Encino Crespi Remembers Neighbor John Wooden

For two and half hours, the legendary coach ran the Celts through drills, fundamentals, and shooting techniques. After practice, the ever-gracious Wooden took pictures and signed autographs with the players and coaching staff.
By: Paul V. Rawate
 
 
Everett Frost Pictured with Coach Wooden
Everett Frost Pictured with Coach Wooden
 
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June 11, 2010 - PRLog -- As Los Angeles prepares to say farewell to one the city’s greatest men, legendary basketball coach and Encino resident John Wooden, Crespi Carmelite remembers this neighbor’s influence at the school. The relationship began in 1968 when the Bruins needed to prepare for a crucial road game against the University of Washington. At the time, Washington played on a unique tartan surface that was giving many teams problems. Fortunately for the Bruins, Encino Crespi was one of the few schools in the country that had a tartan floor just like the Huskies. Kim Nakae (Class of 1968) was working in the athletic office when the event was confirmed, and met Coach Wooden when the team arrived for practice.  According to Nakae, “The most notable player who was on that team was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.”  It was supposed to be a quiet shoot around on the campus until the Crespi student body learned of the practice session. At the time, Joe Willging, (Class of 1974) was a sixth grade student at St. Charles Borromeo and went to the event with his cousin. Willging felt, “It was like we were going to a C.I.F. Championship! It seemed like everyone from the school and the surrounding communities showed up to the gym for an exclusive look at the Bruins.” 

After retiring from UCLA as a coach, Wooden lived in Encino. He always had a smile and a nice greeting for anyone at VIP'S, a local restaurant. Encino native, Noah Beery (Class of 1994) remembered the day he met Wooden at VIP'S. “Every time I'd go in for breakfast he was there. I finally gained the confidence to say hi and he was very nice. He even came in with Bill Walton one day which was super cool.” Wooden’s cordial demeanor at the local eateries and his openness with the community progressed into something special for Crespi in 1999. 

The original plan was for Coach Wooden to give the Crespi basketball team a nice motivational speech before practice. However, he had something else in mind. Wooden’s speech turned into an unbelievable and unforgettable coaching session. For two and half hours, the legendary coach ran the Celts through drills, fundamentals, and shooting techniques. After practice, the ever-gracious Wooden took pictures and signed autographs with the players and coaching staff.

One of the most important ties between Coach Wooden and Crespi is the John Wooden Scholar Athlete Award. Annually, only six of the best scholar athletes in the state are chosen for this illustrious honor. In consecutive years, Kyle Cerniglia (Class of 2008) and Everett Frost (Class of 2009) were recipients of the award. In 2008, Cerniglia also received honors as Valedictorian and in 2009 Frost was the recipient of The Crespi Man Award.

Like Wooden, Crespi remains dedicated to successfully fostering and developing the character or young men. “The Crespi Man” and his “Pyramid of Success” are teaching systems based on such traditional values as cooperation and personal responsibility. For this, his influence and spirit will always remain special at the Encino campus. The Crespi Carmelite Community extends its prayers to the Wooden family. We will miss our neighbor and friend.
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