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Hall Of Fame Basketball Coach John Wooden Dies

LOS ANGELES (AP) - John Wooden, college basketball's gentlemanly

Wizard of Westwood who built one of the greatest dynasties in all

of sports at UCLA and became one of the most revered coaches ever,

has died. He was 99.

The university said Wooden died Friday night of natural causes

at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where he had been

hospitalized since May 26.

Jim Wooden and Nancy Muehlhausen issued a statement shortly

after their father died, saying, "He has been, and always will be,

the guiding light for our family.

"The love, guidance and support he has given us will never be

forgotten. Our peace of mind at this time is knowing that he has

gone to be with our mother, whom he has continued to love and


Just as he was loved by his players, who hurried to the hospital

to say their goodbyes.

Jamaal Wilkes said he recognized what he called "that little

glint" in Wooden's pale blue eyes.

During his second visit Wednesday night, Wilkes asked Wooden if

he recognized him.

"His glasses fogged up and he had to clean his glasses,"

Wilkes said. "He looked at me and said, 'I remember you, now go

sit down."'

Current UCLA coach Ben Howland was among Wooden's final


"I just enjoyed him and the twinkle in his eye," he said,

noting Wooden told a few jokes from his hospital bed. "I'm just

the steward of this program. It's always going to be his program."

With his signature rolled-up game program in hand, Wooden led

the Bruins to 10 NCAA championships, including an unmatched streak

of seven in a row from 1967 to 1973.

Over 27 years, he won 620 games, including 88 straight during

one historic stretch, and coached many of the game's greatest

players such as Bill Walton and Lew Alcindor - later known as

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

"It's kind of hard to talk about Coach Wooden simply, because

he was a complex man. But he taught in a very simple way. He just

used sports as a means to teach us how to apply ourselves to any

situation," Abdul-Jabbar said in a statement released through


"He set quite an example. He was more like a parent than a

coach. He really was a very selfless and giving human being, but he

was a disciplinarian. We learned all about those aspects of life

that most kids want to skip over. He wouldn't let us do that."

Wooden is the only person to be inducted into the Basketball

Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach.

He was a groundbreaking trendsetter who demanded his players be

in great condition so they could play an up-tempo style not

well-known on the West Coast at the time.

But his legacy extended well beyond that.

He was the master of the simple one- or two-sentence homily,

instructive little messages best presented in his famous "Pyramid

of Success," which remains must-read material, not only for fellow

coaches but for anyone in a leadership position in American


He taught the team game and had only three hard-and-fast rules -

no profanity, tardiness or criticizing fellow teammates. Layered

beneath that seeming simplicity, though, were a slew of life

lessons - primers on everything from how to put on your socks

correctly to how to maintain poise: "Not being thrown off stride

in how you behave or what you believe because of outside events."

"What you are as a person is far more important that what you

are as a basketball player," was one of Wooden's key messages.

Jim Harrick was the only coach in the post-Wooden era at UCLA to

win a national championship. When the Bruins reached the 1995 Final

Four, Harrick repeatedly urged Wooden to attend. He had stopped

going after his wife died 10 years earlier.

"He said he wasn't going. You don't know how stubborn he was,"

Harrick said by phone from Orange County, Calif. "Finally, he did

come, and it was a tremendous thrill. He snuck in and right before

the game was over he snuck out. He never wanted to take away any of

my fanfare."

Wooden regularly attended the Bruins' home games up until a

couple years ago, taking his usual seat a few rows behind their

bench at Pauley Pavilion.

"He had as little ego as anybody I've ever known. He would

never give advice, but he would always give opinions," Harrick

said. "I happened to be the coach during the time that went from

the short, short pants to what he called the bloomers. He thought

that was the worst thing that ever happened to basketball."

Wooden began his career as a teacher during the Great Depression

and was still teaching others long past retirement. Up until about

two years ago, he remained a fixture at UCLA games played on a

court named after him and his late wife, Nell, and celebrated his

99th birthday with a book he co-authored on how to live life and

raise children.

Even with his staggering accomplishments, he remained humble and

gracious. He said he tried to live by advice from his father: "Be

true to yourself, help others, make each day your masterpiece, make

friendship a fine art, drink deeply from good books - especially

the Bible, build a shelter against a rainy day, give thanks for

your blessings and pray for guidance every day."

