Joe B. Hall still remembers what accumulated in the pit of his stomach out in San Diego when listening to John Wooden at a press conference on the eve the 1975 NCAA Basketball Championship Game.
"I had a sick feeling," said Hall.
After all, Wooden had just announced he would retire as basketball coach following the title game.
"I knew right then that would be a big influence on the game," Hall said on Friday.
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He was right. The 1975 Bruins were not one of Wooden's best teams, but "it rose to the occasion," said Hall of UCLA's 92-85 victory in the title tilt, giving the Wizard of Westwood his 10th NCAA crown in a 12-year span.
And yet Hall held no animosity against the legendary coach, who passed away Friday at the age of 99. Instead, in the aftermath of that championship night grew a friendship between the coaches of two of the game's most storied powers.
"The respect that I have for him and what he accomplished and the total character of the person, made it an honor to compete against his teams," Hall said.
"Our relationship really grew after that game. I would visit him when I was in L.A, and at several NCAA Tournaments I enjoyed his company. It was great to hear his stories and his philosophy of life. He was a great proponent of living a clean life and doing no harm to your fellow man."
With one exception, laughed Hall, "the pain that his teams inflicted on the basketball court."
There was plenty of that. From 1963 through 1975, Wooden's program ruled the game like no other program has before or since. It produced four unbeaten seasons, three one-loss seasons and two two-loss campaigns. It put together an 88-game win streak, and from 1967 through 1973 captured seven straight NCAA titles.
Hall's current radio partner, Denny Crum, was Wooden's assistant for three of those UCLA national championships before becoming head coach at Louisville, where he won a pair of his own.
"Through Denny I've been able to learn a lot more about Coach Wooden and his nature and the character of his personal life," said Hall, who would win his NCAA title in 1978. "And Bill Walton, we've been lucky enough to have him on the show, and have him talk about Coach Wooden."
But Hall would always try to learn as much as he could on his own, as well. As an assistant to Adolph Rupp, he remembers tournaments in which Henry Iba, Ben Carnevale and Wooden would sit around in the Baron's hotel room talking basketball.
"It was like sitting at the knee of kings," said Hall.
Hall remembers going to Los Angeles to do a basketball game for ABC, and stopping by Pauley Pavilion where the retired Wooden still had an office. The then-retired UK coach was told he might find the Wizard out on the track, and sure enough Wooden was there doing his daily 4-mile walk.
"He wanted to walk as we talked," Hall said. "I'm 18 years younger than him and I could barely keep up with him. And he was in his late 80s at the time."
Just "four or five years ago," Hall spent time with Wooden at Cabo San Lucas as part of a Texas Roadhouse promotion, and "it was a great visit, though his health had started to decline."
Still, the two men will be forever linked by that 1975 championship game, the last game Wooden ever coached. In fact, Wooden's Bruins had beaten Crum's Cardinals 75-74 in overtime in the national semifinal, after Kentucky had whipped Syracuse in the first Final Four game that year.
Then came the Sunday news conference in which Wooden, at age 64, announced his impending retirement. Wooden so wanted to win the Monday night game he received a rare technical foul when he came to mid-court to complain to the officials.
"I think it was an example of how powerful and respected Coach Wooden was," Hall said, "that when Kevin Grevey was shooting the free throws, the officials were politely asking him to leave the floor."
Wooden would depart that night with another title, and a legend and influence that continued to grow well into his retirement.
"You very seldom heard him say a bad word about anyone," said Hall. "He was just such a great example of clean living and high character."