Facing an uncertain future for its basketball program, UCLA is turning to its gloried past for some stability and direction.
He may be 86 years old and 21 seasons removed from the head-coaching scene, but John Wooden is still considered a valuable asset by UCLA Chancellor Charles E. Young and Athletic Director Peter T. Dalis. So they have asked Wooden, the only man elected to the National Basketball Hall of Fame as both player and coach, to serve in an advisory capacity for interim Coach Steve Lavin, 54 years his junior.
Wooden was unavailable for comment on his new role, but Lavin was thrilled.
"Coach Wooden, as he always was, is a tremendous teacher," Lavin said. "He's been someone the last five years I've really leaned on a lot for his wisdom and his experience."
The bond between Lavin and Wooden is cemented by a common link--Purdue University. Wooden played there and Lavin was a graduate assistant there.
"He's been someone I've always turned to for advice," Lavin said. "I always say, in one conversation, John Wooden will talk about Gandhi, Lincoln, the Bible, poetry, the high post offense, the 2-2-1 [alignment], Mother Teresa. I mean, this guy is a master teacher. He's been special to Coach Harrick. He's been special to me."