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Bill Walton never takes a timeout from talking

Former UCLA great still loves basketball and honors John Wooden's memory, but he doesn't like what he sees from the Bruins these days.

January 19, 2013|T.J. Simers
  • Former UCLA greats Bill Walton, left, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sit at the broadcasting table as UCLA hosts Oregon State.
Former UCLA greats Bill Walton, left, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sit at the… (Reed Saxon / Associated…)

In a week when you thought you might have heard it all, I present to you Bill Walton speaking to USC students and bashing UCLA basketball.

"I never knew they had pretty girls here at USC," began Walton, one of UCLA's all-time greats, after being introduced to a packed auditorium of sports business students.

And for the next two hours he wouldn't shut up, entertaining, inspiring, opinionated, off the wall and dedicated to preserving the memory of John Wooden.

It was all part of a bus tour to promote the Pac-12 Networks, Walton trumpeting an upcoming game in his own way.

"What should be an absolute unbelievable game will be ruined by the style of the UCLA basketball team who loves to do nothing but call timeouts and run plays.

"Come on, basketball is like music," Walton exclaimed while catering his remarks to the business audience. "Your entrepreneurs out there in the world are not sitting there holding people back. They are chasing it, and you got that with John Wooden basketball, up and down, never calling a timeout, never calling a play."

When someone commended the work of Pac-12 Networks' Ted Robinson, Walton agreed, but added, "Sadly, he did the Stanford-UCLA game and that was one of the six worst basketball games ever played.

"You would think with all the incredible talent, all the incredible players, they would be able to do better than 66-60 and do nothing but call timeouts. Oh my gosh, let them run. This is basketball."

As for USC basketball, Walton said, "I was astounded it took Pat Haden so long to do what he did," the USC athletic director recently firing Coach Kevin O'Neill.

Walton suggested hiring Phil Jackson to replace O'Neill.

Then he named the top four Pac-12 coaches in his estimation: Arizona's Sean Miller, Oregon State's Craig Robinson, Washington's Lorenzo Romar and Oregon's Dana Altman.

If not Jackson, Walton told the students, then USC should hire someone comparable to his top four, placing special emphasis on Robinson.

He hasn't seen Washington State, Arizona State, Utah or Colorado, he said, so he cannot judge their coaches. He never mentioned the name of the timeout king from UCLA.

But he had a word or a couple of thousand on seemingly everything else.

On talking too much: "We got five minutes to speak at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony; at the 17-minute mark someone from the NBA said, 'Come on Walton, wrap this up; your speech is lasting longer than your career.' "

Lance Armstrong: "He fraudulently helped himself by lying, cheating, stealing and bullying; where are the consequences? They have to be more serious than going on with Oprah."

Cheaters in sports: "Put them in jail."

Wilt Chamberlain: "If anybody tells you anything bad about Wilt, hold your tongue and just know that person never knew Wilt."

On Wilt's claim of being with 20,000 women: "Never underestimate anything Wilt ever said."

John Wooden: "He wrote [a maxim] for me on the day I graduated. 'To Bill Walton: It's the things you learn after you know it all that counts."'

More Wooden: "He always said, 'Walton, you're the slowest learner I have ever had.' There are 15 words in his Pyramid of Success and it took him 14 years to put them together."

On hard work: "It's the most overrated thing in the world. That's a [given]; if you're not going to work hard you have no chance."

Jerry Tarkanian: "One of the tragedies in the world is that Jerry is not in the basketball Hall of Fame."

On suicide: "I was Junior Seau. My life was over. I was standing on the edge of the bridge [ready to jump]. If I had a gun I would have used it. I was on my back on the floor for three years with pain that I can only describe like maybe being submerged in scalding acid with an electric current running through it."

On chasing a dream: "My brother Bruce and I are the only brother combination to have played in a Super Bowl and won an NBA title. And our parents were the most unathletic people you've ever seen. If you're sitting back and thinking, 'My parents blew this for me,' that's not how it works. It's on you."

On whether college athletes should be paid: "The NCAA provided me with a fantastic opportunity. I was taught how to learn."

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: "Kareem was the best player I played against and by far. It's appropriate his statue in front of Staples is 13 feet tall because that's pretty much what it was like playing against him."

Jamaal Wilkes: "Denny Crum wanted Coach Wooden to see Wilkes play in high school. Coach Wooden wanted to stay home with his family. Crum convinced Coach to go and then Jamaal stinks it up. Coach Wooden is mad at Denny for wasting his time, but Denny convinces him to go back. And Jamaal is fantastic. Now they're retiring his jersey. You never know how the game of life is going to play out. When you get your chance go for it. Don't call time out."

Bob Knight: "Imagine if Bob Knight was your first coach, a bully, a boor, vulgar, violent and negative. I would have quit."

The Lakers: "The Lakers are injured. They will be fine. They will win the championship. Who is better? The Lakers have the best players."

Pau Gasol: "As soon as the Lakers got him, the flowers bloomed and they won championships."

Trash talkers: "The greatest I ever saw were Larry Bird and John Wooden."

Walton's issue with stuttering: "My greatest accomplishment was learning how to speak, which is now your worst nightmare."

As the evening continued, Walton gave everyone in the room his phone number and email address. He told them to study successful people, find a mentor and live the dream.

"I do every day," he said.

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