On June 4, 2010, the world lost a legend not only in his accomplishments in the world of athletics, but in the way he has affected millions of lives, many of whom have never and will never have the opportunity to meet him. The one they call "Coach"… John Wooden.
John Wooden - Intergalactic Treasure (via 805Bruin)
John Robert Wooden was born October 14, 1910, in the small town of Hall, Indiana. He grew up on a small farm in Centerton, where his family moved while he was little. After his family moved a second time, this time to Martinsville, Indiana, he helped Martinsville High to 3 straight Indiana State championship games, winning one in 1927. Then, he attended Purdue University, where he became the first ever consensus three-time All-American while leading Purdue to the 1932 national title. His constant diving on the floor for loose balls earned him the moniker, the "Indiana Rubber Man".
Wooden graduated from Purdue in 1932 with an English degree. After ten years of playing pro basketball and high school coaching and teaching, Wooden joined the Navy in 1942, where he served for three years and left as a lieutenant. Right before going on a mission, an emergency appendectomy prevented Wooden from going. As it turns out, his replacement was killed in a kamikaze attack.
After his discharge in 1946, Wooden went and coached at Indiana Teachers’ College (now known as Indiana State). In 1947, Indiana State won the Indiana Intercollegiate Conference and was invited to the NAIB (now NAIA) Championship Tournament. However, due to the NAIB’s rule banning African-American players, Wooden declined because Clarence Walker, one of his players, was African-American. Instead of accepting and leaving Walker behind, Wooden stuck to his values and the following year, as Indiana State won its second straight conference title, the NAIB reversed its ban and Indiana State eventually became the national runners-up, losing to Louisville in the championship game. Walker was the first African-American ever to play in any post-season collegiate basketball event.
After the season, Wooden received offers from Minnesota and UCLA. Wooden originally wanted to coach at Minnesota, but a snow storm knocked out the phone lines. When Minnesota didn’t call at the time they promised, and UCLA did, Wooden accepted UCLA’s offer. In 1948-49, Wooden turned a 12-13 UCLA program into a team that won 22 of 29 games. He then followed with seasons having 24, 19, 19, 16, 18, 21, 22 (and UCLA’s first NCAA tournament appearance), 22, 16, 16, 14, and 18 wins from 1949-1961.
In 1962, UCLA lost in the semifinal of the NCAA tournament, which set the stage for arguably the most dominant era in sports. After a 20-9 season with another NCAA appearance in 1963, UCLA won the its first national championship despite no starter being taller than 6’5". UCLA went 30-0 thanks to Wooden’s (and assistant Jerry Norman’s) aggressive 2-2-1 zone press. In 1965, Gail Goodrich scored a then championship game record 42 points against Michigan as UCLA won its second straight. But things were only getting started.
After the 1966 team failed to make the tournament despite and 18-8 record, Wooden and sophomore Lew Alcindor helped UCLA to 3 more NCAA titles from ’67-69. During that time, UCLA went 88-2. After Alcindor graduated, many felt UCLA’s dominance would end.
But UCLA won their fourth and fifth consecutive titles behind Sidney Wicks and Steve Patterson. Beginning 1972, the "Walton Gang", led by Keith (now Jamaal) Wilkes and Bill Walton helped UCLA push the consecutive title run to 7, while running an 88 game win streak. After the streak ending in South Bend, and the eventual loss in the national semifinals in 1974, UCLA bounced back and sent Wooden out a champion, winning title #10 in a span of twelve years.
But Wooden’s legacy goes beyond the hardwood. His Pyramid of Success is an inspiration to everyone who knows of it, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, was always willing to speak to everyone. Phil Jackson in a documentary, PBS’s "John Wooden: Victory, Values, and Peace of Mind",
As most coaches in that era, they were teachers. He had a system that he taught. He promoted that kind of idea, "Let’s have a complete system; Let’s have something that’s a philosophy of life that we can give our players so that they can have something more when they move on into life."
Wooden also learned much of life and humanity through his players. As Wooden commented in the documentary,
"I think I learned more about man’s inhumanity to man through Lewis or Kareem than any other person that I’ve known and personally been with. I thought his self-control was remarkable in many, many ways, and of course he was always a very intelligent person. I just have so much respect for him."
Last year, John Wooden joined his beloved Nell, but yet the Wooden mystique lives on… In the final men's basketball game at Pauley Pavilion before its renovation, Tyler Trapani, Wooden’s great-grandson, the first of Wooden’s descendants to ever attend UCLA, scored the final basket.
players and family reaction to tyler trapani basket (via puntingiswinning)
And I leave you with comments from last year on Coach’s passing…
Lakers Coach Remembers John Wooden (via AssociatedPress)
Vin Scully on passing of John Wooden (via TheSoundtrackGuy)