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THE COACH AND HIS CHAMPION
Alexander Wolff
April 03, 1989
John Wooden had 53 loving years with his wife, Nell. Now she's gone and he struggles alone
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April 03, 1989

The Coach And His Champion

John Wooden had 53 loving years with his wife, Nell. Now she's gone and he struggles alone

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But with Nell's death his very faith wavered. Never mind that a favorite plaque of theirs hangs in his study and reads GOD NEVER CLOSES ONE DOOR WITHOUT OPENING ANOTHER. "He did not want to live," says Gary Cunningham, his old assistant. "A lot of us were worried, and disappointed, too. What he had instilled in our lives he wasn't practicing in his own." All that winning, and look what one loss did.

A few weeks ago Cori and Papa looked up as an airplane passed overhead. "See that airplane, Papa?" said Cori. "I'm going to take that airplane and fly all the way to heaven and get Mama and bring her back, so Papa won't be lonely anymore."

Gracious sakes, Cori, no. Stay right here with Papa. For later, there, he'll have Mama. For now. here, he has you and John, two previous generations of Woodens, and—should he ever change that mind that's so hard to change once it's made up—a convention full of rudderless coaches of basketball, who desperately need to learn how to teach the game.

Before this extraordinary life gets played out, before the buzzer sounds, won't someone please call timeout to remind him? He has taught so many of us such wonderful lessons. He has one more lesson, his own, to study up on.

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