The Bugler

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"Be Quick, But Don't Hurry." - John Wooden

As March Madness builds to a frenzy, one can't help but look at some of the interesting players and coaches who also served in the military. Given height restrictions for the armed services there are more veterans who play football but there are several legendary basketball players and coaches.

John Wooden, who joined the U.S. Navy in 1942, served as a physical education teacher. It may not seem very glamorous but I'm sure he was a great inspiration for many a young sailor. His career at UCLA is legendary. His win-loss percentage is over 80% and his UCLA team won ten NCAA championships, a record that no one else comes close to. However, if you live to be 99, you are often known for many things and Wooden is often remembered as a great speaker and motivator. He taught all his players about his "Seven Point Creed" which his father gave to him when he graduated from grammar school. The seven steps are still ones to follow:

Be true to yourself.

Make each day your masterpiece.

Help others.

Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.

Make friendship a fine art.

Build a shelter against a rainy day.

Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day.

Nicknamed, the "Admiral," David Robinson is considered the best player who ever attended the U.S. Naval Academy. He had to receive special permission to attend the academy as he was already two inches over the limit when he finished high school. He continued to grow during college and as a 7'1" player it was great for his basketball career but created challenges as a future Navy officer. He received his commission as a staff officer in the Civil Engineer Corps and served two years in the Naval Reserves after graduating. Although known as the Admiral, his rank was Lieutenant, Junior Grade. As a basketball player Robinson was NBA Rookie of the Year and although the San Antonio Spurs had great years the championship always seemed to elude the team. Finally in 1999, with Tim Duncan as his playing partner, the Spurs won the NBA championship and repeated again in 2003. Duncan and Robinson were named Sports Illustrated Sportsmen of the Year for 2003.

And last but not least, the legendary Coach K, Mike Kryzewski, attended the United States Military Academy and played under the legendary Bobby Knight. He was captain of the Army basketball team in his senior season, 1968–69, leading his team to the NIT where West Point finished fourth in the tournament. West Point had actually received an invitation to the NCAA tournament but at the time the NIT was closer and considered as prestigious. After his army service, Kryzewski was an assistant coach at Indiana under Knight before he returned to West Point. He was coach at Army for five seasons and in March 1980 was chosen to be head coach at Duke. On November 15, 2011, Krzyzewski led Duke to a 74–69 victory over Michigan State to become the coach with the most wins in NCAA Division I Men's basketball and in January of this year reached 1000 wins.

The Snack Bowl - It's Not All About Wildcats and Badgers

Public domain.

Not all basketball action is confined to the NCAA. During a recent snow day in Illinois, LCDR Boettcher of Freeport High School called Glendale to order medals for his cadets' upcoming award ceremony. He told me about the history of Freeport and a special regional event. Freeport made its mark on the map as the Pretzel City and the high school's team name is the Pretzels. One of the school's biggest rivals is with the neighboring town of Monroe, Wisconsin. Monroe is known as the "Swiss Cheese Capital of the USA." Their team is appropriately named the Cheesemakers. The teams have played sporadically since the late 1960s but since the 2007-2008 season the teams have played ever year. The tournament includes both men's and women's games as well as JV. This year for the first time it was announced that a trophy will be awarded to the winning team. According to The Journal Standard, "The trophy will be a big bowl with a pretzel sitting in a mound of cheese."

Photo by Christian Bauer.

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