I recently got a copy of Wooden: A Coach’s Life by @SethDavisHoops, and am enjoying reading about John Wooden as a young man.
As a Kansas alum, I was surprised to find this anecdote about Wooden and some friends leaving Indiana in 1928 to look for summer work:
"Eventually, they made it to Lawrence, Kansas, where John asked the University of Kansas’ forty-one-year-old coach Phog Allen, for help finding work. Allen got Wooden’s crew a job pouring concrete for the new football stadium. The coach had ulterior motives. Allen knew full well about Wooden’s basketball exploits, and he tried to convince him to move to Lawrence and eventually play for Kansas. Wooden declined and headed back to Martinsville."
Fascinating for several reasons. First, the setup for the story is that Wooden left town because he was angry that his girlfriend (and eventually wife) Nellie was dating another boy. We have to assume that his desire to go home and win her back played a part in him turning down Phog Allen. How close did John Wooden come to being a Jayhawk? We’ll never know.
Second, the Jayhawk football team still plays in Memorial Stadium. So John Wooden - in my mind the greatest college basketball coach to ever live - helped build the stadium Kansas fans still sit in today.
Third, how amazing is it that in 1928, the way to a prized recruit’s heart was to get him a back-breaking job pouring concrete? Can you imagine?
I highly recommend picking up a copy of this book. I’m hoping to get Seth on the phone in a couple of weeks to talk more about this phenomenal story.