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John Wooden, 1910-2010

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I hope you'll all forgive this brief digression from topics that are strictly Laker-related. Both the basketball world and the city of Los Angeles lost one of its titans tonight. Coach John Wooden died a few hours ago at the age of 99, and we at Silver Screen and Roll would be remiss if we didn't take a moment to tip our lids to the man.

If you're a sports fan living in L.A., you know what an enormous shadow Coach Wooden has always cast over the city. This isn't a town that canonizes coaches easily. Even the greatest Laker coaches of all time, the Pat Rileys and Phil Jacksons, have occasionally been casualties of the demands and expectations we put on them. Not Wooden. He conquered the L.A. sports scene and stayed on the throne. His unfathomable success on the court, the lifelong influence he had on the players he coached and the gracious manner in which he held himself and treated others made him a towering figure, and rightly so.

If you're reading this, it's because the sport of basketball is important to you. You wouldn't be on this site if the game hasn't brought you enormous pleasure and satisfaction over the years. For that you should thank Coach Wooden. He was a strategic and tactical innovator, and the empire he built at UCLA helped the sport grow and become the cultural institution it is today. If you want to get Laker-specific about it, know that he coached and developed some key players in the franchise's history, including Gail GoodrichKeith EricksonLucius Allen and one of the top two or three Lakers ever, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. If you're interested, you can read some of the Captain's remarks about Wooden here.

So whatever you're drinking on this Friday night, pour a little out for the Wizard of Westwood. The hoops world is smaller and lonelier without him.