It’s laughable on its face, comparing any of the philosophies of John Wooden with the Raiders.
It’s not as if there were any John and Nell sideline shots in the Los Angeles Raiders days, or that Wooden ever ventured into the Black Hole, although a Sam Gilbert shot wouldn’t be a huge surprise.
Wooden never talked about winning. The most famous saying affixed to Al Davis is “Just win, baby,” although the most accurate quotation is believed to have stopped at “win.”
But I’ve had a soft spot for Wooden and UCLA ever since my dad, while on a family Thanksgiving trip to Van Nuys, suggested we take a shot at seeing the Bruins at Pauley Pavilion, where they were hosting Wisconsin.
Having already developed some of the skepticism in my early teens which would follow me into my eventual career, I told my dad he was crazy. No way we were going to simply walk up and watch a perennial champion such as UCLA play, not with Bill Walton-Keith Wilkes team already taking the nation by storm.
My dad was right, of course. Over the holiday, tickets weren’t that hard to come by. UCLA hammered Wisconsin and I soaked in every minute. Later, because of a local recreation director and Cal graduate who liked to load a small van full of kids to see his beloved Golden Bears, I saw the Bruins and Walton play at Harmon Gym for three straight seasons.
My dad also brought me to my first Raiders game, eventually went in on season tickets, got me to the Sea of Hands game, etc. . . .
Anyway, as flimsy as this connection is between the late coach of UCLA, my late father, and the Raiders, things are slow enough to spend a few minutes applying some of Wooden’s most famous quotations to the team I’ve covered since they returned to Oakland in 1995. You want hard news? The Raiders Web site confirmed the signing of cornerback Joe Porter on its transactions page.
So away we go with how some of the most famous quotes of Wooden could be applied positively and negatively to the Raiders:
I’d rather have a lot of talent and little experience than a lot of experience and little talent
Davis is big on young talent these days. He’s shown little interest in available veterans and is looking to some fruitful drafts in the last few years (few people outside of those who see the Raiders on a daily basis understand this) to change things.
Ability is a poor man’s wealth
Tommy Kelly, an undrafted free agent out of Mississippi State, is big enough, strong enough and fast enough to have received an $18.25 million guarantee even while coming off an ACL tear.
The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team
In 1997, Greg Biekert was surrounded by players lacking in motivation and belief, and appeared lost and ineffective. The following year, with a new defensive coordinator (Willie Shaw) and an upgraded cast who cared, he was an effective leader and a positive force.
Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be
This one stings. It’s Darrell Russell.
Things turn out best for people who make the best out of the way things turn out
Quarterback Bruce Gradkowski had been dumped by Tampa Bay, Cleveland and St. Louis _ the dregs of the NFL. And look what he did last year against Pittsburgh. The Raiders signed Jason Campbell to start this year, but Gradkowski got a tender worth nearly $1.8 million and will inspire confidence as a backup.
For an athlete to function properly, he must be intent. There has to be a definite purpose and goal if you are to progress. If you are not intent about what you are doing, you aren’t able to resist the temptation to do something else that might be more fun at the moment.
Charles Woodson of the Green Bay Packers lived up to this quotation. The Charles Woodson of the Raiders did not.
Young people need models, not critics
Richard Seymour would be the former, Warren Sapp the latter.
Never mistake activity for achievement
I’m a big fan of Kirk Morrison in a lot of ways, but the fact that he led the Raiders in tackles for the last five years doesn’t mean a lot considering the bottom line.
Be quick, but don’t hurry
Darren McFadden seems to be tripped up way too often when looking to get farther upfield. Marcus Allen got farther upfield by being patient.
Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.
Jon Gruden couldn’t get every player he wanted, and may have picked the wrong guys occasionally even if he could. But it never stopped him from doing everything he could from getting the 53 players at his disposal to play at something approaching their peak.
Consider the rights of others before your own feelings, and the feelings of others before your own rights
Lane Kiffin, who some liked to compare to Gruden, was really the anti-Gruden. He gave up on the 53 to battle the owner.
You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you
The more you look in to the off-field interests of Nnamdi Asomugha, the more he seems like a better person than he is a football player.
By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail
Has any team ever had two more extremes within a five-year period than Rich Gannon and JaMarcus Russell?