GAINESVILLE -- Gator Clause was lucky enough to interview John Wooden for about 30 minutes in 2007 for a piece previewing the NCAA Tournament. Wooden thought the Gators had what it took to repeat and, of course, he was right.
Wooden died on Friday. He was 99. Wooden was always a fan of UF coach Billy Donovan, so it was no surprise when Donovan won the Wooden Award in April. Donovan, so moved by his relationship with Wooden, issued a statement Friday night about his friend:
"John Wooden was a great coach and a great man. He was a man of humility who embodied the best in character and values, and exemplified what coaching is all about.
I was fortunate enough to be honored with the Wooden Award in April, an award that now takes on added significance to me personally. I found out that I was being honored on his 99th birthday. To have the opportunity to go out to Los Angeles and see firsthand how great an impact he still has is something I will always be honored and humbled to be a part of. His legacy will endure forever.
I also didn't want to go unnoticed the sad passing of Duke Llewellyn today, the co-founder of the Wooden Award and Team. Duke was a kind and compassionate man, and I feel truly honored to have known him, even if only briefly. He was a class individual with a great sense of humor who touched many lives around him."