Sometimes he was predictable, like in his opinion on the NBA (too one-on-one oriented), but other times he wasn't. To wit, when he discussed Wilt Chamberlain, who objected to the use of the expression "handle players" by coaches and the media: "Wilt was right," said Wooden. "You don't 'handle' players. You work with them. In the revised edition of my book [Practical Modern Basketball] I changed all the 'handles' to work withs."
On Wooden's alltime all-star team, he revealed, he'd put Magic Johnson at forward to play with Larry Bird; they'd be joined by Oscar Robertson and West at guard and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, n� Alcindor, at center. His next choices in the pivot would be Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell in that order.
At camp Wooden was completely candid, which he was never accused of being when he was coaching. If someone was hanging around with a pencil and a pad, as I sometimes was, he'd ask that a particular statement be off the record, but most of the time he just let it wing. One example: "I'll take Jabbar over Walton any day of the week, on the court and off the court."
Sportsworld sets no age minimum for campers, though fresh-out-of-college all-stars are advised to stay away unless they're certifiable Woodenphiles. At 34, I was probably one of the 10 youngest at camp. Not everyone came with his motivation intact. There was a movement to skip Friday's evening drill in favor of watching the NBA playoffs. As proof that things haven't gone completely to hell in a peachbasket, only a few chose the tube over hoops.
The highlight for many of the campers was the appearance of the '64 regulars, sans Gail Goodrich, on Saturday night. First they ran UCLA's offense against various combinations of campers, during which it took Keith Erickson about five seconds to backdoor me and take a perfect pass from Hazzard. Then they all answered questions for an hour: Hazzard and his new assistant, Jack Hirsch, on UCLA's prospects for this season; Erickson, the Lakers' color man, on his analysis of the championship series; the 41-year-old Kenny Washington on his unbelievably youthful appearance ("Good genes, I guess") and Fred Slaughter on his prodigious weight gain (estimates of his present poundage ran as high as 330, but Slaughter wouldn't say).
Yes, the Wooden Encounter was special. In what other sport could a bunch of over-the-hill guys actually be instructed by the man?. A comparable football camp would be, say, The Bear Bryant Gridiron Experience. Perhaps that will, happen in a future lifetime, by which time I might have the third option off the high-post offense down pat.