The UCLA Bruin basketball team was thumping the Arizona Wildcats by 20 points with about one minute left, so Coach Ben Howland put in all his bench players, including stocky, six-foot guard Tyler Trapani. Tyler, a junior, is a “walk-on,” which means he wasn’t recruited and does not have a scholarship. He’s been on the team for three years and had played in only three games for about three minutes total. He’d never scored a point, but he was thrilled just to be part of the team.
What made this so special is that Tyler is the great-grandson of legendary UCLA Coach John Wooden, and this was the last game to be played at Pauley Pavilion, which is scheduled for a complete renovation. Coach Howland wanted to be sure Coach Wooden’s great-grandson was on the floor when the buzzer sounded, ending the era on this historic arena.
What only a Hollywood scriptwriter could imagine is that, in the waning seconds, a Bruin would shoot an air ball that landed in Tyler’s hands. Tyler shot the ball, scoring his first points ever for UCLA and the last points to be scored in the arena.
The event itself was touching, but Coach Howland’s press conference (you can find it on YouTube) was even more so. He was visibly emotional as he expressed his amazement: “It fell right into his hands … There’s something going on there, I really believe that. To have Trapani make that last shot means so much to me.”
It’s the kind of story fit for a legend.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.