One year, at the pregame banquet for the John Wooden Classic, Steve Fisher arrived early and found himself at an empty table. Name tags were arranged in front of each seat, and Fisher saw he had been seated at Wooden’s table.
With no one around, Fisher did some rearranging.
“I moved name tags around so I could sit next to him,” Fisher said.
For the next few hours, Fisher peppered Wooden with questions, and Wooden answered each with a smile. Fisher was so enamored that, he says, he even let Wooden steal his pie when dessert was served.
On Wednesday, at another banquet — this time the annual preseason Wooden tipoff luncheon — the San Diego State coach was named the winner of the John R. Wooden Award’s Legends of Coaching honor for 2014-15. The Legends award, granted by the Wooden Award steering committee, is given on the basis of on-court success, character and graduation rates.
Fisher, who has coached the Aztecs for the last 15 seasons, joins 16 other men’s and women’s coaches who have received the honor, including Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, Pat Summitt and Geno Auriemma.
Fisher has built San Diego State into a force and reached the Sweet 16 in last year’s NCAA tournament.
The announcement surprised Fisher, who spoke mainly of his admiration for the legendary UCLA coach. He says his staff and players regularly read Wooden quotes and wisdom.
“The best thing that happened to me at San Diego State was having an opportunity to not only meet but get to know John Wooden,” Fisher said.
“He epitomizes what we should all aspire to be as people.”