He Became a Bruin so He Could Test Himself

While being wooed by coach John Wooden to accept a basketball scholarship to UCLA, David Greenwood couldn’t have imagined that he would never play for the man.

If he had, the 6-foot-9 forward and his Verbum Dei High teammate, Roy Hamilton, might have given Digger Phelps and Notre Dame a longer look.

More than likely, though, “We probably would have gone to USC to play for Bob Boyd or UNLV to play for Jerry Tarkanian,” said Greenwood, who enrolled at UCLA in 1975. “We loved Jerry Tarkanian.”

Little did they know that Wooden would retire and be replaced by Gene Bartow shortly after their senior seasons at Verbum Dei.


They still had time to change their minds, but by then an earlier visit from Wooden had resonated with Greenwood. “When Coach Wooden comes to Compton to visit, you’re pretty impressed.”

Wooden had issued a challenge.

“He told me if I went to USC or UNLV or Notre Dame, I’d be an All-American,” said Greenwood, a businessman and former high school coach. “But if I went to UCLA, I’d be able to test myself against 12 other high school All-Americans every single day .... It was kind of like, ‘Come here and test your mettle.’ ”

Often during his first two years at UCLA, Greenwood said, he wondered whether he’d made the wrong choice. Despite a Final Four run in Greenwood’s freshman season, “We were getting booed at Pauley Pavilion.”

Gary Cunningham, a former Wooden aide, took over before Greenwood’s junior season, and twice Greenwood was an All-American under the new coach.

Cunningham, who was gone after two seasons, was not Wooden. But, Greenwood said, “To this day, he’s probably the best coach I ever played for.”

-- Jerry Crowe