John Robert Wooden (born
October 14, 1910) is a retired American basketball coach. He is a member of the
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
Championships in 12 years while at UCLA
are unmatched by any other
college basketball coach.
High school and college
the small town of Hall,
Indiana, to Roxie Anna and Joshua Hugh Wooden, Wooden moved
with his family to a small farm in Centerton in 1918.
As a boy one of his role models was
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
championship finals for three consecutive years, winning the
tournament in 1927.
He was a three time All-State
graduating in 1928, he attended Purdue University, located in West Lafayette, Indiana, where he was a three-time consensus All-American,
becoming the first player ever to do so.
He helped lead the
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 University where he was coached by Ward "Piggy" Lambert
. 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, and later earned his Master's Degree at Indiana State Teacher's
College (now Indiana State University) where he spent 1946–48 as athletic director and basketball
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
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
John Wooden met his future wife, Nell Riley, at a carnival in July
married in a small ceremony in Indianapolis in August 1932.
Afterwards, they attended a
concert at the Circle
Theatre to celebrate. John 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 2. John and his wife had a son, James Hugh
Wooden, and one daughter, Nancy Anne Muehlhausen. Nell died on
March 21, 1985 from cancer.
Wooden has remained devoted to Nell, 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
coached two years at Dayton High School
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
Central High School
until entering the Armed Forces
. His high school
coaching record over 11 years, 2 at Dayton and 9 at Central, was
Indiana State University
World War II, 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.
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
Tournament in Kansas City. Wooden refused the invitation, citing
the NAIB's policy banning African
players. One of Wooden's players on the team was
Clarence Walker, an African-American athlete from East
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.
Wooden declined, citing his
loyalty to Taube, as this would have effectively made Taube a
In 1948, Wooden again led Indiana State to the conference title.
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, who earned a master's degree
from Indiana State, 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
, and it was his and his wife's desire to remain in
. 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
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 12-13 losing season the previous
year and transformed it into a PCC Southern Division Champion with
a 22-7, 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 Tournament.
In spite of success, Wooden reportedly didn't initially enjoy the
position and his wife did not care for 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.
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 664 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
1967, he was named the Henry Iba
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
his 10th national championship game victory over Kentucky
"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
According to his own writings, Wooden turned down an offer to coach
the Los Angeles Lakers
Jack Kent Cooke
that may have been
ten times what UCLA was paying him.
Head coaching record
The Wooden Championships
||John Wooden gets his first national title in his sixteenth
season at UCLA. Walt Hazzard stars for
UCLA as the Bruins easily defeat Duke and their All-American
||UCLA becomes one of the few schools to win two in a row.
All-American Gail Goodrich scores 42
points for the Bruins as they upend Michigan and Cazzie Russell.
||The start of the Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) era. Unranked
Dayton and Don May are no match for UCLA in
||UCLA's 47 game winning streak comes to an end on January 20
when the Bruins are beaten by Houston and All-American Elvin Hayes in the Astrodome 71-69 in front of
the biggest college basketball crowd in NCAA history (52,693); the
game was known as the Game of the
Century. Lew Alcindor was limited from having been hospitalized
the week before with a scratched cornea. The Bruins, at full
strength, avenged the loss in a rematch with Houston in the
semi-finals, by destroying the Cougars 101–69. UCLA then easily
defeated North Carolina in the title game to become the only team
to win consecutive NCAA championships twice.
||UCLA becomes the only school to win three NCAA Basketball
Championships in a row. Rick Mount of
Purdue (Wooden's alma mater) is no match for Lew Alcindor as he
takes a triple crown. Wooden becomes the first coach to win 5 NCAA
||Even with the graduation of Alcindor (Abdul-Jabbar), UCLA wins
again; its fourth in a row. Sidney
Wicks outshines Artis Gilmore in
||Five in a row. Villanova hangs tough losing in title game, and
later disqualified when it is learned that Howard Porter had signed a pro
||The start of the Bill Walton era.
UCLA wins its sixth in a row. The Bruins have a rough time with
Florida State and their great ball handler, Otto Petty, in the closest game of all their
||Seven in a row. Only team in history with back-to-back
undefeated seasons. Bill Walton hits 21 of 22 field goal attempts
and scores 44 points in one of the greatest offensive performances
in the history of the NCAA tournament.
||Wooden ends his 27-year UCLA coaching career with one final
NCAA title. Coach Wooden announces his retirement during the
post-game press conference of the semi-final game, and the UCLA
players give him a going away present with a win over Kentucky and
their captain, Jimmy Dan Conner.
For the Bruins, Richard
Washington and Dave
Meyers score 28 and 24 points respectively to offset Kevin Grevey's game-high 34.
The John Wooden era at UCLA is unrivaled in terms of national
championships. The next-closest school, on the women's side,
has won 8 championships with the
next-winningest coach, Pat Summitt
men's basketball, Adolph Rupp
national championships; Bob Knight
have three titles
each and Bobby Knight has an undefeated season (Wooden had four; no
other coach has more than one).
