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Marv Levy on John Wooden

Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy has fond remembrances of John Wooden, the legendary UCLA basketball coach who died at age 99 on Friday. Levy was in attendance at the VIP Reception for the Jim Kelly Celebrity Golf Tournament on Sunday night at the Hyatt Regency Buffalo.

As football coach at the University of California from 1960 to 1963, Levy worked in the same conference as Wooden - then the Athletic Association of Western Universities, now the Pac 10 Conference.

"I think he's the best coach ever - in any sport," Levy said. "When I was at Cal, he was their coach, but he hadn't yet emerged (to national prominence). I met him at league meetings, liked him and we got along well. About 15 yeras later or so I was out there recruiting to bring some guys up to Montreal in the CFL and stopped by and visited John. He was very cordial. The only thing he had framed on his wall (in his office) was a newspaper article from back when he was a high school coach in Indiana. And it said that South Bend Central, or somebody, was having their banquet this weekend and we couldn't find any big-name coaches so John Wooden will be the speaker."

Wooden and Levy shared a lot of the same philosophy. Like Wooden, Levy stressed the fact results are the byproduct of preparation. Wooden's website includes the statement: "Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable." In other words, don't put the cart before the horse. Push yourself to the limit, strive to improve every day, pour your energies into each task, and if you do that, the likely result is you will win. 

"John never used the word win, never in his vocabulary," Levy said. "You get better, work hard, improve. I had great regard for him."

Levy, meanwhile, still resides in Chicago with his wife, Fran. The two are enjoy visiting a new granddaughter, Angela, who is 21 months old. Levy proudly said Angela already can sing the words to the Harvard fight song.

---Mark Gaughan 


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