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Celtics have praise for Wooden

06.07.10 at 11:49 am ET
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The Celtics had plenty of good things to say about legendary UCLA coach John Wooden, who passed away Friday at the age of 99. (AP)

The Celtics had plenty of complimentary things to say about legendary UCLA coach John Wooden, who passed away Friday at the age of 99. (AP)

Before the start of Game 2 of the NBA finals, legendary UCLA head coach John Wooden, who passed away Friday at the age of 99, was honored with a moment of silence in Los Angeles’ Staples Center. In the days since his death, stars in both the college and the pro game have talked about how the Wizard of Westwood influenced them.

Even in a city that is the polar opposite of LA, out in Boston, Wooden’s impact isn’t diminished at all. Several of the Celtics took time away from their finals preparations to comment on Wooden.

Although he played at the University of Connecticut, Ray Allen can appreciate Wooden’s role in the modern game. “He’s had an impact on all of us, indirectly,” he said. “You figure that anybody’s who has played basketball in the last 50, 60 years, we’ve ran his offensive sets, his schemes. We’ve followed the quotations he used to motivate his teams. But not only just basketball: He’s been legendary as a coach, emulated by many coaches across the spectrum. We all have been better as individuals, as sportsmen, to have him in our lives.”

Nate Robinson played against UCLA several times during his tenure at Washington in the Pac-10. “I know a lot of his history because of his winning, but a lot of kids, a lot of freshmen, don’t understand what he brought to basketball alone, but college basketball in general,” Robinson said. “His tradition will carry on. When you hear about UCLA and you hear about basketball, you’ll hear his name. He’s embedded in us. He’s in our DNA.”

Paul Pierce grew up in Inglewood, about eight miles from UCLA, and heard plenty about Wooden. “I’m very familiar with what John Wooden has done for the game of basketball,” he said. “When I talk about basketball, I don’t mean [just] the college game, I mean all of basketball. His influence on the game has been awesome, and when you see an icon like that pass away, your heart just goes out to him and his family.”

But the biggest Wooden fan on the Celtics would probably be Doc Rivers. Rivers has autographed pictures of Wooden and Red Auerbach. “To have those two on your desk, I don’t think you need to further your collection,” Rivers said. “You know, those are the two best. But with Wooden, I think he’s one of the rare superstars that stood out more about him as a person than he did as a coach or anything. And that’s rare, when you say that about any star in any business.”

When he met Wooden for the first time, Rivers recalls reacting like a child meeting his idol. “The fact that I got to meet him and he actually knew my name, to me blew me away on its own right.”

Of course, he had to take advantage of the situation, “I don’t ask for a lot of autographs, and he was one that I wanted, and he was as gracious as we thought he would be.”

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