Monday, June 7, 2010

We'll miss you, Coach Wooden

Way back in 1996, Lee Brower co-founded the Utah Tip Off Club as a way to honor Utah's prep players, coaches and referees. To promote the event, Lee invited Coach John Wooden to participate by simultaneously awarding the national NCAA basketball coach of the year, the "John & Nellie Wooden Award". This annual event involved many hours by those in our office, especially Lee's oldest daughter, Melody. We worked countless hours tallying votes, making travel arrangements for the winners, working with the press and organizing every detail of the actual event itself.

Working with Coach Wooden and his daughter, Nan, for over six years was a memory I will cherish for the rest of my life. Everything you have read about Coach recently is true. He is by far the most humble, gracious, kind, man-of-his-word, gentleman I have ever had the privilege of meeting. Each year, he gave a speech that was humorous, poetry-filled, accurate and relevant. Each year, his body moved a little slower, but the gleam in his eyes never dimmed.

Working with Coach also allowed me to include Nick in the activities. On one occasion, Nick had the opportunity to go with me to pick up Coach and his family at the airport - executive terminal, of course - in a stretch limousine. Nick was only 10-years old at the time and his eyes were big as saucers sitting in the big back seat. He really didn't seem to know why there was such a fuss over this older man - looked like a regular grandpa to him. Coach Wooden came straight over to Nick, shook his hand and the first thing he asked Nick was if he was getting good grades in school. His second question was if he played basketball. Nick shyly nodded his head to both. I kept whispering to Nick, "remember this moment, remember this moment." He began to realize something big was up when we escorted Coach and his family to a private room in the hotel, where an informal interview was set up with a few of our local reporters. Many photos were taken, many basketballs were signed - all with a warm smile by Coach.

Lee and I became close friends with Coach and our last visit to his condo a few years ago was incredible. One moment included Coach showing us his new children's book, Inch and Miles. It is a beautifully illustrated book, based upon his "Pyramid of Success" principles, written in terms that children can understand. He had just received the original drawing from the illustrator earlier in the day. She had sent him page 12 from the book, because she knew it would be his favorite. He smiled as he showed it to us and we knew instantly why: on the drawing of the tree, she had inscribed "Nellie + JW" enclosed by a heart. His love for his beloved Nellie grew stronger every day, although she had passed over 20 years ago.

We purchased 100 books and have used them on numerous occasions. We have hosted a team-building meeting for both Carly & Kelsey's softball teams and gave each girl a book. Very powerful and impactful, yet had nothing to do with softball directly.

Coach Wooden was an extraordinary man, mentor and friend. We learned much from him. Although he lived a spiritually gifted life and is finally with his sweetheart, Nellie, we will miss him dearly and thank God that Coach found his way into our lives. He is the epitome of the rock that makes a ripple - ripples that will reach many more generations to come.


1 comment:

Chris Ulvin said...

Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1
Coach Wooden was a man of faith. I consider it a blessing from God that Nick counts Coach Wooden as a friend. Nick - continue to strive to be your best in life (good grades) and be a team player where ever God places you. May God bless you Nick with a heart of faith.
Love, aunt Chris