|Birth Day:||October 14, 1910|
|Death Date:||Jun 4, 2010 (age 99)|
|Birth Place:||Hall, United States|
As per our current Database, John Wooden died on Jun 4, 2010 (age 99).
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He went to the state championship finals three straight years during his playing days at Martinsville High School. He then went on to play college basketball at Purdue from 1929 to 1932.
Wooden was born in 1910 in Hall, Indiana, to Roxie (1887–1959) and Joshua Wooden (1882–1950), and moved with his family to a small farm in Centerton in 1918. He had three brothers: Maurice, Daniel, and William, and two sisters, one (unnamed) who died in infancy, and another, Harriet Cordelia, who died from diphtheria at the age of two.
Prior to Wooden's arrival at UCLA, the basketball program had only had two conference championship seasons in the previous 18 years. In his first season, he took a UCLA team that had posted a 12–13 record the previous year and transformed it into a Pacific Coast Conference (PCC) Southern Division champion with a 22–7 record, the most wins in a season for UCLA since the school started playing basketball in 1919. He surpassed that number the next season with 24–7 and a second division title and overall conference title in 1950, and would add two more in his first four years. Up to that time, UCLA had collected a total of two division titles since the PCC began divisional play, and had not won a conference title of any sort since winning the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in 1927.
When he was a boy, Wooden's role model was Fuzzy Vandivier of the Franklin Wonder Five, a legendary team that dominated Indiana high school basketball from 1919 to 1922. After his family moved to the town of Martinsville when he was 14, Wooden led his high school team to a state tournament title in 1927. He was a three-time All-State selection.
After graduating from high school in 1928, he attended Purdue University and was coached by Ward "Piggy" Lambert. The 1932 Purdue team on which he played as a senior was retroactively recognized as the pre-NCAA Tournament national champion by the Helms Athletic Foundation and the Premo-Poretta Power Poll. 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 Alpha Phi Omega National Service Fraternity. 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.
Wooden met his future wife, Nellie "Nell" Riley, when he was a freshman in high school They were both 21 years of age when they married in a small ceremony in Indianapolis in August 1932 and afterward attended a Mills Brothers concert at the Circle Theatre to celebrate. The couple had a son, James Hugh Wooden, and a daughter, Nancy Anne Muehlhausen. Nellie died on March 21, 1985 from cancer at age 73.
During World War II in 1942, he joined the United States Navy. He served for nearly two years and left the service as a lieutenant.
A rule change was instituted for the 1967–1968 season, primarily because of Alcindor's towering play near the basket. The dunk shot was outlawed and would not be reinstated until the 1976–1977 season, which was shortly after Wooden's retirement. This was at least the second time that the rules committee had initiated change in response to the domination of a superstar player; in 1944, the goaltending rule was instituted to counter George Mikan's dominant defensive play near the basket. In January, UCLA took its 47-game winning streak to the Astrodome in Houston, where the Bruins met Guy Lewis's Houston squad, who had Elvin Hayes and Ken Spain, in the Game of the Century in the nation's first nationally televised regular season college basketball game. Houston upset UCLA 71–69, as Hayes scored 39 points. In a post-game interview, Wooden said, "We have to start over." UCLA went undefeated the rest of the year and thrashed Houston 101–69 in the semi-final rematch of the NCAA tournament en route to the national championship. Sports Illustrated ran the front cover headline Lew's Revenge. The rout of Houston. UCLA limited Hayes to only 10 points; he had been averaging 37.7 points per game. Wooden credited Norman for devising the diamond-and-one defense that contained Hayes. The Game of the Century is also remembered for an incident involving Wooden and Edgar Lacy. Lacy was ineffective on defense against Elvin Hayes, and Wooden benched him after 11 minutes. Lacy never re-entered the game. Furious with Wooden, Lacy quit the team three days later, telling the Los Angeles Times "I've never enjoyed playing for that man." UCLA's talent during the 1968 NCAA tournament was so overwhelming that they placed four players on the All-Tournament team. In addition to Alcindor, Lucius Allen, Mike Warren, and "Lefty" Lynn Shackelford were given accolades. Kenny Heitz was also a member of UCLA's 1968 team.
After World War II, Wooden coached at Indiana State Teachers College, later renamed Indiana State University, in Terre Haute, Indiana, from 1946 to 1948, succeeding his high school coach, Glenn M. 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 Intercollegiate 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 black players. One of Wooden's players, Clarence Walker, was a black man from East Chicago, Indiana.
Golf Digest lists John Wooden as one of four people to score 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.
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 a Wooden-coached team ever lost. That year, Walker became the first African-American to play in any post-season intercollegiate basketball tournament.
In spite of these achievements, Wooden reportedly did not initially enjoy his position, and his wife did not favor living in Los Angeles. When Mel Taube left Purdue in 1950, Wooden's inclination was to return to West Lafayette and finally accept the head coaching job there. He was ultimately dissuaded when UCLA officials reminded him that it was he who had insisted upon a three-year commitment during negotiations in 1948. Wooden felt that leaving UCLA prior to the expiration of his contract would be tantamount to breaking his word, even though Purdue offered more money, a car and housing.
