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June 5, 2010 at 3:11 AM

Lorenzo Romar and Cameron Dollar Reflect on John Wooden

Photo credit: Seattle Times – Rod Mar
Had a chance to connect with Washington coach Lorenzo Romar (left) and Seattle University coach Cameron Dollar (right) who spoke at length about former UCLA coach John Wooden who died Friday.
Romar spent four years as a Bruins assistant (1993-96) and Dollar played four years at UCLA (1994-97).
Romar on Wooden:

(What are your thoughts?)
“I guess two thoughts. Growing up just admiring him and seeing it with your own eyes growing up in Los Angeles the greatest coach perhaps ever in any sport. Then having a chance later to actually spend time with him and realize the expertise as a coach was only the beginning of what he was all about. He was an unbelievable man. I never met a human with so much wisdom as him. Just knowing the right things to say all the time and the unbelievable convictions that he stuck with. And a man of God. A man of God that made it clear and didn’t apologize for it, but yet it seems like that came with who he was and people accepted that.
“It is sad that this day is here, but I just see it as someone that is doing great right now. We’re just not going to see him again and that’s the sad part. But he’s doing great and he is with the Lord and I don’t mean to say it as a cliche as so many times people just assume that like well he’s in a better place. No, he really is with the Lord right now. That’s reassuring for me to know that’s the case. He’s not there to go and see at the UCLA games anymore or to go by and visit him. That won’t happen anymore. But not just the basketball world, but many, many people in this world are better off as a result of him being here.”
(You tell many stories about Coach Wooden so I know it’s difficult to pick a favorite, but which one stands out?) “For me personally and I’ve said it before, but when I was visiting the University of Washington I had a great time and came back after my trip and landed in the LA airport. I was feeling like Washington was where I wanted to go to school, but had not made a commitment yet. And as I was walking to the baggage claim area, up ahead was Coach Wooden and that my first time ever seeing him up close. The other times were just television.
“I said man I’m just going to catch him and see if he’ll give me advice on what to do here. Even though he doesn’t know me, I don’t care. He’s one of those guys like so many television personalities or sports figures that even though you’ve never met him, you’ve watched him so much and you feel like you know him.
“Well that didn’t change once I introduced myself. He acted and treated as if he’d always known me. He was very gracious. I said Coach you don’t know me. My name is Lorenzo Romar. I just came back from a visit at the University of Washington and here is a list of the schools that I’m looking at and thinking about going to. What do you think? And he told me if anyone has a chance to play for Marv Harshman I would imagine that would be hard to turn down. I’ll never forget that. That was my first encounter with him.
(What will you remember?)

“Other than just a single story, I would say just say the times I would go to his apartment or condo rather and just sit down and listen to him talk about basketball and life in general was priceless.”
(You’ve often said he was a better man than a coach. What do you mean by that?) “I mean that the man was not perfect, but he backed up what he believed. The most important thing in his life was his family and his relationship with God. He did that. He lived that way. He had time for everyone. He was still a humble, humble man. He never ever would tell you you need to do this as a coach. This is what you should do or if I were you, I’d do this. He’d never say that. He was well versed in a lot of different areas. He was a humanitarian. He was a servant. A man with his stature and his accomplishments, just talking to him you wouldn’t know that because he wouldn’t bring it up if you didn’t.”
(What do you think his impact on sports will be?) “One of the things that happens when you’re great is people are constantly scrutinizing and critiquing you while you’re involved in your trade or whatever you’re doing. Once you’re done, people are able to sit back and objectively look at the your body of work and what you did and have a deeper appreciation. He won 10 championships so obviously people felt he was great, but people still sometimes thought near the end that maybe he was too old or the game was passing him by or too fundamental or he needed to adjust to the modern athlete. You start to hear those types of things, but then when you step back you realize what this man was about.
“And then he was asked to speak everywhere. At so many businesses and corporations. And then he starts to put books out. Now really everyone aside from his players get to see what the man was behind the coach. When you put all of that together you just find that not only coaches and athletes, but people in the corporate world are quoting John Wooden.
“John Wooden as a basketball coach has had an impact on the entire world. John Wooden the man had an impact on the world outside of basketball. There’s not many people that have lived that you can say that about.”
Dollar on Wooden:
(What are thoughts?)
“He’s a literal icon. Shoot, not just basketball, but in sports. And shoot, you probably could take it out of sports and talk about some of the leadership principles and the quality of caring for people and teaching. Actually, he’s an icon beyond sports. I’m disappointed that he left us, but you cherish the memories that you have of him.
“I was just talking to somebody the other day about him once I found out he was in the hospital about how the guy I played under – coach (Jim) Harrick – about how it was literally like listening to John Wooden speak everyday. The quotes, anecdotes and the way they handled situations. I was fortunate during my playing days to be able to spend time with him (Wooden) and go to breakfast with him and go to his house. You always come away with some nugget of wisdom of how he saw the world and saw people. Just literally an icon.
(I heard stories that Coach Wooden was very accessible to everyone to the point where he’d give his home number to anyone who asked.) “No doubt. I think we all had it. He’d tell you just leave a message or actually just start talking on the answering machine and I’ll pick up.
“He was big time. For me, to think that he was done coaching before I was born. I feel like I not only know a lot of his style, but I use a lot of it. And the people that I learned from are still duplicating a lot of the message in the ways that he went about doing his craft.”
(Have you heard from other UCLA Bruins and how is the UCLA family handling the passing of Wooden?) “I have. I think we’re handling it … it’s obviously a sad day because he left us, but like I said it’s a great opportunity to not only cherish what he left us with, but to continue to impart his ways and his methods and how he defined success as far as doing your best with what you have and what’s been given to you. When he talked about competitive greatness, being at your best when your best is needed. Be quick, but don’t hurry. On and on and on. Timeless nuggets and wealth of knowledge about dealing with people. You walk into Washington’s locker room you got the quote about your reputation and about character on the wall. I think Bruin Nation is obviously sad, but at the same time it gives us a great chance to cherish and celebrate his memory.”
(Which one of those timeless nuggets do you remember most?) “He sat me down when I was a freshman and basically told me hey look, here’s how this works. You’re going to hear great things about yourself and you’re going to hear bad things about yourself. But you need to listen to neither. Don’t take any of that in and don’t let the outside – the external – define who you are as a player and as a person. Throughout the course of being at UCLA, his words were always with me. Those words were always with me. And I was so struck by how profound they were. When he first told me, I was fortunate enough to take it in and take it all in because it was an unusual topic in some ways for him to talk to me about just right off the bat. And I’ve never forgotten that. That has been one of the things that has really helped me through highs and lows stay grounded. That’s something that I remember as if it was yesterday.”
(Have you heard anything about his funeral service? Do you think it will be private or open to the public. If it’s open, I’d imagine Pauley Pavilion would be too small a venue.) “As you’re talking I’m trying to think of a place, maybe like the Coliseum or something like that. I don’t know where you’d have it. But knowing him and his family, I would imagine it would be more private. Maybe you have two different separate services, but I haven’t heard anything in detail.”

Comments | Topics: UCLA


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