Coach Wooden and Fromin’s Delicatessen
I’ve worked for Costco Wholesale in the Seattle area corporate office for almost twenty-four years now. About twelve years ago, work took me down to LA so I decided to pay Coach Wooden a visit. He lived in Encino, California. My Costco boss, Rick DeLie, who was also there on business, asked if he could meet Coach Wooden. I arranged for the three of us to have lunch at Coach’s favorite delicatessen, Fromin’s, not far from Coach’s condo. As it turned out, my community college coach, Don Johnson and his wife were also visiting coach, and Coach’s daughter, Nan, wanted to go too. So I made reservations for six.
The food was great and the conversation was even better. Rick, being a huge sports fan, asked Coach a lot of questions about the great UCLA teams and the glory days. Don Johnson, a UCLA All-American under Coach Wooden in the 1950’s, talked about “back in the day” stuff. Nan pretty much listened.
I have always looked for the humor in things so when the opportunity came, I told a joke. Everyone laughed, thank goodness. Coach then turned to me and asked, “Where do you come up with all these jokes, Swen?” This was my opportunity and I took full advantage.
As many of you know, I played about two minutes per game at UCLA because the starter was the great Bill Walton. In other words, I was a “benchwarmer.” I answered Coach, “Coach, you know I spent a lot of time on the bench.” He blushed a little. “I had plenty of time on my hands. People behind me, in the stands, used to tell me jokes. That’s how I learned them.”
Coach smiled and said, “You know, Swen, that’s interesting. There were a couple of times I was going to put you in the game and looked over toward you, but you were looking behind you so I didn’t bother.”
I blushed a lot while Coach patted me on the shoulder.