UCLA celebrates John Wooden Day every February 29.
Since 1977, one of the four college basketball player of the year
awards has been named the John
R. Wooden Award
Two annual doubleheader
men's basketball events called the "John R. Wooden Classic
" and "The Wooden
Tradition" are held in Wooden's honor.
John Wooden Recreation Center on the
campus of UCLA.
The John Wooden recreation center on the UCLA campus for student
intramural athletics is named after him. The facility also serves
as an alternate training facility for UCLA's intercollegiate
gymnastics and volleyball teams.
A continuation school in the Los Angeles Unified School
is called the John R. Wooden High School, located in Reseda,
UCLA dedicated the basketball court in Pauley Pavilion in honor of John and Nell Wooden.
also has the gym at Martinsville High School and the student
recreation center at UCLA named in his honor. 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 January 2007, UCLA announced that
it was in the planning stages of renovating Pauley Pavilion, with
the goal of opening the renovated facility on Wooden's 100th
birthday, October 14, 2010.
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.
December 18, 2005, Congressman Brad
introduced a legislation that would rename a San
Fernando Valley post office in honor of Wooden. The post office near
Wooden's long-time home in Encino had already been named in 2002 for Los Angeles
Lakers broadcaster Chick Hearn.
Coach Wooden's daughter, Nancy Muehlhausen, lives in nearby
On August 17, 2006, it was announced that
President George W. Bush had signed the legislation enacting
Sherman's proposal into law. The post office at 7320 Reseda
Boulevard was named the Coach John Wooden Post Office on October
14, 2006 - Wooden's 96th birthday.
To this day, Wooden retains the title Head Men's Basketball Coach
at UCLA, and attends most home
On November 17, 2006, Wooden was recognized for his impact on
college basketball as a member of the founding class of the
Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame
. He was one of five, along
with Oscar Robertson
, Bill Russell
and Dr. James Naismith
selected to represent the inaugural class.
20, 2008, Wooden was honored with a commemorative bronze plaque in
Angeles Memorial Coliseum Memorial Court of Honor. His UCLA basketball
team played six seasons in the Los Angeles
Memorial Sports Arena.
Novermber 8, 2008, prior to the start of an exhibition game between
University and Albion College,
the floor at Hulman
Center was officially named the Nellie and John Wooden
Court in honor of the legendary coach and his late wife,
Former Indiana State head coach and basketball legend John Wooden
was inducted into the Missouri Valley Conference Athletics Hall of
Fame, on Friday, March 6, 2009, when The Valley conducted its
annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony in St. Louis.
The Missouri Valley
inducted Coach Wooden into its annual Hall of Fame
ceremony as part the State
Farm MVC Men’s Basketball Tournament
weekend on March 6,
Coach Wooden is the ninth honoree in the Missouri Valley
Conference’s Lifetime Achievement category. The Lifetime
Achievement category honors, when appropriate, former players,
coaches, administrators or alumni who competed, worked or attended
a current league school.
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
Many would argue that subsequent UCLA coaches have been plagued by
the success of Wooden. Wooden's immediate successor at UCLA,
, went 28-5 in 1976 and lost
in the national semi-finals, won 85.2% of his games (compared to
Wooden's 80.8%) in two years, yet received death threats from
unsatisfied UCLA fans
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
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 in
Four coaches left UCLA in the nine years following Wooden.
One former UCLA head coach, ESPN
(fired from UCLA in 2003),
has called this post-Wooden phenomenon a "pathology
," and believes that every basketball
coach will eventually be fired or forced out from UCLA.
UCLA went 20 years after Wooden's retirement before winning another
national basketball championship, finally hanging a banner
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
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
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 round-the-clock
supervision. In February 2009 he was hospitalized for 4 weeks with
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
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.
Wooden is also the author of several other books about basketball
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, (released on Wooden's 99th birthday), Bloomsbury USA,
- John Wooden (2009) Coach Wooden's Leadership Game Plan for
Success: 12 Lessons for Extraordinary Performance and Personal
Excellence, McGraw-Hill Professional. ISBN
- 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
- John R. Wooden enshrined as a player
- John R. Wooden enshrined as a coach
- National Champions were named by the Helms
Athletic Foundation. The NCAA did not
officially recognize a champion until 1939.)
Rick. (2009, October 19). " Too Short For A Column", ESPN The
- Reilly on Wooden
- John R.
- Coach Wooden with J. R. Wooden High School
- Courtly tribute to the Woodens
- UCLA Directory
- Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame to induct
founding class :: Naismith, Robertson, Russell, Smith, and Wooden
are the five inductees representing the founding class at the
inaugural induction ceremony
- Wooden, John. They Call Me Coach . McGraw-Hill, 2004.
- The John R. Wooden Course
- PHOTOS: John Wooden turns 99, Los Angeles
Times, October 14, 2009
- Mike Penner, On his 99th birthday, 99 things about John
Wooden, Los Angeles Times, October 14, 2009
- Happy Birthday, Coach Wooden, October 14, 2009,