In March of 2007, after coach Pete Trgovich led the E.C. Central Cardinals to their first boys basketball state title, The Times phoned UCLA legend John Wooden to pass on the good news about his former player.
Wooden was both ecstatic and proud, calling the East Chicago Washington recruit one of his favorite players in 27 years as the Bruins' coach.
"His style at that time didn't work into my philosophy," Wooden noted. "But as time went by, he adjusted very well and became one of the best defensive guards I ever had. And he didn't come in as that at all.
"In '75, Pete's senior season and my last national title, I thought we had the best pair of defensive guards in the country with Pete and Andre McCarter. That's what enabled us to beat a high-scoring Kentucky team in the championship game."
Wooden died June 4 at age 99 and was buried June 11 at Forest Lawn's Old North Church in the Hollywood Hills. A special public memorial service, which Trgovich will attend, is scheduled this morning in UCLA's Pauley Pavilion.
Many of Wooden's players and coaches from around the country also will be in attendance, giving Trgovich a chance to renew old acquaintances and swap stories about the gentlemanly "Wizard of Westwood."
"To me, it's a celebration. He's had a great life," Trgovich said. "The only time a lot of the guys got together was when they had something for Coach Wooden. This is gonna be the biggest reunion of all.
"I'm sure everybody that can possibly attend will attend. That's a tribute to Coach Wooden, and the only thing I'm really sad about is this might never happen again as far as us getting together."
Trgovich said many of Wooden's players were looking forward to his 100th birthday celebration Oct. 14.
"It really would've been something," Trgovich said. "But this is gonna be something, too."
Nicknamed "Pistol Pete" and a prolific scorer in high school, Trgovich took exception to Wooden's earlier claim that he needed to be more defensive-minded in college.
"I remember some sportswriter my junior year (at ECW) calling me the hardest-working defensive player in the state, and I was so proud of that," Trgovich said. "I do feel I played defense in high school. I think that's how I got on the court at East Chicago Washington.
"And then all of a sudden, when my offense exploded, everybody thought I didn't play any defense, just offense. Well, I didn't come to UCLA not wanting to play defense. I came there willing to play defense."
Think Scottie Pippen in Bruin blue.
"I had all the physical tools. I was long, and I was quick," Trgovich said. "And I had the heart to play defense. For Coach Wooden to pick Andre and myself as the best defensive backcourt he's ever coached ... that's the biggest compliment I've ever gotten as far as my basketball ability."
Wooden won 10 NCAA championships in 12 years, including seven in a row from 1967 through 1973.
A native of Martinsville, he remains an integral part of "Hoosier Hysteria" and is enshrined in the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame. But sadly, younger players and fans know very little of his history and accomplishments.
"In the fall issue of our quarterly magazine, we're going to do a tribute to John Wooden, but we don't have anything planned at the Hall," said Becky Beavers, publications manager for the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
"We've posted our displays on Facebook for people to be aware of who John Wooden was and what he's done. But we haven't had a lot of people just come in, saying: 'I want to see the Wooden display.' "
Today's memorial is scheduled for 9 a.m. and will be streamed live at www.ucla.edu.
COLLEGE BASKETBALL | JOHN WOODEN MEMORIAL