Bakir Allen, a starting junior guard at UC Santa Barbara, doesn't remember hearing much about his father Lucius's two NCAA championships or his 10 NBA seasons. His older brother, Kahlil, who played forward for the last three seasons at UC San Diego, didn't hear much more. Says Bakir, who was four years old when his dad retired from the NBA, "I wasn't aware at all until I started meeting people who would tell me how good my father was." All Bakir knows about his father's basketball career is some grainy film he has seen on ESPN and, of course, the Pyramid of Success that was plastered on his walls, too.
Former Bruin Mike Warren, who played on the same two championship teams as Allen, was similarly low-key. "I wasn't the type to put a basketball in the crib," says Warren, who eschewed a pro career and became more famous as a regular on Hill Street Blues. "Tell you the truth, I wanted a girl so she wouldn't have to deal with the pressure. I didn't want to thrust my dream onto a son." Early on, he was more influential to his son Cash as a soccer coach.
Warren, whose major basketball asset growing up in South Bend was the contact he made with a number of Wooden's disciples there, couldn't help but wonder what he might have done if he'd had the same advantages as his son. "I'd have died to have my hoop in my backyard as a kid," he says. "My son never used ours. Would never go out and shoot. Too boring." But eventually Cash developed an interest in basketball and, in the seventh grade, began pestering his dad for help. Mike took him to UCLA, gave him a notebook with drills in it, kept stats in practice for him. Cash, a 6'1" junior at small, private Crossroads School in Santa Monica, Calif., has improved to the point where he averaged nine points a game last year.
Walt Hazzard, from Wooden's first title team, in 1964, understands as a parent and a coach (at UCLA from 1984 to '88) how accidental athletic greatness is. "I had a blessing from the Creator," he says. "Plus, I was put in great places. In Philadelphia I joined a team [Overbrook High] with four All-Americas. Second day I was there, Wilt Chamberlain [an Overbrook alumnus then playing at Kansas] shows up and puts his arm around me. For me to expect my children to repeat that situation is asking a lot."
His four boys all played or are currently playing basketball. The youngest, Rasheed, now a sophomore point guard at George Washington, is the first Hazzard son to play Division I basketball on a scholarship. "When I decided I wanted to follow in the tradition my father started," Rasheed says, "he was on top of me all the time. He was very patient with me, but if I did something wrong, I'd hear about it. We talked basketball at the weirdest times—at dinner, during a Mike Tyson fight. If something popped in his head, he'd say it."
Rasheed finally beat his aging dad one-on-one during his junior year in high school, even though Walt had become increasingly desperate to forestall that rite of passage. "The one thing about us UCLA guys," he points out, "is we're also experts in gamesmanship. Fouls on every missed shot, calls for traveling. You learn to start an argument that lasts exactly as long as you need to catch your breath. You play them right up to the point you smell trouble, then you have a sudden desire to play H-O-R-S-E."
Some of the dads, as you would expect in a society where families are as often in disrepair as in harmony, have had to rely more on nature than on nurture in the schooling of their progeny. Henry Bibby, whose younger son Mike is a senior at Shadow Mountain High in Phoenix, led a nomadic professional life that, when it came to child rearing, only added to the complications of divorce. This has been painful. Mike, who averaged 35 points and nine assists a game as a junior, hasn't played much in front of his father, hasn't practiced with him or even been with him. "It hasn't been my dad," he told the Arizona Republic, "it's been my mother. My mother's been influencing me."
Still, Henry, whose life as a pro player and later a CBA coach (he's now an assistant at USC) kept him on the road during his son's seasons, hopes that the residue of Wooden's teachings has somehow been transmitted across this gap. "Coach Wooden believed in discipline," says Henry, one of the stars from the title teams that began the '70s. "His whole motto was, Discipline yourself so others don't have to." Clearly, he hopes the values are in place with Mike, but his defensive voice betrays his anxiety. "You know," he says, "my own father only saw me play one time, college and high school. But it wasn't a problem. I knew he loved me."
Was there ever a more earnest disciple of Wooden's than Swen Nater, the best player never to start on two championship teams? (He played behind Walton at Westwood, then went on to play for 11 years in the pros.) Nater is so devoted to Wooden, in thought and deed, that it is almost comical. "Coach, first time he saw my dog, he says, 'You ever hit it?' " Nater says. "I answered, 'Sometimes.' 'Don't, it never works.' So I don't hit my dog. That's Coach Wooden, always teaching you things."
It might be comical, except that Nater, who coached for 10 years at Christian Heritage College in San Diego before recently moving to Enumclaw, Wash., to take a managerial job with PriceCostco, a wholesale/retail warehouse company, has applied these teachings to less frivolous aspects of family life. His two daughters—Alisha, a 6'3" freshman center for UC Santa Barbara, and Valerie, a 6'3" junior center at Enumclaw High—have also benefited from Wooden's advice.