Thursday, June 3, 2010

John Wooden

John 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 ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period while at UCLA are unmatched by any other college basketball coach.

Early life and playing career

Born in 1910 in the small town of Hall, Indiana, Wooden moved with his family to a small farm in Centerton in 1918. As a boy one of his role models was Fuzzy Vandivier of the Franklin Wonder Five, a legendary basketball team that dominated Indiana high school basketball from 1919 to 1922. After his family moved to the town of Martinsville when he was 14, he led the high school team to the state championship finals for three consecutive years, winning the tournament in 1927. He was a three time All-State selection.

After graduating in 1928, he attended Purdue University and was coached by Ward "Piggy" Lambert. He helped lead the Boilermakers to the 1932 National Championship, as determined by a panel vote rather than the NCAA tournament, which did not begin until 1939. John Wooden was named All-Big Ten and All-Midwestern (1930–32) while at Purdue, and he was the first player ever to be named a three-time consensus All-American. He was also selected for membership in the Beta Theta Pi fraternity. Wooden is also an honorary member of the International Co-Ed Fraternity Alpha Phi Omega. Wooden was nicknamed "The Indiana Rubber Man" for his suicidal dives on the hardcourt. He graduated from Purdue in 1932 with a degree in English.[3]

After college, Wooden spent several years playing professionally with the Indianapolis Kautskys (later the Indianapolis Jets), Whiting Ciesar All-Americans, and Hammond Ciesar All-Americans while teaching and coaching in the high school ranks. During one 46-game stretch he made 134 consecutive free throws. He was named to the NBL's First Team for the 1937–38 season. In 1942, he enlisted in the Navy where he gained the rank of lieutenant during World War II. In 1960 he was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame for his achievements as a player.
Family and faith

Wooden is the son of Roxie Anna and Joshua Hugh Wooden. He had three brothers: Maurice, Daniel, and William. His two sisters died before reaching the age of three. One was unnamed and died in infancy, while Cordelia died from diphtheria when she was two.

Wooden met his future wife, Nellie Riley, at a carnival in July 1926. They married in a small ceremony in Indianapolis in August 1932. Afterwards, they attended a Mills Brothers concert at the Circle Theatre to celebrate. John and his wife had a son, James Hugh Wooden, and a daughter, Nancy Anne Muehlhausen. Nellie died on March 21, 1985 from cancer.

Wooden has remained devoted to Nellie, even decades after her death. Since her death, he has kept to a monthly ritual (health permitting)—on the 21st, he visits her grave, and then writes a love letter to her. After completing the letter, he places it in an envelope and adds it to a stack of similar letters that has accumulated over the years on the pillow she slept on during their life together.

In mourning Nellie's death, Wooden has been comforted by his faith. He has been a Christian for many years and his beliefs are more important to him than basketball, "I have always tried to make it clear that basketball is not the ultimate. It is of small importance in comparison to the total life we live. There is only one kind of life that truly wins, and that is the one that places faith in the hands of the Savior." Wooden's faith has strongly influenced his life. He reads the Bible daily and attends the First Christian Church. He has said that he hopes his faith is apparent to others, "If I were ever prosecuted for my religion, I truly hope there would be enough evidence to convict me."
Coaching career

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, two at Dayton and nine at Central, was 218–42.
Indiana State University

After World War II, Wooden coached at Indiana Teacher's College (now named Indiana State University) in Terre Haute, Indiana, from 1946 to 1948, succeeding his high school coach, Glenn Curtis. In addition to his duties as basketball coach, Wooden also coached baseball and served as athletic director, all while teaching and completing his master's degree in Education. In 1947, Wooden's basketball team won the Indiana Collegiate Conference title and received an invitation to the National Association of Intercollegiate Basketball (NAIB) National Tournament in Kansas City. Wooden refused the invitation, citing the NAIB's policy banning African American players. One of Wooden's players on the team was Clarence Walker, an African-American athlete from East Chicago, Indiana.

That same year, Wooden's alma mater Purdue University wanted him to return to campus and serve as an assistant to then-head coach Mel Taube until Taube's contract expired. Then, at that time, Wooden would take over the program. Citing his loyalty to Taube, Wooden declined, as this would have effectively made Taube a lame-duck coach.

In 1948, Wooden again led Indiana State to the conference title. The NAIB had reversed its policy banning African-American players that year, and Wooden coached his team to the NAIB National Tournament final, losing to Louisville. This was the only championship game ever lost by a Wooden-coached team. 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.

After the 1947–48 season, Wooden became the head coach at UCLA, after negotiating for a three-year contract. UCLA had actually been his 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 that 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.

