LOS ANGELES -- Hall of Fame basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian has always had a unique relationship with his UCLA counterpart John Wooden.
And, it all started early in Tarkanian's coaching career.
"It was  and I was at the junior college level," said Tarkanian, who coached at Riverside and Pasadena City Colleges from 1961 to 1968. "We were in Kansas City for the Final Four and we go into a diner and pow! There's John Wooden.
"I was a young coach who was just excited to see him in the same place. And the best thing is that I'll always remember what Wooden said that day.
"UCLA had just reached the Final Four undefeated and Wooden was asked about his team. And he answered that he could not be any prouder of his players. He didn't say anything about winning or losing. He just praised everything about his players and I remember feeling like they had already won without playing a game. Wooden just had a way that made you believe."
Wooden's ability to make people feel better about themselves is one reason why Tarkanian and many others are having a difficult time following his death Friday night.
"I really don't know what to say. We knew this time would come eventually," said former UCLA Coach Jim Harrick, who knew Wooden for over 45 years. "Coach is a very dignified man. This is a difficult time for everyone."
After turning 99 on Oct. 14, Wooden seemed stronger than ever to people who saw him around the winter holiday season. But Wooden's health began to decline at the start of the year and on May 26 he was moved to a hospital after he stopped eating.
"I've been keeping in touch with him and his family, so I know that he's been going through a lot lately," Harrick said about Wooden, the first person to be selected for the Basketball Hall of Fame as a both a player and coach.
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"We all love him so much. He's touched so many people. I know that he's meant everything to me."
After running into Tarkanian in a Kansas City diner in 1964, Wooden led his Bruins to two more victories and they took home the school's first national basketball championship. It would be the first of many.
"He is such a great, great man," Tarkanian said about Wooden, who won 10 national titles with the Bruins. "His biggest problem was dealing with winning all of the time. And, that's a great problem to have."
Although Tarkanian often questioned the relationship between Wooden and UCLA's deep-pocket booster Sam Gilbert, he said that he always looked up to the UCLA coach.
"People don't know this but when I first took the Long Beach State job in 1968, Coach Wooden helped me feel welcomed at my first big media event," Tarkanian said. "Back then, they used to have a weekly press conference on Tuesdays for every local basketball coach.
"Before they even introduced me, Coach Wooden gets on the mic and talks for five minutes about the great hire Long Beach State had made. I mean, he congratulated Long Beach State for five minutes. I didn't know what to do. Here was the game's most heralded coach and he was just going on and on about me. And he did it just to help me get off to a good start at Long Beach State. It was really a special thing to do. But that's just Coach Wooden. A wonderful man."
As a college coach, Wooden stands alone. He had a 664-162 overall record, which includes two seasons at Indiana State. At UCLA, where Wooden coached from 1948 to 1975, he had a 620-147 record, which includes 10 NCAA titles and 19 conference championships.
"He established a goal that is unreachable in college sports, obviously," Los Angeles Lakers coach Phil Jackson said about Wooden on Thursday. "And held it to such a standard that we all appreciated his teaching and his mentoring of his college students, and I think it's a day gone past for what we see now out of NCAA college players. But at the time it was inspirational, and his coaching has been an inspiration to all of us coaches."
It's off the court where Wooden moved into a separate class, where he was known to keep in touch with all of his former players from All-American standouts like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton (who maintained regular contact after they left UCLA) to bench players like Andrew Hill (who used Wooden's "Pyramid of Success" to become a successful businessman) to overlooked former UCLA NBA draft picks like Ken Washington (selected by Golden State in the eighth round of the 1966 draft).
"My relationship with him was about much more than basketball," Washington said about Wooden, who was a three-time All-American player who helped lead Purdue to a national title in 1932. "He's about being a human being first, and I'll give you an example of what I'm talking about.
"A few years ago, my mother was hospitalized and her health was not well. It was a tough time for me, and Coach Wooden was there calling me every week. And the calls did not stop after she passed. He made sure that he kept in touch. Acts like that are what make Coach Wooden so special."
For Harrick, one of his best Wooden moments came in Seattle at the NCAA Final Four in 1995, when he was able to give something back to UCLA's legendary coach.
"After Coach's wife [Nellie] died [in 1985], he stopped going to Final Fours," Harrick said about Wooden, who led UCLA to 88 wins in a row from 1971 to 1974 and 38 consecutive NCAA tournament victories from 1964 to 1974.
"So after we won on Saturday to move into Monday's championship game, I flew down to [Southern California] and drove to his house on Sunday. I begged him to come to the championship game but it was a hard sell.
"The turning point was Coach's relationship with Arthur Andersen, who booked him to deliver a couple of inspirational speeches in the Seattle area. That's how we got coach to travel to the game and looking at him smile after we won was one of the greatest thrills of my life."