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Texas' Ford Drives Off With Wooden Award

April 13, 2003|Chris Dufresne | Times Staff Writer

It was with playfulness and a wry smile that 92-year-old John Wooden on Saturday opened an envelope and announced Texas sophomore guard T.J. Ford as the recipient of the 27th John R. Wooden Award at the Los Angeles Athletic Club.

Wooden made a joke about once driving a Ford and acknowledged later he has always had a soft spot for point guards. Wooden said Ford reminded him of Mike Warren, who in the 1960s played for Wooden on two national title teams at UCLA.

"I often felt when I had him, game time I could go up in the stands and probably do just as well," Wooden said of Warren. "He was a good leader on the floor and seldom had a turnover."

Ford had a similar impact this season in leading Texas to its first Final Four appearance since 1947. With his quickness and an uncanny knack for finding open teammates with deft passes, Ford dominated games even though he stands only 5-foot-10 and weighs 165 pounds. He led the Longhorns in points, steals and assists.

"God gave me the ability to see things and get the ball where it needs to be," Ford said. "Most of it is instincts."

Ford was a surprisingly easy winner of the award, totaling 4,418 points, 846 more than Xavier forward David West. Oklahoma guard Hollis Price finished third with 3,311 points, followed by Kansas forward Nick Collison with 3,264 points and Marquette guard Dwyane Wade with 2,522 points.

Ford already had been named the Naismith Player of the Year but sounded genuinely surprised to have won the Wooden Award.

"I really thought Nick Collison was going to pull it out," Ford said.

No chance, as Ford was the leader on the court and in the clubhouse.

Texas Coach Rick Barnes recalled Saturday a conversation he had last season during a timeout in a close game against Stanford.

"He walked over to the bench and said 'Coach, what are you thinking right now?' " Barnes recalled. "I said 'I don't know, what are you thinking right now?' He said 'I think I need to take over the game,' and I said, 'Be my guest.' "

Ford wasn't the only story at Saturday's ceremonies.

Kansas Coach Roy Williams, the leading candidate to replace Matt Doherty at North Carolina, was in town to represent Collison and also receive the Legends of Coaching award.

Reporters were told before the post-award news conference that Williams would not answer questions about the North Carolina situation, but he eventually did, stating there was nothing new to report.

Williams and North Carolina Athletic Director Dick Baddour have opened discussions about the Tar Heel vacancy, but no formal offer has been made.

"The situation hasn't changed," Williams said. "We'll wait until the end of this weekend and probably talk again Sunday or early Monday."

Williams played golf Saturday at Los Angeles Country Club with West Coast friends.

He will golf today at Bel Air and return to Lawrence, Kan., late tonight, he said.

And then more talks with North Carolina on Monday?

"I'm so out of it now there's no telling when," Williams said.

Kansas fans will be heartened to know that Wooden thinks Williams should stay.

"Absolutely," Wooden said. "I'm not telling him, I'm just saying that's the way I feel about it. I'll give opinions, but I'll never give advice.

"I would see no reason for jumping."

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