Longtime UCLA men’s basketball coach John Wooden, winner of ten NCAA titles and one of the more crucial figures in the sport’s history, if not the landscape of American culture during the 1960’s and 70’s, passed away Friday at the age of 99. Deeply beloved by his former players, competitors, media and fans alike, one portion of the Wooden story unlikely to garner much attention this week is his 1994 cassette, ‘A Life In Basketball’, produced by Harvey Kubernik for the New Alliance affiliated Issues label. Though Kubernik will long have to live down whatever role he played in bringing Hank Rollins to the spoken word circuit, he can also take some pride in knowing that for a brief spell, The Wizard Of Westwood (and Bill Walton) were labelmates with Slovenly and Saccarine Trust’s Jack Brewer. From the LA Times’ Michael Arkush (March 25, 1994) :
Wooden, 83, and Walton, 41, through the help of Reseda producer Kubernik, have reunited to record their impressions of the game and how it serves as a metaphor for winning in life, too. They talk about dribbling and defense, passing and the press–the brains of basketball. But, most of all, they talk about practice and preparation, discipline and determination–the backbone of basketball.
“They both wanted to give something back to the game,” Kubernik said, “and this is more than just a sound bite.”
Hours more, in fact. The two separate double recordings–Wooden’s “A Life In Basketball” and Walton’s “Men Are Made In The Paint”–were distributed by New Alliance Records in Los Alamitos and hit the stores in late February. The recordings comprise about six hours of expertise sprinkled with musical interludes that reflect the rhythm of the fast-paced game. The Walton music was provided by ex-Doors keyboardist Ray Manzarek. Walton always likes to have good company.
Originally, Kubernik, a pioneer in spoken word recordings, planned to include only Walton. He picked the redhead/Deadhead/talking-head after hearing him interviewed on radio and television. This wasn’t Bill Walton circa 1973. “He didn’t have the stutter of the Walton I had remembered,” recalls Kubernik, president of BarKubCo Music, Inc.
Plus, Kubernik, anxious to branch out beyond his traditional recording circle of counter-culture poets and alternative musicians, envisioned in Walton someone who symbolized winning and a proven work ethic. “I knew I could go the distance with him,” Kubernik said.
Walton, instantly enthusiastic about the project, suggested Kubernik include Wooden. Walton called “Coach,” and the answer was immediate.
“I did it for Bill,” Wooden said. “We’ve been very close.”