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RIP John Wooden

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In the middle of last week, I was re-organizing some book shelves (or, to be honest, vainly attempting to create some organization) and pulled a number of sports books down. On top of the pile was the 1997 book Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court by John Wooden with Steve Jamison.

I started flipping through the book, reflecting on how simple a philosophy Wooden espoused. I was particularly impressed by the fact that the book seemed to be geared towards teaching, rather than being geared towards generating humongous speaking fees to major corporations. So many books by basketball coaches are little more than attempts to position them as business experts.

Then, came news that Wooden had been hospitalized. ESPN reported on their television crawl that the 99-year-old coach was in “grave condition.”

And then, finally, came the news on Friday night that John Wooden had passed away.

There have been plenty of tributes to Wooden over the course of the weekend. And the amazing sports accomplishments he racked up have been reported over and over. But equally interesting is his personal life. His wife, Nell, was the only woman he ever kissed in his life. She passed away in the mid-eighties. ESPN reported that on Friday, in the hospital, Wooden asked to be shaved because he knew he was going to see his beloved soon.

Basketball, sports, and America at large will sorely miss John Wooden.