By the 1961–1962 season, the probation was no longer in place and Wooden returned his team to the top of the conference. This time, however, they would take the next step, and in so doing, unleash a run of dominance unparalleled in the history of college basketball. UCLA reached the Final Four of the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. A narrow loss, due largely to a controversial foul call in a 1962 semi-final game against Ed Jucker's eventual national champion Cincinnati team, convinced Wooden that his Bruins were ready to contend for national championships. Two seasons later in 1964, the final piece of the puzzle fell into place when assistant coach Jerry Norman persuaded Wooden that the team's small-sized players and fast-paced offense would be complemented by the adoption of a zone press defense, which increased the probability of turnovers by the opposing team. The result was a dramatic increase in scoring, giving UCLA a powerhouse team that went 30–0 on its way to the school's first basketball national championship and first undefeated season as the Bruins beat Vic Bubas' taller and slower segregated Duke team 98–83 in the final. Walt Hazzard fouled out of the game late in the second half on a player control foul, but this was irrelevant when he cut down the net in celebration and was named tournament most valuable player. Gail Goodrich, Keith Erickson, Fred Slaughter, and Jack Hirsch contributed to the UCLA win. With no player taller than 6 feet, 5 inches, the Bruins' speed and zone press forced 29 turnovers and nullified the height advantage of Duke's Hack Tison and Jay Buckley, two 6-foot, 10-inch players.
Wooden was recognized numerous times for his achievements. He was named NCAA College Basketball's Coach of the Year in 1964, 1967, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972 and 1973. In 1967, he was the Henry Iba Award USBWA College Basketball Coach of the Year. In 1972, he shared Sports Illustrated magazine's "Sportsman of the Year" award with Billie Jean King. In 1960, he was enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame for his achievements as a player and as a coach in 1973, becoming the first to be honored as both a player and a coach.
The resurgence of the Bruins under Wooden made it obvious that they needed a new home. Since 1932, the Bruins had played at the Men's Gym. It normally seated 2,400, but had been limited to 1,500 since 1955 by order of the city fire marshal. This forced the Bruins to move games to Pan Pacific Auditorium, the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena and other venues around Los Angeles when they were expected to attract larger crowds—something that happened fairly often after the Bruins' first national title. At Wooden's urging, a much larger on-campus facility, Pauley Pavilion, was built in time for the 1965–66 season. The building was christened on November 27, 1965, in a special game that pitted the UCLA varsity against the UCLA freshmen. It was Lew Alcindor's (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) freshman season (freshmen were ineligible to play on the varsity in those days). UCLA was the defending national champion and ranked number 1 in the pre-season poll. The freshmen easily won the game by a score of 75–60. It was a powerful indication of things to come.
Lew Alcindor finished his career at UCLA in 1969 with a third consecutive national championship when the Bruins beat George King's Purdue team 92–72 in the title game. The three straight titles were matched by three consecutive MVP awards in the tournament as Alcindor established himself as college basketball's superstar during the three-peat performance. Alcindor and Wooden would continue their communication even after he left UCLA. In 2017, Jabbar wrote a book, "Coach Wooden and Me", which details their long-standing friendship.
In the 1971 NCAA championship game, Steve Patterson outscored Howard Porter of Jack Kraft's scandal-plagued Villanova squad as UCLA won 68–62. The following year, UCLA had its closest game in all of Wooden's 10 championships, beating Hugh Durham's Florida State team 81–76 to take the 1972 title. After the game, Bill Walton said, "We didn't play well."
Wooden coached what would prove to be his final game in Pauley Pavilion on March 1, 1975, a 93–59 victory over Stanford. Four weeks later, following a 75–74 overtime victory over former player and former assistant coach Denny Crum and Louisville in the 1975 NCAA Tournament semifinal game, Wooden announced that he would retire at age 64 immediately after the championship game. His legendary coaching career concluded triumphantly when Richard Washington and David Meyers combined for 52 points as UCLA responded with a 92–85 win over Joe B. Hall and Kentucky to claim Wooden's first career coaching victory over the Wildcats and his unprecedented 10th national championship. Marques Johnson and Andre McCarter were also key contributors on Wooden's final championship team. The success of Wooden's last team was particularly impressive because it had no marquee stars such as Alcindor, Walton, Hazzard, and Goodrich; the team was a group of rugged opportunists.
Wooden himself 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 in 1975 after his last game as a coach, 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 semifinals in double overtime in 1974 to eventual national champion North Carolina State).
In 1976, Wooden received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement.
Bartow, Wooden's immediate successor at UCLA, went 28–5 in 1976, but was blown out twice that season by Bob Knight's eventual undefeated national-champion Indiana Hoosiers, the second time in the 1976 Final Four, and lost 76–75 in the 1977 West Region semifinals to Idaho State. 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.
