John Robert Wooden, 1910 - 2010

portrait of John Wooden
At ceremony naming Reseda post office for him (14 October 2006)

Born: 14 October 1910, Hall, Indiana
Died: 4 June 2010, Los Angeles, California

In 1918 the Wooden family moved to Centerton, and John started watching high school basketball. When he was fourteen they moved to Martinsville where he played the game, leading the team to three consecutive state finals and meeting Nell Riley at a carnival. He went to Purdue where he earned a degree in English in 1932, was the first ever three-time All-American, and married Nell in August. He taught high school English and coached basketball (and often baseball and tennis) until 1942 when he joined the Navy for three years. He coached basketball at Indiana State Teacher's College at Terre Haute for two years, not to mention coaching baseball, serving as athletic director, and completing his master's degree in education. In 1948 he was hired at UCLA. His teams there won 620 games and lost 147, including an 88-game streak, four perfect 30-0 seasons, and seven consecutive NCAA championships. In 1975, going for the Bruin's tenth championship, between winning the semifinal game and getting to the locker room, Wooden decided to retire. His team responded by winning the final game. His ten championships is unlikely to be beaten in men's basketball, although Pat Summitt's Tennesee Lady Vols, currently with eight, could top Wooden. (Her team has been to the Final Four thirteen times, beating Wooden's twelve.) Wooden considered himself a teacher first and coach second. He was the first person to be inducted in the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player (1961) and coach (1972), and was NCAA basketball coach of the year six times. A lot of coaches sound like walking collections of motivational quotes, with Wooden they were original, and by all accounts he lived them as well as spouted them. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor in 1975. His marriage to Nell lasted until her 1985 death from cancer, he wrote her a love letter every month until his eyesight failed a few months before his death, stacking them up for her. Although he had a number of health issues in his later years, including both knee and hip replacements, his final hospitalization before succumbing to natural causes was just a week.

Biography from Wikipedia and New York Times obituary

John Wooden quotes:

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