Week In News: UCLA's Wooden Dies

Sports fans in Los Angeles are mourning the loss of the man who brought 10 NCAA championships to UCLA, John Wooden. He died last night at the age of 99. Host Guy Raz speaks with L.A.-based writer Conor Friedersdorf about Los Angeles' relationship with basketball.

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GUY RAZ, host:

We're back with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

Mr. JOHN WOODEN (Former Coach, UCLA): Always try to teach today as the only day that matters. I try to get that across to forget the past. You can't live (unintelligible) you've got to prepare for the future by doing the best you can in the present.

RAZ: The words of John Wooden from a 2004 interview on NPR. The legendary coach of the UCLA men's basketball team died last night at the age of 99.

And from Southern California this week, we're joined by Conor Friedersdorf for a look at the ideas behind the headlines. He writes about urban affairs and politics for theatlantic.com. His blog is called the Urban Scene.

Conor, welcome back.

Mr. CONOR FRIEDERSDORF (Writer, The Atlantic): Thank you.

RAZ: I've seen photos, Conor, of vigils on the UCLA campus already for John Wooden. I was curious about something you wrote this week on the blog and it was called "What Unites Los Angeles."

Mr. FRIEDERSDORF: Yes. And the answer is the Los Angeles Lakers.

RAZ: Yes, of course.

Mr. FRIEDERSDORF: And basketball fans actually in Los Angeles, over the last couple of generations, have been very lucky. Of course, with John Wooden dying this week, there's been a lot of memories of the 10 titles that he won at UCLA. And, of course, he was coaching and winning in an era when the Dodgers had Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale and the Lakers had Wilt Chamberlain and Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. That was just a tremendous time to be alive and watching sports in Los Angeles.

And now with the Lakers winning championships again and playing now against the hated Celtics...

RAZ: Very hated Celtics.

Mr. FRIEDERSDORF: Yes. And it's an interesting contrast because Coach Wooden, he liked the old school college-style basketball, teamwork and hated showiness. And even back in the days of Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, he didn't want his players watching the Lakers because he thought that they would learn bad habits. So we can only imagine what he thought of the Showtime Lakers in the '80s when Magic Johnson was doing no-look passes.

But Los Angeles has encompassed both the John Wooden style of college basketball and the Lakers Showtime style of basketball that residents have loved over the years.

RAZ: Conor, moving into completely different direction. Two Republican women are hoping to win the nomination for governor and senator in your state, in California, obviously Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina, respectively, two former CEOs in the tech industry. It seems like both of these candidates are pushing their moderate credentials unlike Republican candidates in primaries elsewhere. Is that what California Republicans are looking for?

Mr. FRIEDERSDORF: What they're touting isn't so much their moderation as it is their outsiderness. They're touting themselves as business people who are outside politics and who are going to sort of sweep in and fix the broken system by not being politicians. And that is something that California Republicans want.

RAZ: It's interesting because Jerry Brown, who's running for the Democratic nomination, his whole point is that California voters have tried that. They have tried an outsider with Arnold Schwarzenegger. So, isn't that strategy also problematic?

Mr. FRIEDERSDORF: I think so. I think that if I were a California Republican, I would worry that if a CEO got to Sacramento, she might be unprepared to navigate the intricacies of the politics in that town and might get taken advantage of strategically and not accomplish the things that a California Republican would want.

On the other hand, if Jerry Brown goes to Sacramento, he's going to know the system inside and out. And that's certainly going to be an advantage. He's going to know the pressure points and how to push his agenda in ways that an outsider just wouldn't.

RAZ: That's Conor Friedersdorf. He writes about politics and urban affairs for a variety of blogs and websites. You can find his latest, it's called Urban Scene. It's at theatlantic.com.

Conor, thanks so much.

Mr. FRIEDERSDORF: Thank you.

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