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John Wooden is 99

Happy Birthday, coach.

His family says they will celebrate quietly.

The tallest of his red-headed former pupils, Bill Walton, has written Wooden a heartfelt and funny letter full of memories and ... play-by-play of some of Walton's favorite new albums. He even implies that Bob Dylan's newest includes two songs Dylan wrote "specifically for" John Wooden. I read the lyrics of those songs -- and I'm sure Walton couldn't mean that literally.

By total coincidence, yesterday I bought a classic Wooden book: "Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court."

There are several great tales in there, but one really stuck with me.

Wooden, of course, is almost synonymous with UCLA. But here's the amazing thing. At the time he was offered the UCLA job, he was also in the running to become head coach in Minnesota, which was closer to home for him. There were some complications with the Minnesota position, though, which he wanted to get straightened out first. They said they'd call by 6 p.m. with the details of his final offer. UCLA was due to call at 7.

Minnesota didn't call, so when UCLA called, Wooden said yes to his second choice.

As he hung up the phone, it rang, and it was Minnesota. A blizzard had knocked out all the phone lines, so they had been unable to get through, but now they were offering everything he had asked for.

Had I been able to terminate my agreement with UCLA in an honorable fashion, I would have done so immediately. But I had given my word just a few minutes before.

If fate had not intervened, I would never had gone to UCLA. But my dad's little set of threes served me well: "Don't whine. Don't complain. Don't make excuses."...

I believe that things are directed in some sort of way. I'm not exactly sure how. I also believe that things turn out the best for those who make the best of the way things turn out.

Talk about making the best of it: John Wooden went on to lead UCLA to what may have been the greatest coaching run in college sports history.