Happy 95th Birthday to UCLA Basketball Coach John Wooden!

I grew up in Southern California during the 1960’s and 1970’s, a time of unbelievable sports team performance in the greater Los Angeles area.
Here was the lineup:
Los Angeles Rams under Coach George Allen and Chuck Knox. The Fearsome Foursome on defense. Dick Enberg was the announcer. They were consistently big regular season winners, winning at least 10 games per year (in a 14 game season) for 9 of the 12 years between 1967-1978 – and then falling apart in the post-season at Green Bay, Minnesota or Dallas.
Los Angeles Lakers with Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain, and Gail Goodrich. Chick Hearn was the announcer. They always won big, reaching the NBA Finals 9 times between 1962-1973. Once to the Finals, they lost 6 times to the dreaded Celtics and 2 times to the Knicks. Won the NBA Championship in 1972 in a year when they won a then record 33 games in a row. To be followed a decade later by Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Coach Pat Riley and ShowTime when they played in another 9 Finals between 1980-91, winning NBA championships in 1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, and 1988.
Los Angeles Dodgers under Manager Walt Alston with Sandy Koufax, Maury Wills, Don Drysdale. Small ball offense, tight defense and awesome pitching. Later, in the 1970’s, the infield of Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, and Ron Cey. Won the World Series in 1959, 1963, and 1965; played and lost in 1966 and 1974. When they created the National League West, finished 1st or 2nd every year between 1970-74 except for one year. Alston had 19 winning seasons and 7 pennants in his 23 years as manager, winning 2,040 games – the 7th highest of all time. Vin Scully was the announcer.
USC football coached by John McKay with multiple Heisman Trophy winners like Mike Garrett, Charles White, Marcus Allen, and the infamous O. J., winning 4 national championships in 1962, 1967, 1972, and 1974 – with Coach John Robinson winning another one in 1978.
UCLA football coached by Tommy Prothro with Heisman Trophy winner Gary Beban.
Equally successful but less visible programs included USC baseball coached by Rod Dedeaux (11 national championships, including 7 between 1968-1978)and UCLA track coached by Jim Bush (5 national championships, coached 21 Olympians, and had an 88% meet winning percentage).
But, even with all those stars, UCLA basketball under Coach John Wooden stood out. Here are some stats:

UCLA’s basketball program has the international reputation of being No. 1. There is a major reason for that his name is John Robert Wooden, who announced his retirement after the 1974-75 season (his 27th campaign) as the Bruins’ head coach with the winningest record in all of the sport’s history…
Wooden concluded his 40 years as a head coach that season and his 885-203 overall career win-loss record (a percentage of .813) is unequaled. A large part of that success was at UCLA. In 27 years as Bruin coach, his teams registered 620 wins, and only 147 losses while earning far more national honors than any other university.
Under Wooden, UCLA won an unprecedented 10 NCAA championships, including seven consecutive (1966-73). Included in the string is one of the most amazing win streaks in all of sports, 38 straight NCAA tournament victories.
In addition, there is the all-time NCAA consecutive winning-streak record of 88 games over four seasons, which included consecutive 30-0 seasons in 1971-72 and 1972-73. UCLA also won 149 of 151 games in Pauley Pavilion during his Bruin tenure.
John Wooden is the only coach to compile four undefeated seasons of 30-0 and his Bruin teams captured 19 conference championships (the record of which Wooden is most proud).
Coach Wooden is the first person to be inducted into the National Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and coach…
Born in Martinsville, Indiana on October 14, 1910, Wooden attended high school there and won all-state prep honors in basketball three consecutive years, leading Martinsville High to the Indiana State title in 1927 and runner-up in 1926 and 1928.
At Purdue University, he won letters in basketball and baseball his freshman year and later earned All-American honors as a guard on the basketball team from 1930-32. He captained Purdue’s basketball teams of 1931 and 1932 and led the Boilermakers to two Big Ten titles and the 1932 national championship…

Yet, even with all that success, Wooden was about more than just winning basketball games. It was who he was as a man, too. Small things like his ritualistic affection for his wife at games, e.g., rolling up the program in his hands and then turning to look at her in the stands before every tipoff. Even more importantly, it was the values and life skills he taught his players – and the influence he had on many others who saw him in action from a distance.
Coach is celebrating his 95th birthday today. ESPN had a marvelous story today about John Wooden, the man and the coach. Also check out the Photo Gallery on the site with its 25 pictures and some wonderful comments about Wooden.
They broke the mold after making John Wooden. Coach is one-of-a-kind. God bless you John Wooden. You have truly made a difference in many peoples’ lives and that made you a hero we looked up to. Happy birthday!

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