We all knew this was going to come sooner rather than later, as Chris Dufrense of the Los Angeles Times discusses the darker side of John Wooden's run in Westwood.
But in a seriousness, how could it not? A blind man could tell you this was coming.
No rendering of Wooden's legacy, though, is complete without mention of a man who influenced one of sport's most unimpeachable dynasties:
If Wooden was the father figure of UCLA basketball, Gilbert was its shadowy one.
We have tried to discuss Gilbert's influence on the UCLA program here in the most rational way possible. Of course there will be a partisan tilt. Of course there will be some emotion and some nastiness, because UCLA is our hated rival. But regardless of all that, there is no denying that Sam Gilbert had an influence on the UCLA basketball program.
That level of that influence remains debatable, but there was still some influence.
There have been some here and elsewhere on the blogosphere that think any negative discussion of Wooden so close to his death is wrong and classless. Those people, Trojans and Bruins alike, are entitled to that opinion. But Wooden is in the news now. So, if his life and career are going being to be celebrated than you have to take the good with the bad.
As a result, I think the relationship between Wooden and Gilbert is relevant.
Wooden is being celebrated for many things both on and off the court.
There is no question that John Wooden the PERSON was a tremendous positive influence on many people; not just his basketball team. I have no problem with that. There is no question that he deserves that recognition.
But no matter how great he was, no matter if you think it is classless or not, the influence of Sam Gilbert on Wooden's program is relevant.
Times are different now. We see people's character assassinated every day on TV, in print, on blogs, and various other websites. It doesn't matter what side of the aisle you are on, there are crazies on both sides that take no prisoners. We have grown tolerant or numb to it and it is accepted.
I won't go into all the particulars. We spent a couple of days going back and forth over the rumors, allegations and truths of Sam Gilbert so there is no point in doing it again.
But if you look close enough you can see similarities in how Wooden addressed Gilbert's influence on his program just like Pete Carroll had to address the issues with regards to Reggie Bush.
Here is the first quote from Wooden (from the same article)...
"I tried my best," Wooden told the Basketball Times in 2005, ". . . My conscience is clear."
Sometimes it is a strange world that we live in but things always seem to balance out.
Here is the second quote...From Pete Carroll
But we tried in every way to do things as well as we could possibly.
Sounds like they are saying the same thing. This is not taking quotes out of context, both are talking about outside, nefarious influences on their respective programs.
Coaches at times are powerless.
The fact is no coach can monitor everything his players do out of the view of his watching eyes. If kids want to break the rules they will break the rules - they will always find a way.
I have less of a problem that Wooden and his program fell victim to an unscrupulous hanger-on. We see it in all aspects of college sports.
The bigger problem I have is the beatification of Wooden by people so committed to protecting his legacy that any rational discussion of all aspects of his great career, no matter how negative, is considered classless or some tired old story. (see: 12th Bruin on Twitter calling Chris Dufrense, the author of the LA Times piece, a dickhead)
Wooden's own words reveal that he knew SOMETHING was going on. He either turned a blind eye or he truly was blind.
Wooden supporters not being able to admit even the slightest issues that went on when the man himself admitted it is why this won't die.
It is seen as intellectually dishonest.
People want to parse it or split hairs as to what was okay or what wasn't back in Wooden's day, but I am not buying it. I feel pretty secure in saying that ANY extra benefits convened to a player would run afoul to the NCAA's rules both then and now.
Cheating is cheating right?
The difference now is that in the era of 24 hour news cycles, and with people looking to make a buck in trying to tell their salacious stories, it becomes much tougher to hide bad behavior.
Times were different then. Some in the press were willing to put their pens down so why not now? In the end, it's all fair game.