John Wooden won 10 national titles at UCLA in the 1960s and ’70s. He coached in 12 Final Fours. He is considered by some the greatest coach of all time – not the greatest college basketball coach of all time, but the greatest coach of all time.
Still, one must wonder how Wooden would have fared in today’s game – not just because of the immense parity in college basketball, but also because the modern player has changed considerably over the last half century.
Would Wooden have enjoyed coaching in the one-and-done, social-media era of college hoops?
“I don’t think Coach Wooden would have wanted to coach in today’s environment,” Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar told Gary Parrish, who was filling in as host of CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “This one-and-done thing is crazy. He wanted his players to graduate. That’s a very basic disconnect that I don’t think would have worked for him. The fact that guys would come in and just be there to play basketball for a season or two, that did not make sense to Coach Wooden. He wanted people to go to college and benefit from the experience totally – and that includes getting a degree.”
Abdul-Jabbar led UCLA to three consecutive NCAA titles from 1967-69. He wouldn’t have traded his college experience for anything – and not just because he was a three-time national player of the year or a three-time Final Four Most Outstanding Player.
“The benefits that I got to my own personal development were incredible,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “Going to college and getting a degree and going through that experience – it’s a great thing for you. But it has nothing to do with basketball. Part of it has everything to do with basketball, but the personal development that you experience has nothing to do with it. Just going to class and having to discipline yourself and apply yourself really benefits you for the rest of your life – and it has benefitted me. I would not have been able to be as successful post-basketball if I had not had the education I was able to achieve.”