All of this joviality is not lost on Wooden, a considerate man who is enjoying—indeed reveling in—his team after three years of storm and controversy that took its toll on his health, if not his peace of mind. Without ever appearing to relax his devotion to inner discipline and strict attention to detail, which he firmly believes help win ball games, he will accept a gibe from a Wicks in the spirit in which it was intended.
Now 59 and the only man to win five NCAA basketball titles, he sat in his office last week surrounded by the memorabilia of 22 years at UCLA. He snuck a jelly bean from the giant-size glass jar he keeps stocked on his desk, and he thought about his current team.
"I'm like any fan, I guess," he said. "It's more fun now, sure, and I'm even enjoying the tight games. It used to be that in close ones, well, we'd be O.K. Lewis was there, and we'd work things out. There didn't seem to be much to it. Now I feel like I have something to do. I feel more alive. It's been a long time."