Wooden immediately displayed the rarest quality a coach can effect: "instant turnaround" for an undistinguished, faltering program. In 1948 he took a UCLA team that had a 12–13 losing season the previous year and transformed it into a PCC Southern Division Champion with a 22–7 record, the most wins for a UCLA season since it started playing basketball in 1919. He surpassed that number the next season with 24–7 and a second Southern Division Championship and won a third and fourth straight Southern Division Championship his first four years. Up to that time, UCLA had collected a total of two such championships the previous 30 years. By 1956, he guided UCLA to its first undefeated PCC conference title and 17 straight wins until finally falling to the indomitable USF team lead by Bill Russell in the NCAA


In spite of success, Wooden reportedly didn't initially enjoy the position and his wife did not favor living in Los Angeles. As such, once Mel Taube left Purdue in 1950, Wooden's inclination was to return and finally accept the head coaching job there. He was ultimately dissuaded when UCLA officials reminded him that it was he who insisted upon a three-year commitment during negotiations in 1948. With that in mind, Wooden felt that leaving UCLA prior to the expiration of his contract would be tantamount to breaking his word and thus decided to again pass on the job at Purdue.

During his tenure with the Bruins, Wooden became known as the "Wizard of Westwood" (although he personally disdained the nickname) and gained lasting fame with UCLA by winning 620 games in 27 seasons and 10 NCAA titles during his last 12 seasons, including seven 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 game wins at Pauley Pavilion. Wooden was named NCAA College Basketball's "Coach of the Year" in 1964,1967, 1969, 1970,1971, 1972, 1973, 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 (shared with Billie Jean King). 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. He was named to the Basketball Hall of Fame as a coach in 1973, becoming the first to be honored as both a player and a coach.

"He never made more than $35,000 a year salary (not including camps and speaking engagements), including 1975, the year he won his 10th national championship, and never asked for a raise," wrote Rick Reilly of ESPN. He was given a Bruin powder blue Mercedes that season as a retirement gift According to his own writings, Wooden turned down an offer to coach the Los Angeles Lakers from owner Jack Kent Cooke that may have been ten times what UCLA was paying him.


Wooden has been recognized numerous times for his achievements. UCLA continues to honor Wooden with the title of Head Men's Basketball Coach Emeritus On November 17, 2006, Wooden was recognized for his impact on college basketball as a member of the founding class of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. He was one of five, along with Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, Dean Smith and Dr. James Naismith, selected to represent the inaugural class. He was inducted into the Missouri Valley Conference Athletics Hall of Fame in 2009 in St. Louis. Coach Wooden was the ninth honoree in the Missouri Valley Conference’s Lifetime Achievement category. Wooden said the honor he was most proud of was "Outstanding Basketball Coach of the U.S." by his denomination, the Christian Church.

Since 1977, the most coveted of four college basketball player of the year awards has been named the John R. Wooden Award. This award has attained the status of being the equivalent of football's Heisman Trophy for college basketball, with the winner announced during a ceremony held at the Los Angeles Athletic Club. Two annual doubleheader men's basketball events called the "John R. Wooden Classic" and the "John R. Wooden Tradition" are held in Wooden's honor.

He has schools and athletic facilities named after him. The gym at his alma mater Martinsville High School bears his name, and in 2005 a high school in the Los Angeles Unified School District was renamed to John R. Wooden High School. In 2003, UCLA dedicated the basketball court in Pauley Pavilion in honor of John and Nell Wooden. Named the "Nell & John Wooden Court," Wooden asked for the change from the original proposal of the "John & Nell Wooden Court," insisting that his wife's name should come first. In 2008, Indiana State also bestowed this honor on Wooden by naming their home court in the Hulman Center the "Nellie and John Wooden Court." The student recreation center at UCLA is also named in his honor. Also in 2008, Wooden was honored with a commemorative bronze plaque in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Memorial Court of Honor because his UCLA basketball teams played six seasons in the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. On Wooden's 96th birthday in 2006, a post office in Reseda, California, near where Wooden's daughter lives, was renamed the Coach John Wooden Post Office. This act was signed by President George W. Bush based on legislation introduced by Congressman Brad Sherman.

On July 23, 2003, John Wooden received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor. It was presented by George W. Bush after a three year campaign by Andre McCarter, who was on Wooden's 1975 National Championship team. The Ukleja Center for Ethical Leadership at California State University, Long Beach established the John Wooden Ethics in Leadership Award in 2009, with Wooden being the inaugural recipient. In 1986 John Wooden was honored as an Outstanding Alumnus of the School of Liberal Arts at Purdue University - the first year the award was given.

