The Wizard &
The Miracle Worker


By Wendy Soderburg '82, Photos by Gregg Segal

Published Apr 1, 2006 12:00 PM

Q: What kind of things do you do differently from each other?

JW: Valorie mentioned that she would have more group meetings with her girls. I wasn’t much for meetings. I would have one long meeting before the season started, where I’d go over a lot of things, academic mainly, and courtesy and dress and all the other things not pertaining to the actual playing of the game, but which nevertheless I felt were very important to the playing of the game.

VKF: I’m big on meetings because girls like to talk. So when we get together and they get to talk, we clear the air. And there are tears …

JW: I’d do it more individually, not in a group.

VKF: Coach Wooden has got so much more wisdom and experience that when people come up and say, “Oh, you’re the next John Wooden,” it’s so silly to me. Because this is Coach Wooden, OK? I think I speak for all of us at UCLA that we’re very honored to have Coach Wooden in our family. We’re honored that we’re able to meet with him and have discussions like this and consider him our friend. We all learn from each other, and we’ve got him at the helm. And it’s fun because there are still anecdotes that come up every day. Did I tell you about what happened at the meet [on January 22]?

We bought a new floor that was very hard, and our team started grumbling. So I said to them, “You know, life is about adversity. And your character is dependent upon whether you make excuses for yourself or find a way to get things done.” Meanwhile, Coach wasn’t there. I knew he was coming, so I started to get worried. Then I saw him walk in by himself without his daughter. I called my husband over and asked, “Is Coach OK?” And he said, “Yes. His daughter’s flight was delayed, and he wanted to come to the meet, so he got in his car and drove to Pauley Pavilion.”

I called my team over and said, “Remember that little talk we had about adversity and excuses versus making adjustments? The greatest Bruin of all time has just met with adversity, and he had a choice. He could have easily left me a message at home and said, ‘Valorie, I’m sorry, Nan’s flight was delayed. I couldn’t be at the meet.’ But he made the adjustment. He got into his little Ford Taurus and drove himself.” My athletes’ eyes bugged out. And you could tell at that moment, they changed their attitude.