the UCLA campus, former Bruin center Bill Walton spoke reverentially about Wooden’s teachings, even though he didn’t always understand them at the time.

"Coach Wooden never talked about basketball. He always talked about life, and I didn’t understand it. We thought he was nuts," says Walton, who went on to star in the NBA and now analyzes the league for ESPN. "Showing us how to put our shoes and socks on and saying things like ‘Happiness begins where selfishness ends’? We were 18; none of that made any sense."

And the 6´11½ Walton is still scratching his head over Wooden’s adage that basketball is not a game of size and strength: "If it’s not about size and strength, how come Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] has all the records, [Shaquille O’Neal] has all the money, and Wilt [Chamberlain] has 20,000 girlfriends?"