Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid spoke again on the passing of legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden after training Sunday. Schmid played for the Bruins’ soccer team in the 70s and coached there for years.
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Q: What was your relationship with Wooden like and how did it start?
Schmid: “Obviously I was a student-athlete there when he was coaching basketball there, so watching a lot of their practice sessions and so forth. There’s a point guard on the team who I knew because we grew up in the same area and he would give me some insights. And down the line later, I became good friends with Sidney Wicks when he came back to coach, and Sidney obviously had a good relationship with Coach Wooden so he introduced he to him further so I could actually talk with him and meet with him. I don’t know, there’s some people who you meet in life that exude sort of a presence and an awe about them and that’s just the kind of person he was. So when you’re in his presence, you sort of go, ‘Hey, things are good to listen to.’ I remember watching his practices and everybody’s got a different style. He could be loud at times, don’t let anyone tell you he couldn’t be, but he was more soft-spoken and as a result at practice, his players were almost cringing their necks to try and hear what was being said, and it just increased the attention span. Obviously there’s a lot of good stories and so forth, but he’s just a person that had a good philosophy on life, family was very important and he believed in the fundamentals of his sport, which is important to every sport. You know you could see them practice those every day — the fundamentals, repetitive type of training, which I think is also important, and saw from him and learned from him. The last thing was to make each individual better. If you make each part better then the whole becomes better.”
Q: What are your memories of Wooden? (from Saturday’s postgame)
Schmid: “Tremendous memories from the standpoint as a student there I had some friends who were on the basketball team and I used to watch practice all the time. Seeing him work, seeing the way he always tried to bring the best out of each individual and by bringing the best out of each individual, that made them a great team. His calmness, his decorum having met him, spoken to him, just his overall demeanor, his outlook on life is tremendous. I think we’ve lost a very unique and a very special person. I’ve gotten emails from teammates of mine who were there at the same time and everybody is expressing how much they appreciated him. A lot of guys have the Pyramid of Success in their offices signed by him. It’s a huge loss, but we were very fortunate to have him here for 99-plus years. He’s a very, very special person and UCLA and sports are going to miss him.”