Monday, June 7, 2010

Phog’s grandson recalls Wooden


As a college student, Mark Allen was reading legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden’s book, “They Call Me Coach,” when he was startled by the words, “the late Phog Allen.”

“He was very much alive at the time,” Phog Allen’s grandson Mark Allen said. “I said, ‘Phoggie, take a look at this.’ He looked at me and said the Mark Twain quote: ‘Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated.’”

When Mark and wife Lou had the chance to get in line to meet Wooden in Kansas City in November 2006, they seized it in order to tell him that story. Wooden trumped them with a better story.

“He told us, ‘We were high school boys in Indiana in 1927 and went to Kansas to work the wheat harvest. We got to Lawrence, and the wheat wasn’t ready. We sought out Phog to find a job. Phog said he had something for us to do, got us places to stay. He put us to work pouring concrete at the (KU) football stadium (Memorial Stadium). I built that stadium.’ What a nice man he was. Sharp. His recall was just staggering.”

Wooden, who died Friday at the age of 99, was 96 when the Allens met him and talked about how the paths of two legendary college basketball coaches crossed long before Wooden became a coach.

When Mark and Lou Allen met Wooden in Kansas City, he was in town for induction ceremonies as part of the first class of the National College Basketball Hall of Fame. Phog Allen was inducted as part of the second class.

“I was impressed,” Mark Allen said. “I was just in awe of how sharp and bright he was, and his comments were great that night after this tedious and embarrassing roast of him by Bill Walton. The roast was not funny, and I didn’t think it was appropriate.”


murph 9 years ago

That's what a lot of people - except Bill Walton - think of what Bill Walton has to say.

Great story about Coach Wooden and Phog getting him a job on Memorial Stadium. I've heard it before, and also heard it wasn't true. I believe it now that I read this.

Joel Hood 9 years ago

During halftime of the Lakers/Celtics game, ABC interviewed Kareem and Walton to remember Wooden. Kareem was gracious - Walton was a baffoon. He kept apologizing, ad nauseum, for all the "consternation" he caused coach Wooden. It was all about Bill. I'm not a big Kareem fan, but at least he was humble.

Spencer Goff 9 years ago

Bill did look terrible, but he always does in front of a camera.

Bill just doesn't know how to speak publicly or form his thoughts, and he doesn't realize that there are parameters to speeches and a lot of people refuse to get ghost writers (which is foolish, see, enough said), it isn't that Bill is selfish or has no heart, it is actually the other way if anything.

Actually, as far as team goes, there are few (if any) better passing and distributing big men to ever play the game. Bill gets it. He was all about winning, pretty much willing a Portland team to a title on two bad wheels. He actually drove to Robert Parish's house when he arrived in Boston to assure him that he was not after his job, that he was a bench guy who wanted to fill a role and win, and that is what they did. Bill Walton is actually a pretty sad story with some bright moments. His public speaking is not one of those bright moments.

The irony of it is that he has decided to try a second career in broadcasting. He was a failure alongside Stephen Smith and as a color man. Albeit in his defense, Stephen A. Smith is hardly a good partner for anybody unless you are "one of his boys." Couple that with Walton's bumbling and stumbling, it was easy for Stephen A. to be over-critical of him with his "I'm smarter than you" schtick. Shame on ESPN for ever thinking either of those two had any business anywhere near halftime shows.

The last chapter of Bill Simmon's "Book of Basketball" is about Walton, and it might change your mind about him. Plus, the book is a great read about the NBA.

I'm sure people will come on here and flame Walton because he isn't a Kansas guy, never played anywhere close to us, but that is unfair. I have no doubt he loved John Wooden, he just doesn't know how to say it.

Spencer Goff 9 years ago

When you read articles like this it really reinforces how small the coaching community is, but also how closed college athletics are today.

These guys showed up here to cut wheat, and they end up just walking in and getting jobs with Phog Allen? Could you really do that today? Probably not, so many people want involved that they have had to close doors in some regards.

I love college basketball; I love these old stories. I know a minority of people on here flame Wooden for this or that, knowing damn well that every major college at the upper level is involved in far worse, but I always enjoyed the stories his teams brought to the table.

His quotes alone are worth looking into Coach Wooden. They are genuine, and show wisdom, not a false or pregenerated wisdom but a genuine concern for the mental well-being of his players. Very few coaches have that, our coach is one of those, and I am proud of that.

That is two good articles in a row Keegs, what is the deal man!?!!

hawk316 9 years ago

This is a late comment and may not be seen by you, but I wanted to respond to your remarks, Krohnutz. I was just thinking earlier today how ungracious and mean-spirited so many people are when they can post comments anonymously. It's like who they really are inside is revealed. Your comments, on the other hand, just ooze graciousness. I'm not a Bill Walton fan necessarily, but I really appreciate how you "humanized" and respected him as a person who has his obvious faults (like the rest of us!), but good points, as well. Thank you for your kind words. And please, post more often. We need a greater infusion of grace on this site!

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