The Wizard &
The Miracle Worker


By Wendy Soderburg '82, Photos by Gregg Segal

Published Apr 1, 2006 12:00 PM

They call him Coach. They call her Miss Val.

He has been designated the greatest coach of all time, with a record 10 NCAA basketball championships in 12 years and an unparalleled win streak of 88 games. Her gymnastics teams have won five NCAA titles in the last nine years, and her 2006 squad, ranked No. 6 in the country, will be competing for a sixth title in April.

He is a huge gymnastics fan who attends every one of her team’s home meets, sitting in the second row of the floor level at Pauley Pavilion. She — well, let’s just say she was a tiny tot when he began his historic NCAA championship run in 1964, so attending basketball games was not on her schedule. But she is clearly one of his most enthusiastic disciples.

UCLA Magazine sat down recently with John Wooden, 95, and Valorie Kondos Field ’87, 46, in the den of Wooden’s comfortable Encino home to find out a little more about these two extraordinary UCLA coaches. Friends for many years now, the two share a genuine affection that became evident as the conversation turned to life, love, faith and, of course, coaching.

Q: Coach, do you really attend all the home gymnastics meets?

JW: I used to attend as many as I could before we had the women’s teams, when we had the men’s. I enjoyed those. I didn’t start [attending the women’s meets] until approximately four years ago, and they were amazing. It’s impossible to do the things they do, but they go ahead and do them anyway. The way they greet each other — whether they do well or whether something happens — there’s tremendous team spirit in what I call an individual sport.