Wooden v. Auriemma: Coaching Legends have more Similarities than Expected

John Wooden is the standard when comparing greatness in college basketball. Photo Courtesy: Adam Fagen
John Wooden is the standard when comparing greatness in college basketball.
Photo Courtesy: Adam Fagen

By Alex Gustafson

With the Huskies’ 63-53 win over Notre Dame on Tuesday, Connecticut women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma tied UCLA coach John Wooden with his 10th national championship.

Wooden coached college basketball when UCLA was the dominant program of the era, just as the University of Kentucky is now, scholarships were few and far between and the NBA was an afterthought for student-athletes.

Geno, on the other hand has coached in an era when other women’s programs have been one step behind the Huskies (Baylor University, University of North Carolina, University of Maryland and Notre Dame to name a few schools that have had quality women’s programs over the past decade.)

From an espn.go.com article: “When you make a comparison, you always come up short,” Auriemma said. “You always have to appreciate it in its own element.”

I believe this statement is untrue. There are more comparisons you can make between these two legendary men of the college hardwood. Wooden coached at UCLA for 27 seasons and won 10 championships in a 12 year span. Auriemma, now in his 29th season at Connecticut has 10 championships in 10 trips to the Final Four.

Although these two men coached in different eras of college basketball, they coached the two most recognizable basketball players on the men’s and women’s side, respectively.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton at UCLA and Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore at Connecticut were notable players Wooden and Auriemma coached at their respective universities.

In my opinion, these two men are the faces of college basketball. Yes, there are obvious differences but when I think about men’s and women’s college basketball (gender and the pace of the game, an example, as I mentioned in my article from April 6, 2015.) a similarity between these two legends is that they hold education in high regard.

On the University of Connecticut athletic site, coach Auriemma’s graduation rate of four-year student-athletes is 100 percent. Coach Wooden taught his players to live by his “Pyramid of Success”, which included 12 principles of leadership. This similarity shows that these men are more alike than Auriemma said.

Auriemma’s comment shows two things: 1) he wants college basketball to remain separate and 2) he does not care for the comparison to the Wizard of Westwood, even though the coaches are now tied for the most NCAA basketball championships in history it appears Geno wants the comparisons to end at the well-known college players each has coached.