A friend of a friend-John Wooden and Tony Spino-January 11, 2015

One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends. This is a series of stories about friends of my friends.  The post below is the story on a friend of a friend for January 11, 2015.

When I grew up in Morristown, NJ I attended a parochial grade school called Saint Margaret’s. The custodian at the school was Mr. Spino and he lived with his family on the grounds behind the church and school. He had two sons that I was very familiar with. Those two sons were named Joe and Tony.

All of us after graduating from parochial grade school attended the large public high school in town called Morristown High School. I had over 700 in my graduating class with over 3,000 students in grades 9-12.

Tony Spino was a couple years older than me but he served as Morristown High School’s Student Athletic Trainer. He worked under the guidance of super nice man named James Vance. I got involved in athletics as a 9th grader and Tony was always an encouraging mentor. He paid special attention to ones he knew from Saint Margaret’s like me. Tony graduated from high school in 1968 and eventually wound up at UCLA working under the legendary Ducky Drake as a trainer. There is a great story about Tony at the link below. I encourage you to read it.


Tony went on to become a great friend of UCLA Basketball Coach John Wooden.


Tony Spino

The Friend of the Friend-JOHN WOODEN

john wooden

My story of meeting Tony Spino friend John Wooden

I had the opportunity to meet Coach John Wooden in January 2006 at a NCAA Convention held in Indianapolis, IN. He came to Indianapolis to receive one of the most prestigious awards the association presents which is the Gerald R. Ford Award. At the time of me meeting coach he was 95 years old. I shamelessly asked him for his autograph and told him about Tony Spino being from my hometown of Morristown, NJ. He was so complimentary and loyal to Tony Spino.

After spending some time talking about Tony I mentioned a line I heard him utter once on TV. He was asked about teaching and he immediately replied “Where else can you meet such splendid company”? As he was finishing my request for the autograph he recited the following:

“They ask me why I teach, and I reply, ‘Where could I find such splendid company?’ There sits a statesman, strong, unbiased, wise. Another Daniel Webster, silver-tongued.

A doctor sits beside him, whose quick steady hand may mend a bone or stem the life blood’s flow. And there a builder, upward rise the arch of a church he builds, wherein that minister may speak the word of God And lead a stumbling soul to touch the Christ. And all about a gathering of teachers, farmers, merchants, laborers. Those who work and vote and build and plan and pray into a greater tomorrow.

And I may say, I may not see the church, or hear the word or eat the food their hands may grow, But yet again I may. And later I may say, I knew him once, And he was weak, or strong, or bold, or proud, or gay. I knew him once, but then he was a boy. They ask me why I teach and I reply, ‘Where could I find such splendid company?’”

John Wooden died at age 99 on June 4, 2010. Rest in peace Coach Wooden you taught us all well that thru teaching/coaching we can meet wonderful people.


  1. Jeff Neelon · · Reply

    Great story

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Awesome story, Dan. You have had some amazing experiences and friends. I’m proud to be counted among the latter.

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