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UCLA Coach John Wooden

Updated on January 12, 2011

Dedicated to My Husband an eternal fan of UCLA coach John Wooden

This is dedicated to my husband who has loved John Wooden from the very first moment he heard him speak, when he was a boy. As a young boy my husband attended one of the "Final Four" games at the LA Sports Arena, with his father, when Bill Walton was the player to watch and John Wooden was in his height of victory. Even today as he recalls this moment, a smile appears on his face, his excitement level increases, and he breaks into a rousing chorus of the UCLA Bruins fight song. Last week as my husband attended a UCLA basketball game, I believe the highlight of the game for him still, was to see, once again, his hero John Wooden in attendance at the game. In my husbands own words, "He's awesome! He's THE MAN!"

John Wooden, The Legend

Legendary Coach and Teacher, John Wooden

When it comes to the game of college basketball, one name stands out as a legend, and that is John Wooden. Despite the fact that his statistics make him legendary concerning the game, his values and coaching skills prove him legendary even when it comes to "game of life."

How it all Began... for John Wooden.

Born in 1910 in Indiana, John was raised on a farm until the family fell on hard times and moved to the small town of Martinsville, in 1924. It was here that John started his long career in basketball as he played on his Martinsville High School basketball team, coached by an early mentor, Glenn Curtis.

John Wooden playing for Purdue University

John Wooden in the Hall of Fame

After winning many Indiana State Championships and moving on from high school, John enrolled in Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. It was here he played basketball for the school with the coaching guidance of Piggy Lambert. John stated, "The greatest influence on me both from the standpoint of playing and coaching, Coach Lambert had a fetish for details." At Purdue, John's basketball career skyrocketed.

Nicknamed "The Indiana Rubber Man" for his suicidal dives on the hard court, he was enshrined in the Hall of Fame, and received the Big Ten medal for excellence in scholarship. Wooden was only one of two men to ever be enshrined in the Hall of Fame as both a player and as a coach.

John and Nellie

Nellie Riley, John Wooden's wife.

Then in August of 1932 he married his high school sweetheart, Nellie Riley and officially became "Coach" John Wooden as he accepted a job as Athletic Director, Coach, and English teacher at Dayton High School, in Kentucky. It was here with the Dayton "Green Devils" that Wooden experienced his first, and only, losing season as a coach ever. From Kentucky he and Nellie moved back to South Bend, Indiana where John continued teaching and coaching, until he entered the US Navy during WWII.

NAIA Tournaments

After the war, Coach Wooden continued to coach at Indiana State. In 1946 Coach Wooden rejected the invitation to compete in the NAIA Tournament because of the exclusion of the African-American players, but in 1947 after winning the conference title again for Indiana State, accepts the invitation because of policy change. It was in this tournament, Clarence Walker, a reserve guard for Indiana State, became the first black player to play in a NAIA tournament.

John Wooden still an Icon for the UCLA Bruins

UCLA Bruins Coach, John Wooden

In 1948 Coach Wooden age 37 moved his wife and young family to southern California, and became the head coach for the UCLA Bruins. Wooden made this observation, "I had hoped to take the job at the University of Minnesota, but a snowstorm knocked out telephone lines there and they didn't call back at 6pm as they had promised. UCLA called about fifteen minutes later and offered the job. I really wanted to go to Minnesota, but I thought they had changed their mind. Nellie and I hated to leave the Midwest." This move was the beginning of a fantastic coaching career with record winning steaks for UCLA until he retired from coaching in March of 1975.

John Wooden was the author of the Pyaramid of Success

After John Wooden retired, he still took an interest in the game of basketball, but additionally he continued to focus on applying his highly successful skills as coach, to the game of life. Famous for his "Pyramid of Success", Wooden makes the formula for success applicable for any chosen facet of life. Becoming an author, Wooden produced many instructional books on winning, not only in the game but in life. His books "Inch and Miles; The Journey To Success", a children's book based on his philosophies and The Pyramid of Success, and "Wooden On Leadership" give instructions for success in any area.

Pyramid of Success one of the most positive training techniques developed by John Wooden

John Wooden and President Bush

Awards that have been given to John Wooden are many

Wooden has received many accolades and honors over his distinguished career, including "Coach of the 20 Century" awarded in 1999 by ESPN, and culminating with the highest honor, The Presidential Medal of Freedom, given to him at the White House in 2003.

Winning the Game part of life for John Wooden

In the game of basketball and in the "game of life" John Wooden has proven to be a legend. His conduct has always been of the highest moral character. Opposing the infamous tactics of Bobby Knight, who when he was angered started throwing chairs and making a scene, Wooden would remain calm only giving away his mood of frustration by "rolling his program" in his hands as he watched his team play. His winning spirit and exhibition of high values shows that his "12 Lessons in Leadership" and "Pyramid of Success" are simply his way of life, and that is what a legend is made of.

Quotes from John Wooden

  • Material possessions, winning scores, and great reputations are meaningless in the eyes of the Lord, because He knows what we really are and that is all that matters.

  • Talent is God given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.

  • There are many things that are essential to arriving at true peace of mind, and one of the most important is faith, which cannot be acquired without prayer.

John Wooden Winner


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    • guy6336 profile image


      7 years ago

      I have read a few of John Wooden's books and they are fantastic. I base a lot of my coaching on Coach Wooden's. Excellent hub!

    • docrehab profile image


      9 years ago from MIAMI, FL

      Nice post :)

    • Playground4ever profile image


      9 years ago

      Very well done. John Wooden is a true hero. Great job on the tribute.

    • Truth From Truth profile image

      Truth From Truth 

      9 years ago from Michigan

      John wooden a classic

      nice work

      great quotes

    • In The Doghouse profile imageAUTHOR

      In The Doghouse 

      9 years ago from California

      The Honest Man,

      Unless you know something I don't know...John Wooden is still alive.

    • TheHonestMan profile image


      9 years ago from Inland Empire, California

      RIP John Wooden. You will be missed.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I am getting ready to get my undergrad in teaching. I am also a coach and think every teacher should have to study John Wooden. Teachers can learn so much from coaches and vice versa. Too bad many teachers don't see that! John Wooden is a great man.

    • In The Doghouse profile imageAUTHOR

      In The Doghouse 

      11 years ago from California


      I feel that after I did some studying into John Wooden, he deserved all the tribute I could possibly give to him. He is a wonderful man who has made a difference to a lot of people by his teachings and example. He is also an awesome UCLA coach! lol Thanks.

    • LdsNana-AskMormon profile image

      Kathryn Skaggs 

      11 years ago from Southern California

      This is such a great tribute to UCLA coach - John Wooden, and that you have dedicated to your husband. A true sports wife. I love it. I am sure you got some brownie points for this:-)



    • In The Doghouse profile imageAUTHOR

      In The Doghouse 

      11 years ago from California

      Here is a link that will take you on a fantastic journey through the life of John Wooden, it is sponsered by McDonalds. A must see for any Wooden fan.

    • In The Doghouse profile imageAUTHOR

      In The Doghouse 

      11 years ago from California


      Thank you for your comments.  I have learned why my husband thinks so highly of Coach Wooden by doing this HUB.  He is a great man.

    • mary1440 profile image


      11 years ago from Victoria Texas

      A great tribute! Nicely done page.

      Good going,



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