"Coach Wooden & Bill Walton" - - by Rev. Weldon Bares

One of the greatest coaches in the history of college basketball was UCLA’s John Wooden.

He was very strict. He demanded that his players have short hair and be clean shaven because he believed that long hair would stay wet longer after a shower, increasing their chances of catching a cold. This policy displeased some of his players.

According to one story, after a summer break Bill Walton, the future great NBA star, came back to UCLA with a long beard and long hair. Coach Wooden pulled him aside and said, “Bill, you have to cut that.” Bill Walton responded, “No. You have no right to tell me that. I have a right to wear my hair like this.”

The coach then asked Bill Walton, “Do you believe that, Bill? Do you believe it very strongly, Bill?” Walton said, “Yes sir, I absolutely do.”

“Well,” said the coach. “I like men who believe in things very strongly, who will stand up for what they believe and stick with it.” And then he added, “It’s been nice having you on our team, Bill. We’re going to miss you.”

Obviously, the point is not about the hair. It’s about following the leader and respecting the coach.

Guess what? Bill Walton cut his hair, and the rest is history. This interesting footnote: for the rest of his life, he called Coach Wooden on the phone every week.


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