On the UCLA 3, “What Would Wooden Do?”

Three freshman UCLA basketball players held in China on rumors of shoplifting returned to the US last night and have a press conference today to answer (or not answer) questions about what happened and how they were released.  The Washington Post reported that President Trump assisted their release during his trip to Asia this week.  Now the test for UCLA is what to do about the players.

It’s actually pretty simple: “What Would Wooden Do?”  It’s actually a T-shirt at the Bruin Shop on Campus.

Before I started by business, my last job was handling PR for an IT security company in Irvine.  We hired Coach Wooden to speak to our sales team and I had the privilege of introducing him and had arranged for group photos with him and members of our team.  It was a memorable day and a memorable speech.

Coach told a story without a recruit the Bruins had landed.  he was their top prospect and Wooden and his two top assistants were in the player’s home as he reviewed the Letter of Intent with the recruit to outline the responsibilities of the player to the school and the obligations of the school to the player.  It was a time when the NCAA Tournament was only 32 teams and was often referred to as “The Bruin Invitational” where 31 other teams competed for the honor of losing to UCLA in the final.

The player’s mother asked a question about a field of study her son had expressed interest in, as many parent might, and the kid — in front of the coaches — lit into her, calling her names and insulting her.  I can imagine the shock and hurt the mom must have felt.

Wooden was taken aback by this behavior.  He turned to his right and then his left to look at both coaches and stood up.  He carefully removed the Letter of Intent from the table and said to the player, “I’m sorry son.  I can no longer offer you this scholarship.  Because if you don’t respect your mother, you will never respect me.”

He thanked the kid’s mom for her time and Wooden and his assistants left.

Integrity matters.

What these three freshman players did demands an explanation and an apology.  The school ought to suspend them for the season and perhaps the NCAA ought to sanction them so they can’t simply transfer somewhere else.