UCLA honors Wooden's 100th birthday
LOS ANGELES (AP)
Tyler Trapani would always celebrate his great-grandfather's birthday with a family dinner for the man known to his loved ones as ''Papa.''
That won't happen this year. John Wooden died in June, but the coach who led UCLA to a record 10 national basketball titles was remembered Thursday on what would have been his 100th birthday.
''We know he's going to be watching from up above and he's going to be happy that we're celebrating for him,'' said Trapani, a junior reserve guard for the Bruins.
UCLA was set to mark the occasion with an event at the John Wooden Center on campus. An exhibit of memorabilia from Wooden's life and career was on display, and a portrait of him was to be donated to the university.
Trapani, along with members of his extended family, was to attend an evening program that included remarks by former UCLA basketball player Keith Erickson and athletic director Dan Guerrero, and the introduction of the men's and women's basketball teams.
Trapani joined the team as a walk-on three years ago. Wooden saw him play for about a minute in the 2008 double-header named for the Hall of Fame coach.
At the time, Wooden was blunt in his assessment of Trapani's abilities, saying, ''He's a little heavy-footed, but he works hard. He doesn't have the quickness for changing direction that I always like to have.''
Trapani admitted the comments hurt his feelings.
''When I didn't take his advice when I was younger, he just said, 'If he wants my help, he'll come to me,''' he said. ''I regret not coming to him more often.''
When they did get together, the conversation focused on life.
''I'm used to having him and being able to go to his apartment and talking to him about stuff, not even about basketball, more about how to be a good person,'' he said. ''He still had a memory better than mine. He remembered names, faces, poetry. I wish I had the capability to do that.''
Trapani took Wooden's death from natural causes hard, even though his great-grandfather had been in and out of the hospital in recent years.
''I wasn't able to be myself for that time. I felt kind of away. It took me a good month. I still feel it,'' he said. ''It's tough, but you got to move on.''
Wooden expressed pride in Trapani's high school grade-point average of 4.5. The history major aspires to become a high school teacher and basketball coach.
Trapani is related to Wooden through his daughter Nancy. Wooden is also survived by a son, James, seven grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. His first great-great grandchild, Charles Riley Andersen, was born two months after Wooden died on June 4. Riley was the maiden name of Wooden's beloved late wife, Nell.
Wooden saw the Bruins play for the final time in December at his annual double-header in Anaheim. They went on to finish with a 14-18 record, their worst in six years, and failed to make the NCAA tournament.
''We're known for championships, not losing,'' guard Malcolm Lee said. ''We want to dedicate this season for him and turn things around.''
Wooden's usual seat behind their bench has been retired, leaving a noticeable void at Pauley Pavilion, where he was besieged by autograph seekers until the family requested he be left alone in recent years.
''We all miss Coach so very much,'' current coach Ben Howland said. ''He's a special treasure, not only to UCLA, but all of college basketball.''