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Home - John Wooden

  John Wooden

john woodenJohn Robert Wooden (born October 14, 1910) is a retired American basketball coach. He is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player (class of 1961) and as a coach (class of 1973). He was the first person ever enshrined in both categories; only Lenny Wilkens and Bill Sharman have since been so honored. His 10 NCAA National Championships in 12 years while at UCLA are unmatched by any other college basketball coach.

High school

Wooden coached two years at Dayton High School in Kentucky. His first year at Dayton marked the only time he had a losing record (6-11) as a coach. After Dayton, he returned to Indiana, teaching English and coaching basketball at South Bend Central High School until entering the Armed Forces. His high school coaching record over 11 years, 2 at Dayton and 9 at Central, was 218–42.

Indiana State University

After the war, Wooden coached at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana from 1946 to 1948, succeeding his high school coach, Glenn Curtis, who became head coach of the professional Detroit Falcons. Wooden also coached baseball and served as athletic director. In 1947, Wooden's basketball team won the Indiana Collegiate Conference title and received an invitation to the NAIB National Tournament in Kansas City. Wooden refused the invitation citing the NAIB's policy banning African American players. A member on the Indiana State Sycamores' team was Clarence Walker, an African-American athlete from East Chicago, Indiana. In 1948 the NAIB changed this policy and Wooden, again leading Indiana State University to another conference title, guided his team to the NAIB final, losing to Louisville. That year, Walker became the first African-American to play in any post-season intercollegiate basketball tournament. John Wooden was inducted into the Indiana State University Athletic Hall of Fame on February 3, 1984.


During his tenure with the Bruins, Wooden became known as the "Wizard of Westwood" (although he personally hated the nickname) and gained lasting fame with UCLA by winning 665 games in 27 seasons and 10 NCAA titles during his last 12 seasons, including 7 in a row from 1967 to 1973. His UCLA teams also had a record winning streak of 88 games and four perfect 30–0 seasons. They also won 38 straight games in NCAA Tournaments and a record 98 straight home games at Pauley Pavilion. In 1967 he was named the Henry Iba Award USBWA College Basketball Coach of the Year. In 1972, he received Sports Illustrated magazine's Sportsman of the Year award. Wooden coached his final game in Pauley Pavilion on March 1, 1975, in a 93–59 victory over Stanford. Four weeks later he surprisingly announced his retirement following a 75–74 NCAA semi-final victory, over Louisville and before his 10th national championship game victory over Kentucky.

UCLA had actually been Wooden's second choice for a coaching position in 1948. He had also been pursued for the head coaching position at the University of Minnesota, and it was his and his wife's desire to remain in the Midwest. But inclement weather in Minnesota prevented Wooden from receiving the scheduled phone offer from the Golden Gophers. Thinking they had lost interest, Wooden accepted the head coaching job with the Bruins instead. Officials from the University of Minnesota contacted Wooden right after he accepted the position at UCLA, but he declined their offer because he had given his word to the Bruins.

His alma mater Purdue University wanted Wooden to return to campus in 1947 and serve as then Head Coach Mel Taube's assistant until Taube's contract expired. Wooden declined, citing his loyalty to Taube, as this would effectively make Taube a lame-duck coach. The following season, 1948, he accepted the UCLA position.

"He never made more than $35,000 a year, including 1975, the year he won his 10th national championship, and never asked for a raise," wrote Rick Reilly of ESPN [6]. According to his own writings, Wooden turned down an offer to coach the L.A. Lakers from owner Jack Kent Cooke that may have been ten times what UCLA was paying him.

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