It's not a question of whether John Wooden was the greatest coach in the history of basketball. It's a question of whether John Wooden was the greatest coach, period.
But Wooden was more, much more than just a great coach. He was a true sportsman, in an era when the word seemed to mean less and less with each passing year. He wanted to win, of course - but he knew what was important, and the players who grew up under him learned those lessons.
When I was growing up, I was a bit of a front-runner when it came to sports. I rooted for USC in football, I rooted for the Oakland Raiders in the NFL, and I rooted for the Oakland A's in baseball. But more than any other team, I rooted for the UCLA basketball team.
And what great teams they were - with incredible players like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then, known as Lew Alcindor), Sidney Wicks, Curtis Rowe, Henry Bibby, Bill Walton, Dave Meyer, and many, many others. The dominance of those UCLA teams was something that will never be matched again in the history of college basketball - the game has just become too big.
But all along, even after his retirement, there was Coach Wooden - teaching everyone lessons about basketball and about life, and about the things that were really important. Universally admired, and universally respected. Not just a great coach. A great man.
UPDATE: "The only Bruin who could get a standing ovation in a room full of Trojans." I can't think of a better tribute.