John Wooden balanced coaching with philosophy about as well as anyone. That's why more than three and a half decades after he coached his last game after turning the UCLA men's basketball program into a dynasty, his words remain as relevant as ever.
We've all heard and used Wooden's quotes over the course of our lives, even if we didn't know they originated with the Wizard of Westwood. Last winter, when G.W. Boon was in the midst of a strong run in the starting lineup for the Bucknell men's basketball team, he moved back to the bench when Joe Willman returned from injury. A senior captain, Boon had to wonder why, then Bison coach Dave Paulsen dropped a little Wooden on him: "It's not so important who starts the game, but who finishes it."
I had never heard anyone say that before Paulsen told me, so I Googled it and right there it was under Wooden's bio, his version of a more coherent Yogism.
When you think about that, it makes a lot of sense. Sure, maybe it's a way to talk a kid off the ledge who's bumming about not starting, but when I was a player and the game was in the balance, I'd much rather be in the game in the last five minutes than the first five. There is an aura that goes with being the starter, but there is something to being the guy in the clutch, too.
That brings us to Penn State and the revolving door at quarterback. Just a few weeks ago in this very space I spelled out why Rob Bolden should be the guy for the Nittany Lions, from start to finish. It wasn't as much for what Bolden had done, it was because of what he didn't do, which was make the crucial mistake at the crucial time.