The Bruins were winners right away after Wooden took over as coach at UCLA’s campus in Westwood in 1949.
Still, it would be 16 seasons before Wooden won his first NCAA championship with a team featuring Walt Hazzard that went 30-0 in 1964. After that, they began arriving in bunches, with top players such as Alcindor, Walton, Wilkes, Lucius Allen, Gail Goodrich, Marques Johnson, Michael Warren and Sidney Wicks coming to Westwood.
Each of Wooden’s players would learn at the first practice how to properly put on socks and sneakers. Each would learn to keep his hair short and face clean-shaven, even though the fashions of the 1960s and ’70s dictated otherwise.
And each would learn Wooden’s “pyramid of success,” a chart he used to both inspire players and sum up his personal code for life. Industriousness and enthusiasm were its cornerstones; faith, patience, loyalty and self-control were some of the building blocks. At the top of the pyramid was competitive greatness.
“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are,” Wooden would tell them.
Wooden never had to worry about his reputation. He didn’t drink or swear or carouse with other coaches on the road, though he did have a penchant for berating referees.
“Dadburn it, you saw him double-dribble down there!” went a typical Wooden complaint to an official. “Goodness gracious sakes alive!”
Wooden would coach 27 years at UCLA, finishing with a record of 620-147. He won 47 NCAA tournament games. His overall mark as a college coach was 664-162, an .804 winning percentage.
Wooden’s legacy as a coach will always be framed by two streaks — the seven straight national titles UCLA won beginning in 1967 and the 88-game winning streak that came to an end Jan. 19, 1974, when Notre Dame beat the Bruins 71-70.
After the loss, Wooden refused to allow his players to talk to reporters.
“Only winners talk,” he said. A week later, UCLA beat the Irish at home by 19 points.
A little more than a year later, Wooden surprisingly announced his retirement after a 75-74 NCAA semifinal victory over Louisville. He then went out and coached the Bruins for the last time, winning his 10th national title with a 92-85 win over Kentucky.
Wooden disliked the Wizard of Westwood nickname, preferring to be called coach.
“I’m no wizard, and I don’t like being thought of in that light at all,” he said in a 2006 interview with the UCLA History Project. “I think of a wizard as being some sort of magician or something, doing something on the sly or something, and I don’t want to be thought of in that way.”
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Legendary UCLA coach Wooden dies
June 4, 2010: Former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden has died at the age of 99. NBC's Chris Clackum looks back at his storied career.
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