Since 1977, the John R. Wooden Award has been the most coveted of the four college basketball player-of-the-year awards. 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. The MVP award for the McDonald's All-American Game in high-school basketball is named the "John R. Wooden Most Valuable Player Award". The Wooden Legacy is held in his honor.
Bartow's successor, Wooden protege Gary Cunningham, posted an even better two-year record after Bartow, .862 (50–8) and No. 2 rankings each year, but could not proceed past two wins in the NCAAs, and left. Larry Brown came next, racking up more losses, 17, in two years than UCLA had experienced the previous four. With a near-magical end-of-season run typical of his career, he managed to coach UCLA into the title game in 1980, where the Bruins lost to Louisville, coached by Denny Crum. Coincidentally, Crum had played for Wooden at UCLA before working for him there as an assistant coach. Brown then left UCLA. Former UCLA players Larry Farmer and Walt Hazzard then took turns directing the UCLA program from 1981 to 1988. Hazzard's 1985 team won the National Invitation Tournament, but very few people would know or remember this unobtrusive fact, especially since UCLA removed the banner of the NIT championship from Pauley Pavilion.
On February 3, 1984, John Wooden was inducted into the Indiana State University Athletic Hall of Fame.
UCLA went 20 years after Wooden's retirement before winning another national championship, finally hanging a banner again in 1995 under coach Jim Harrick, when Ed O'Bannon starred for the Bruins as they beat Arkansas 89–78 in the title game and denied Nolan Richardson back-to-back titles. In 2006, Ben Howland led the team back to the national championship game for the first time since the 1995 title game, but they were defeated 73–57 by the Florida Gators and their star player Joakim Noah. Harrick was the only coach of John Wooden's nine successors who has guided the Bruins to an NCAA championship.
In 1998 the Coach Wooden "Keys to Life" Award was created to be given to a former player or coach who exemplifies character, leadership and faith. This Award is presented at the Legends of the Hardwood Breakfast, which is held each year at the Final Four and is hosted by Athletes in Action.
In 2000, Wooden was honored with the "Lombardi Award of Excellence" from the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation. The award was created to honor Coach Lombardi's legacy, and is awarded annually to an individual who exemplifies the spirit of the Coach.
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.
In 2004, a 93-year-old Wooden stated that he would not mind coming back as an assistant who could help players with practices and other light duties.
On May 17, 2004, he was awarded the Ambassador Award of Excellence by the LA Sports & Entertainment Commission at the Riviera Country Club.
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 November 8, 2008, Indiana State officially named the floor at the Hulman Center The Nellie and John Wooden Court in honor of the legendary coach and his late wife, Nellie. The ceremony included taped comments from Coach Wooden and the participation of members of his 1946–47 and 1947–48 teams. The Sycamores christened the newly named floor by defeating the Albion College (MI) Britons in an exhibition game.
After his coaching career ended, UCLA continued 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 people—along with Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, Dean Smith and Dr. James Naismith—who were selected to represent the inaugural class. In 2009, he was inducted into the Missouri Valley Conference Athletics Hall of Fame 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.
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.
Wooden was in good physical health until the later years of his life. On April 3, 2006, he spent three days in a Los Angeles hospital, receiving treatment for diverticulitis. He was hospitalized again in 2007 for bleeding in the colon, with his daughter quoted as saying her father was "doing well" upon his subsequent release. Wooden was hospitalized on March 1, 2008, after a fall in his home. He 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.
In 2009, Wooden was named The Sporting News "Greatest Coach of All Time".
In mourning Nellie's death, Wooden was comforted by his faith. He was a devout Christian, considering his beliefs 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 strongly influenced his life. He read the Bible daily and attended the First Christian Church. He said that he hoped his faith was apparent to others: "If I were ever prosecuted for my religion, I truly hope there would be enough evidence to convict me." In a 2009 interview, John Wooden described himself politically as a "liberal Democrat," who had voted for some Republican presidential candidates.
In July 2010, Wooden's alma mater, Purdue University, named a street on campus after him.
On October 14, 2010, the Undergraduate Student Association Council of UCLA held a "John Wooden Day Celebration" to honor Wooden's 100th birthday and to commemorate his contributions to the university. A portion of the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame at Morgan Center is a recreation of Wooden's den office in honor of his memory on campus.
On May 26, 2010, Wooden was admitted to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center after suffering from dehydration. He remained hospitalized there and died of natural causes at age 99 on June 4, 2010. He was survived by his son, daughter, three grandsons, four granddaughters, and 13 great-grandchildren. Following a private ceremony, Wooden was interred with his wife Nellie in an outdoor community mausoleum at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills neighborhood of Los Angeles. A public memorial service was held two weeks later at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion.
On October 26, 2012, a bronze statue of Wooden by sculptor Blair Buswell was dedicated at the newly renovated Pauley Pavilion.
Currently, John Wooden is 111 years, 11 months and 17 days old. John Wooden will celebrate 112th birthday on a Friday 14th of October 2022.
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