UCLA coach Ben Howland last saw John Wooden on Wednesday, and the Wizard of Westwood was cracking jokes. Wooden-era All-American Jamaal Wilkes, who was also there, saw that Wooden's glasses had fogged up and asked if Coach could recognize him.
"I remember," Wilkes said Wooden told him. "Now go sit down."
Wilkes said he noticed a glint in Wooden's eye, and Howland said he saw a twinkle that night as well. In the final days of his life, Wooden was resting comfortably and kept a sense of humor.
"There will never be another John Wooden," Howland said. "Trying to live up to his standards of winning are not happening anywhere. It’s always going to be his program. UCLA basketball is John Wooden, it’s synonymous with Coach."
Wooden, of course, has inspired generations of Bruins.
For Wilkes, a kid with a self-described funny jumper who was just happy to be recruited by Wooden and ended up playing for UCLA from 1972-74, learning from the man was a constant.
"He was oracle, more of a teacher," Wilkes said. "He was always available to you. You could always get to him."
The lessons extend to the current era of Bruins under Howland, who fondly recalls meeting Wooden for the first time. Howland now coaches Wooden's great-grandson, Tyler Trapani, a walk-on sophomore guard who eventually wants to get into coaching too.
"It’s incredible to think about all the lives he touched," Howland said. "He’s a legend and a national treasure who was a coach."