Golf Digest lists John Wooden as one of four people to hit both a double eagle and a hole in one in the same round of golf. The feat was accomplished in 1947 at the South Bend Country Club in South Bend, Indiana.
Following Wooden

Four coaches left UCLA in the nine years following Wooden. One former UCLA head coach, ESPN analyst Steve Lavin (fired from UCLA in 2003), has said "The mythology and pathology of UCLA basketball isn't going to change" due to Wooden's legacy and believes that every basketball coach will eventually be fired or forced out from UCLA.

Wooden's immediate successor at UCLA, Gene Bartow, went 28–5 in 1976, but was blown out twice by eventual national champ Indiana, the second time in the '76 Final Four, and lost 76–75 in the 1977 West Region semi-finals to Idaho State University Bartow won 85.2% of his games (compared to Wooden's 80.8%) in two years, yet supposedly received death threats from unsatisfied UCLA fans. Wooden himself has often joked about being a victim of his own success, calling his successors on the phone and playfully identifying himself ominously as "we the alumni..." In his autobiography, Wooden recounts walking off the court after his last game coaching in 1975, having just won his tenth title, only to have a UCLA fan walk up and say, "Great win coach, this makes up for letting us down last year" (UCLA had lost in the semi-finals double overtime in 1974)Bartow's successor, Wooden's protege, Gary Cunningham, posted an even better two year record after Bartow, .862 (50-8) and #2 rankings each year, but could not proceed past 2 wins in the NCAA's, and left citing "physical reasons." Larry Brown came next, racking up more losses, 17, in two years than UCLA had experienced the previous 4, yet with a near magical end season run typical of his career, he managed to coach UCLA into the finals of the Final 4 in 1980. He left citing, among other complaints, he couldn't get his office painted.[citation needed] After Brown, UCLA basketball commenced a seven year downward spiral with decidedly cheap, uninspired hirings of near unqualified novices Larry Farmer and former star player Walt Hazzard. UCLA went 20 years after Wooden's retirement before winning another national basketball championship, finally hanging a banner again in 1995 under coach Jim Harrick. In 2006, Ben Howland led the team back to the national championship game for the first time since the 1995 title game.

On April 3, 2006, Wooden spent three days in a Los Angeles hospital receiving treatment for diverticulitis. He was hospitalized again in 2007 for bleeding in the colon. He was released to go home on April 14 and his daughter was quoted as saying her father was "doing well." Wooden was hospitalized on March 1, 2008 after a spill in his home caused him to fall. Wooden broke his left wrist and his collarbone in the fall, but remained in good condition according to his daughter and was given around-the-clock supervision.In February 2009 he was hospitalized for four weeks with pneumonia. On June 3, 2010, John Wooden was hospitalized in grave condition at UCLA Medical Center.
Seven Point Creed

John Wooden's Seven Point Creed, given to him by his father Joshua upon his graduation from grammar school:

* Be true to yourself.
* Make each day your masterpiece.
* Help others.
* Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.
* Make friendship a fine art.
* Build a shelter against a rainy day.
* Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day.

Wooden also has authored a lecture and a book about the Pyramid of Success. The Pyramid of Success consists of philosophical building blocks for winning at basketball and at life. In his later years he has been hired by corporations to deliver inspirational lectures and has even appeared in commercials for Hartford Insurance and the NCAA. It is generally known that he receives lecture fees now that exceed salaries he was paid as a coach. Wooden proudly claims these late in life windfalls have allowed him to set up education accounts for all of his grandchildren. In a 2009 interview, John Wooden described himself politically as a "liberal democrat," who had voted for some republican presidential candidates."

Wooden is also the author of several other books about basketball and life.

Among Wooden’s maxims:

* Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.
* Flexibility is the key to stability.
* Be quick, but don’t hurry.


* Coach John Wooden and Don Yaeger (2009) A Game Plan for Life, Bloomsbury USA, ISBN 978-1-59-691701-9
* John Wooden (2009) Coach Wooden's Leadership Game Plan for Success: 12 Lessons for Extraordinary Performance and Personal Excellence, McGraw-Hill Professional. ISBN 978-0-07-162614-9
* John Wooden with Steve Jamison (2006) The Essential Wooden, McGraw-Hill Professional. ISBN 978-0-07-148435-0
* John Wooden (2005) Wooden on Leadership, McGraw-Hill Professional. ISBN 978-0-07-145339-4
* John Wooden with Steve Jamison (2004) My Personal Best, McGraw-Hill Professional. ISBN 978-0-07-143792-9
* John Wooden (2003) They Call Me Coach, McGraw-Hill Professional. ISBN 978-0-07-142491-2
* John Wooden with Steve Jamison (1997) Wooden, McGraw-Hill Professional. ISBN 978-0-8092-3041-9