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Original Issue


Alexander Wolff's outstanding article about John Wooden (The Coach and His Champion, April 3) reminded me of an incident I witnessed in Seattle at the 1984 Final Four, the last one that he and his wife, Nell, attended. The day before the semifinals, I watched the teams practice at the Kingdome. During a lull in the proceedings, I spotted Wooden passing through the crowd unnoticed by those around him. Having admired this man all my life, I tried to make my way to him, but a large, enthusiastic group of fans suddenly engulfed him—although not because they had recognized him. They had spotted TV announcer Dick Vitale about 10 feet behind Wooden and were clamoring for his attention. A few moments later Wooden continued down to courtside and out of sight.
State College, Pa.

Three years ago the University of Louisville made Wooden an "adopted" alumnus at a reception honoring him and Cardinal coach Denny Crum, who was one of Wooden's assistants at UCLA for three seasons. The warmth that exists between Wooden and his protègè was obvious. Wooden is indeed a great coach. More important, he's a sensitive and humble man.
Los Angeles

In the article Wolff paraphrases Wooden as saying that today's coaches over-control their teams rather than teach them the game and then let them play it. In light of this observation, I found it interesting that during this year's NCAA tournament, Michigan's new coach, Steve Fisher, often allowed his Wolverines to keep playing in a critical situation rather than call a timeout. His practice of instructing his players after taking them out of a game instead of waiting until he was ready to put them back in was also Woodenesque and suggests that Michigan may have found a teacher to lead it to a few more NCAA titles.
Kalamazoo, Mich.

I recently lost my mother and have noticed my father reacting as Wooden has to the death of his beloved Nell. My father also is a man of principle who stresses making the best of any given situation. Now he finds it difficult to follow his own advice. Realizing that a man as highly esteemed as Wooden is having trouble coping with the death of his wife will enable my dad to realize he is not alone in his grief.
Winter Springs, Fla.

Your story on Wooden stands in stark contrast to the one on Pete Rose in the same issue (Rose's Grim Vigil, April 3). The difference in the life-styles and values of the two men could hardly be greater. Though I take nothing away from Rose as a baseball player—his records speak for him—I would prefer Wooden as a role model for me and my kids. The poem he wrote about the inner peace and fearlessness of death that prayer and contemplation of God have brought him is going in my file of Sunday school material.
Columbus, Ohio

In your special report An American Disgrace (Feb. 27), you mentioned that Oklahoma basketball coach Billy Tubbs once told a Sooner crowd, "Regardless of how terrible the officiating is, please do not throw stuff on the floor."

On March 5, I was watching a game on TV between Syracuse and Georgetown at Syracuse. At one point the fans began throwing things on the floor. Orange coach Jim Boeheim told the crowd that if anything else were thrown out on the court he would instruct the referees to assess a technical foul against him and his team. Unlike Tubbs, Coach Boeheim showed a lot of class.
West Plains, Mo.

Bravo to Rick Reilly for addressing an apparent double standard in NCAA athletics (POINT AFTER, March 27). Why should a letter of intent signed by a student-athlete be any more binding than a contract between a school and a coach? His remedial suggestions deserve consideration by the NCAA.

On the other hand, given the outcome of the national championship basketball tournament, I think Reilly would be hard-pressed to find a Michigan fan who is not glad that former Wolverine coach Bill Frieder didn't have to wait until the completion of the season before accepting the Arizona State job. The enthusiasm, confidence and sense of purpose displayed by the Michigan players reflected their positive reaction to Frieder's departure and to then interim coach Steve Fisher's leadership. There are exceptions to every rule.
Wadsworth, Ohio

I certainly don't begrudge a successful coach an opportunity to move on to bigger and better things, but I do not cotton to the way the Jimmy Johnsons, Larry Browns, Bill Frieders and Dennis Ericksons of the country have gone about it. Their in-your-face approach to their contractual obligations does not make them suitable role models for today's young athletes.
Poulsbo, Wash.

Reilly hit the nail on the head, but it was only one nail. What about coaches who promise a student-athlete that he is entering a clean program and then leave him, the school and the community to suffer the consequences when the program is put on probation? Maybe these coaches should be banned from coaching for the same period that the school is on probation. Coaches teach through their actions more than by their words. "Think lips" is only half the problem. "Think values" is the core issue.
Rosemount, Minn.

Perhaps it's time for Reilly to come down from his ivory tower to the real world. Did Reilly really expect Jimmy Johnson to tell a high school student that he might soon be coaching the Dallas Cowboys? How long would that have stayed a secret. As an employee of the University of Miami, Johnson was obligated to recruit football players for the school, and he did the job he was paid to do. If he had been more honest with the recruit, he wouldn't have been loyal to his employer. You can't have it both ways.

Until the NCAA makes the rule change Reilly suggests, forbidding the hiring of coaches until the season's end, coaches have to protect themselves. Considering the rash of recent firings, who can blame a coach for bettering himself before disgruntled alumni get to him?
Wyandotte, Mich.

As a resident of Winter Haven, the spring training home of the Boston Red Sox, I can remember some 10 years ago when my dad and I could head to exhibition games without worrying about being able to purchase tickets. Now tickets are few and far between, and the teams are demanding—and getting—bigger fields and better facilities (The Selling of Spring, March 27). I think Florida has proven that an expansion team in the state would be successful. If only the owners would agree.
Winter Haven, Fla.

Along with the less-than-desirable features of the ultramodern ballparks, spring training is beset by another new unsavory phenomenon: the rabid fan. Time was when you could stroll into the park, watch coaches hit fungoes and then take in four or five innings before leaving. Only the most unsophisticated spectator would cheer for his team. Now you see standing ovations for routine plays and actual disappointment when the "home" team loses. All this for nothing more than a limbering-up exercise.
North Port, Fla.

This letter is a follow-up to your Jan. 16 story (Gold Amid the Coal) by Nicholas Dawidoff on my father, coach Joe Cesari, and his North Schuylkill Area High wrestling team. On March 18, North Schuylkill won the Pennsylvania Class AA championship. The Spartans set a state scoring record with 111.5 team points, and Dad won Coach of the Year honors. He will retire with a 27-season record of 357-31-2.

North Schuylkill also had three individual champions: Chris Rickard at 103 pounds, Randy Reidler at 112 and my brother Mark Cesari at 145.
Kulpmont, Pa.

Maybe twice was merely a coincidence, but three times? A Rice appeared on your Jan. 9 cover, after Notre Dame beat West Virginia to win the national crown in football, and again on Jan. 30, after the San Francisco 49ers won the Super Bowl. The first Rice was Irish quarterback Tony; the second, 49er wideout Jerry. So who was featured on your April 10 cover celebrating Michigan's NCAA basketball championship? Glen Rice! Now that's a unique triple crown!
Medford, Mass.


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