At this point in his career, former UCLA basketball player Bob Webb isn’t surprised when some high school players are unaware of John Wooden’s resume.
Webb played under Wooden for two seasons, including the Bruins’ undefeated national championship team in 1973, their seventh title in a row at the time.
He certainly knows a group that’ll understand the gravity of what it means to have played for Wooden.
“The parents remember,” Webb said. “The kids go home and their parents tell them, ‘You need to listen to what this guy is saying.’”
When he took over the boys basketball program at Santa Clarita Valley International this season, Webb already had players on the team buzzing.
“A couple of the team’s seniors started looking him up on their phones and they were like, ‘Wait a minute, Bob played for UCLA? Bob won a national championship? Bob played for an undefeated John Wooden team?” said SCVi athletic director Ken Erenberg.
“They realized if the school was going all out for them, they wanted to go all out for the school.”
Playing with the likes of Bill Walton and under Wooden is just the tip of the iceberg for Webb.
He spent a year playing professionally in Germany, coached girls basketball at Montclair Prep for over two decades and worked as an assistant for the Los Angeles Sparks under Henry Bibby. He also worked as UCLA’s JV coach during the early period of Gene Bartow’s tenure in the mid-1970s.
“It’s been refreshing because I’ve seen how much it’s helped them and I know they appreciate what I’m teaching them,” Webb said of his newest team.
Webb’s arrival at SCVi was thanks in part to his 15 years working with Erenberg at Montclair Prep. Since the school closed in 2012, Erenberg enlisted Webb in launching the Albert Einstein Academy boys basketball team in 2013. Webb’s also coached at Pacific Hills and at the junior high level at Brentwood.
This offseason, he had opportunities to coach at Bishop Alemany and Long Beach State, but chose SCVi.
“He didn’t have to take this job,” Erenberg said. “I think the ultimate goal is to build a program from scratch and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
In its seventh season of existence, there was much work to be done to the SCVi program.
To start, Webb utilized something Wooden drove into him and his teammates at UCLA — conditioning.
“That was Coach Wooden’s No. 1 thing,” Webb said. “When you get tired, you lose your fundamentals.”
Webb often confided in Wooden during the early 2000s while at Montclair Prep.
“I was able to go see him often and pick his mind about ways he would do things,” Webb said. “He was always really helpful. I think it kept him in the game without being in the game.”
Wooden died in 2010 at the age of 99 but Webb has helped do his part in keeping his memory alive with his coaching style.
“I try not to shove all the stuff about Coach Wooden down their throats but I let them know he was one of the most successful coaches of all time and he stressed basic fundamentals,” Webb said. “Younger kids don’t understand that at first. But these are the same drills I’d be running if I was coaching a bigger high school or a junior college.
“The kids have responded well, though. At first they struggled but it’s starting to catch on.”
SCVi dropped its first three games of the year before opening Omega League play with a win over Calvary Christian of Oxnard on Dec. 11. Its next two games were cancelled due to fires but it’s scheduled to play next on Jan. 18 at Pilgrim.
Webb is taking a year-by-year approach as far as when he’ll call it quits. He was in “semi-retirement” before joining SCVi as strictly a coach, with his son, Bobby, working as his assistant. But with a mentor like Wooden, he knows you never really retire from coaching.
“Everything I’ve done in the game is a reinforcement of what I’ve learned from Coach Wooden,” Webb said. “You could read his books or whatever, but it’s not the same. He always made time for me and I consider it an obligation to pass on everything I learned to as many hopeful players as possible.”