“The Haldeman-Wooden Connection”

During Watergate, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein repeatedly asked their sources for information about White House chief of staff Bob Haldeman’s involvement in either the break-in or the cover-up. The standard replies were: “You’ll get nothing from me about Haldeman,” “I’ll never say anything about Haldeman,” or “I’m not your source on (Haldeman).”

Bob Haldeman was easily the most ferocious and feared chief of staff of all time — inside or outside the White House. As it turns out, according to Seth Davis’ biography Wooden, Haldeman (a 1948 UCLA graduate) was a close personal friend of legendary Bruins men’s basketball coach John Wooden. In May 1970, Wooden’s UCLA players sent a letter to President Nixon (via Haldeman) protesting the U.S. expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia and the National  Guard shootings at Kent State that killed four students and wounded nine. Wooden did not outwardly support Nixon’s policies, but the UCLA coach did worry about how campus unrest would affect his basketball program. (Ironically, Wooden came to UCLA in 1948 — the same year Haldeman graduated).

On the surface, a men’s basketball coach and a White House chief of staff would seem to have little in common. However, just the opposite was true: neither of them drank alcohol, smoked, or used profanity. Both men were Christians (Haldeman was a Christian Scientist) who kept their hair short and did not grow facial hair. They symbolized the “rotten establishment” that so angered many college students of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.

By April 30, 1973, Haldeman had resigned as Nixon’s chief of staff because of Watergate, and Wooden had captured his seventh consecutive NCAA basketball championship. Though he was 16 years older than Haldeman, Wooden outlived him by a wide margin. Haldeman died November 26, 1993 at age 67. Wooden died June 4, 2010 at age 99.

 

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