John Wooden

I need a coach for the old-school scenes. Someone that understands that kind of basketball.

Any ideas?

John Wooden! (I say half in jest)

The next day.

You got him.

I got who?

John Wooden.

You’re kidding.

I’m not kidding.

How did you get him?

I asked.

You asked?

I asked. He’s happy to do it. He lives alone and he’s not doing anything.

Wooden shows up on the day and worked with Nigel Miguel, ex-UCLA ballplayer who was coordinating the shoot. Wooden had a bunch of white guys working together in fifteen minutes like they’ve played together all their lives. I stayed as far away as I could. Wooden was gentle and precise with his ‘notes.’

I worked with him again on an IBM commercial but it was just a quick hour or so on a day when I had to shoot a bunch of celebrities. I saw him again at Kareem’s fiftieth birthday. Bill Walton was sitting with him the whole evening, like a bodyguard. I sat and chatted for a while, but Walton glowered at me the whole time.

I thought of the story I had heard about Walton wanting long hair and a beard when he played at UCLA. He went in to confront Wooden. Wooden congratulated Walton on his need for self expression and wished him well and said to Walton, “We’re going to miss you.” Walton showed up for UCLA’s first practice with a short haircut, clean-shaven. It wasn’t until Walton played pro ball at Portland that he turned hippy.