While he lived his father's words, many more lived his. Those

lucky enough to play for him got it first hand, but there was no

shortage of Wooden sayings making the rounds far away from the

basketball court.

"Learn as if you were to live forever; live as if you were to

die tomorrow," was one.

"Don't give up on your dreams, or your dreams will give up on

you," was another.

Born Oct. 14, 1910, near Martinsville, Ind., on a farm that

didn't have electricity or indoor plumbing, Wooden's life revolved

around sports from the time his father built a baseball diamond

among his wheat, corn and alfalfa. Baseball was his favorite sport,

but there was also a basketball hoop nailed in a hayloft. Wooden

played there countless hours with his brother, Maurice, using any

kind of ball they could find.

He led Martinsville High School to the Indiana state basketball

championship in 1927 before heading to Purdue, where he was

All-America from 1930-32. The Boilermakers were national champions

his senior season, and Wooden, nicknamed "the Indiana Rubber Man"

for his dives on the hardcourt, was college basketball's player of

the year.

But it wasn't until he headed west to Southern California that





Wooden guided the Bruins to seven consecutive titles from 1967

through 1973 and a record 88-game winning streak in the early

1970s. From the time of his first title following the 1963-64

season through the 10th in 1974-75, Wooden's Bruins were 330-19,

including four 30-0 seasons.

"My reaction is sadness yet at this point we have to celebrate

maybe the most important guy in the history of the game,"

Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun told the AP. "There has been no

greater influence on college basketball not just about the game but

the team.

"He gave so much to basketball and education. In my opinion if

he's not as important as Dr. Naismith, he's right next to him."

The bespectacled former high school teacher ended up at UCLA

almost by accident. Wooden was awaiting a call from the University

of Minnesota for its head coaching job and thought he had been

passed over when it didn't come. In the meantime, UCLA called, and

he accepted the job in Los Angeles.

Minnesota officials called later that night, saying they

couldn't get through earlier because of a snowstorm, and offered

him the job. Though Wooden wanted it more than the UCLA job, he

told them he already had given UCLA his word and could not break


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


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


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


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.

"Many have called Coach Wooden the 'gold standard' of coaches.

I believe he was the 'gold standard' of people and carried himself

with uncommon grace, dignity and humility," Duke coach Mike

Krzyzewski said. "Coach Wooden's name is synonymous with

excellence, and deservedly so. He was one of the great leaders - in

any profession - of his generation."

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


"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


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."

The road to coaching greatness began after Wooden graduated with

honors from Purdue and married Nell Riley, his high school


In a 2008 public appearance with Los Angeles Dodgers announcer

Vin Scully, in which the men were interviewed in front of an

audience, Wooden said he still wrote his late wife - the only girl

he ever dated - a letter on the 21st of each month. "She's still

there to me," he said. "I talk to her every day."

He coached two years at Dayton (Ky.) High School, and his 6-11

losing record the first season was the only one in his 40-year

coaching career.

He spent the next nine years coaching basketball, baseball and

tennis at South Bend (Ind.) Central High School, where he also

taught English.

Wooden served in the Navy as a physical education instructor

during World War II, and continued teaching when he became the

basketball coach at Indiana State Teachers College, where he went

47-17 in two seasons.

In his first year at Indiana State, Wooden's team won the

Indiana Collegiate Conference title and received an invitation to

the NAIB tournament in Kansas City. Wooden, who had a black player

on his team, refused the invitation because the NAIB had a policy

banning African Americans. The rule was changed the next year, and



It was then that UCLA called, though Wooden didn't take the job

to get rich. He never made more than $35,000 in a season, and early

in his career he worked two jobs to make ends meet.

St. John's coach Steve Lavin followed a similar career path as


at Purdue.

"Even though we anticipated this day, the finality still

strikes with a force equal to a ton of bricks," Lavin said.

"There was the common affinity we shared for Purdue and UCLA, and

that forged a unique bond. I turned to him for perspective at every

critical juncture over the past 20 years. Ninety-nine years of

goodness, and now he's back with Nell."

Nell, Wooden's wife of 53 years, died of cancer in 1985. Besides

his son and daughter, Wooden is survived by three grandsons, four

granddaughters and 13 great-grandchildren.

Funeral services will be private. A public memorial will be held

later, with a reception for former players and coaches.


(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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