Under coach John Wooden, UCLA won seven consecutive NCAA men’s basketball championships, and ten in the twelve years between 1964 and 1975. It could easily be argued that what John Wooden accomplished as head coach of UCLA basketball has never been equaled in the history of sports. There are other teams in minor sports that have won more championships, but not against such a high level of competition.
Initially, John Wooden didn’t even want to coach at UCLA. He was waiting to hear from Minnesota, but bad weather prevented a call with an offer from getting through. Wooden misunderstood, and thought the Gophers had lost interest. So when UCLA did call, he somewhat reluctantly accepted their offer. Strange to think that if cell phones were in use at the time, John Wooden may have made Minnesota the greatest basketball program of the era.
Of course, any coach will tell you that he couldn’t win without great players, and Wooden recruited many of the best. Among those who led the Bruins to NCAA titles were Walt Hazzard, Gail Goodrich, Kareem Abudl-Jabbar, Sidney Wicks, Bill Walton, and Dave Meyers.
Many honors have come Coach Wooden’s way. To name just a few: He’s one of only a few individuals who’ve been inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach. Since 1977, the national player of the year trophy has been designated the John R. Wooden Award. And in 2003, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor.
It’s interesting to note, in this era of multimillion dollar coaching salaries, that Wooden’s highest salary at UCLA was $35,000. John Calipari probably leaves that as a tip.