The following column was written by long-time Southeast Bulloch coach Mike Sparks about his thoughts on and experience with legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, who passed away Friday in Los Angeles at the age of 99.
As a senior at Georgia Southern College in the spring of 1974, I was blessed to experience an unforgettable memory that is one of my most precious.
As a member of a coaching basketball class that was required for my Physical Education degree, we were asked to assemble a coaching notebook with all of the drills, articles and information we could collect from various sources.
At this time in college basketball history, UCLA was at the pinnacle of success, emerging as the NCAA’s greatest powerhouse. Led by coach John Wooden, UCLA acquired records that will never be surpassed.
As a “wet behind the years” aspiring young coach, I developed a sincere admiration for UCLA and coach Wooden. On a whim, I decided to write him and ask for as much information as he could send me for my coaching notebook. I explained what I was doing for this coaching class and asked if he would graciously send me any information he would be willing to impart to me.
Lo and behold, after two weeks, I received a large brown envelope in the mail addressed to me from the UCLA Athletic Department. In the envelope was a copy of Wooden’s book, “Practical Modern Basketball.”
Not only was I surprised to receive the book from coach Wooden, as I opened the front leaf of the book, I read, in complete awe, the following inscription: “For Michael Alan Sparks- with best wishes always in all ways. May my book be both enjoyable and helpful.”
As one can imagine, I have held this book near and dear to me throughout my entire coaching career. Not only did I use the principles for my basketball teams, but all of the athletic teams I coached during my career.
The world has lost a great role model, coach, and human being.
We will miss you, coach Wooden.