Posted by: The Amoeba | June 5, 2010

In (Bounce) Passing

It’s been a rough week for obituary writers. Consider our losses already, and the weekend’s drunk drivers haven’t gotten started yet:

* The last, but one, of the Golden Girls.

* The World’s Ugliest Dog.

* The Gulf of Mexico.

* And, a few hours ago, The Coach.

John Wooden coached the men’s basketball team at the University of California, Los Angeles. He did it, not quite before the invention of electricity, but way before Al Gore invented the Internet. He retired from professional life at about the same time as South Vietnam.

But not before, ah, winning a few ball games.

Like, ten NCAA tournament championships in twelve years, from 1964 to 1975. Four of those ten championship teams went undefeated. No one, before or since, has even come close to this level of excellence.

The best measure of his impact was being in the gym of a Pac 10 school in the years immediately following Wooden’s retirement, as the realization slowly dawned, “Hey! We actually have a chance to beat these guys!”

(Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba actually was in the Hec Edmundson Pavilion – the University of Washington basketball court – for at least one post-Wooden UW-UCLA confrontation during the ’70s. In fact, he was in the radio booth, part of the broadcast team for the campus radio station. He has been dazed and confused, not to mention partially deaf, ever since.)

Through his glory years, and beyond until the day of his death, John Wooden was revered as a gentleman’s gentleman.

He got away with crew cuts, when the standard hairdo was shoulder-length. For guys.

He got away with being straight, when the biggest comedy act of the day was Cheech and Chong (the prehistoric Harold and Kumar, for you twentysomethings out there).

He got away with clean language, during the most profane era of American history until the apparition of George W. Bush.

And for all this, he got a maximum salary of $35,000 (about $145K in 2010 dollars). During the early years of his tenure at UCLA, he made a whole lot less than that, and worked a second job to make ends meet. He probably still got grief from the History department faculty, irritated that a (gasp) basketball coach could make anywhere near as much as a (starving) Ph.D.-holding academic.

Let’s see now. A professor of history at UCLA, today, might get paid (salary plus bennies) around $140K. Less what Arnie Schwarzenegger can claw back as he tries to drag California out of bankruptcy.

The current UCLA basketball coach (one Ben Howland)? Who hasn’t won one NCAA championship yet? (He has come close.)

A cool $1.5 million. This year. Plus incentives.

Goodness gracious sakes alive!!

  – O Ceallaigh
Copyright © 2010 Felloffatruck Publications. All wrongs deplored.
All opinions are mine as a private citizen.



  1. Shoeless writer’s gripe @

    • Welcome, Barry. Tell Quilly this, she might sic an elephant on you. And do I detect a titch of jealousy of ‘the most interesting man in the world’?

  2. I have no idea who the golden girl is, but John Wooden sure lived a full life. And got to teach Kareem Abdul-Jabbar when he was still named Lew.

    You left out Gary Coleman, though. Where’s your head at?

    • My head is in this week, dude. Coleman passed on last week. Mind you, it was easy to overlook him …

  3. I’m in the wrong biz. Can a five-foot middle-aged woman coach basketball? (Please?)

    RIP Miss Ellie. Heaven just got a little uglier.

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