give thanks for small blessings

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 10 NCAA National Championships in 12 years while at UCLA are unmatched by any other college basketball coach.

High school and college

Born in 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 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, located in West Lafayette, Indiana, where he was a three-time All-American guard. He helped lead the Boilermakers to the 1932 National Championship, as determined by a panel vote rather than an NCAA Tournament which began in 1939. John Wooden was named All-Big Ten and All-Midwestern (1930-32) while at Purdue University where he was coached by 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 coach.

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.


John 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 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. Nellie died on March 21, 1985 from cancer.

Coaching career

High school

Wooden coached two years at Dayton High School in Kentucky. His first year at Dayton would be the only time he had a losing record (6-11). 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 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 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 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. 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 March 1st, 1975 in a 93-59 victory over Stanford. Four weeks later he would surprisingly announce 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 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.

Head coaching record

The Wooden Championships

Year Record Final Opponent Final Score Notes
1964 30-0 Duke 98-83 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 Jeff Mullins.
1965 28-2 Michigan 91-80 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.
1967 30-0 Dayton 79-64 The start of the Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) era. Unranked Dayton and Don May are no match for UCLA in title game.
1968 29-1 North Carolina 78-55 UCLA's 47 game winning streak came to an end in January when the Bruins were beaten by Houston and their All-American Elvin Hayes in the Astrodome 71-69. In a rematch in the NCAA semi-finals, UCLA won 101-69. The UCLA Bruins become the only team to win consecutive NCAA championships twice.
1969 29-1 Purdue 92-72 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 championships.
1970 28-2 Jacksonville 80-69 Even with the graduation of Alcindor (Abdul-Jabbar), UCLA wins again; its fourth in a row. Sidney Wicks outshines Artis Gilmore in title game.
1971 29-1 Villanova 68-62 Five in a row. Villanova hangs tough in title game, but is later disqualified when it is learned that Howard Porter had signed a pro contract.
1972 30-0 Florida State 81-76 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.
1973 30-0 Memphis State 87-66 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.
1975 28-3 Kentucky 92-85 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.


The John Wooden era at UCLA is unrivaled in terms of national championships. The next-closest school, Tennessee Lady Volunteers basketball has won 8 championships with the next-winningest coach, Pat Summitt. Adolph Rupp won four national championships; Bob Knight and Mike Krzyzewski 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.

The 95,000 square foot John Wooden recreation center on the UCLA campus for student intramural athletics is named after legendary basketball coach John Wooden. 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 District is called the John R. Wooden High School, located in Reseda, California.

In 2003, UCLA dedicated the basketball court in Pauley Pavilion in honor of John and Nell Wooden. 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 Sherman 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. However, Coach Wooden's daughter, Nancy Muehlhausen, lives in nearby Reseda. 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 Emeritus at UCLA, and attends most home games.

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.

ESPN's show Who's Number 1? ranked John Wooden as the greatest coach of all time in any sport.

On May 20, 2008, Wooden was honored with a commemorative bronze plaque in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Memorial Court of Honor. His UCLA basketball team played six seasons in the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena.

Following Wooden

Many would argue that subsequent UCLA coaches have been plagued by the success of Wooden. Wooden's heir at UCLA, Gene Bartow, 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. 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 in 1974)

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 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 again in 1995 under coach Jim Harrick. Harrick was terminated by UCLA for an NCAA violation 18 months later.

In 2006, Ben Howland led the team back to the national championship game for the first time since the 1995 title game. On April 3rd, 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 14th 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 remains in good condition according to his daughter.

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


  • "Be quick, but don't hurry."
  • "Failing to prepare is preparing to fail."
  • "Don't mistake activity for achievement.
  • "Goodness Gracious, sakes alive!
  • "Little things make big things happen.
  • "Intensity makes you stronger. Emotionalism makes you weaker.
  • “If you don't have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”


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