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Wizard of Westwood

Tuesday, July 5, 2005
Wooden ended a winner
By Mike Puma
Special to

Signature Event
March 31, 1975 - After UCLA defeated Louisville 75-74 in the NCAA Tournament semifinal two days earlier, coach John Wooden made a startling announcement to his team: He was going to retire after the championship game against Kentucky. "Nobody knew I was going to say it," Wooden said. "I didn't know myself until just before I said it. But I knew it was time."

Wooden said the timing of the retirement announcement was not a motivational prop. "It never had anything to do with trying to psyche up my players for the championship game," he said. "That thought never entered my head until someone mentioned it to me afterward."

With UCLA clinging to a late 76-75 lead, Kentucky had a five-point play opportunity following a technical on David Meyers. "You crook!" Wooden screamed at the referee after the call and rushed on to the court. But the Wildcats missed their free throws and committed an offensive foul on the ensuing possession. After the Bruins pulled away for a 92-85 victory, guard Andre McCarter embraced Wooden and said, "Coach, I hope you have a nice life."

Wooden, who had relied on his bench all season, used only six players. Richard Washington led UCLA with 28 points and Meyers had 24. Many consider this national championship, Wooden's 10th, as his finest coaching job. The Bruins began the season with only one returning starter and lacked a true star.

Just call the victory the last march of the Wooden soldiers.

Odds 'N' Ends

  • Wooden's nickname at Purdue was the "India Rubber Man" because he would immediately bounce up after getting knocked down.

  • While coaching high school basketball in the 1930s, Wooden played professionally on weekends for the Kautsky Athletic Club, a team that toured the Midwest. Wooden, who one season made 100 straight free throws, received $50 per game.

  • In 11 seasons as a high school coach, Wooden compiled a 218-42 record.

  • Wooden's mentor and coach at Purdue, Piggy Lambert, withdrew the Boilermakers from the 1940 NCAA Tournament at Madison Square Garden because he disapproved of college games being played in commercial venues. "Coach Lambert held to his principles," Wooden said.

  • The 15 building blocks of Wooden's Pyramid of Success: industriousness, friendship, loyalty, cooperation, enthusiasm, self-control, alertness, initiative, intentness, condition, skill, team spirit, poise, confidence and competitive greatness.

  • Wooden began constructing his pyramid in 1934. The two building blocks he considers the most important are industriousness and enthusiasm. "Without them, you will not succeed," he said.

  • Wooden's first contract at UCLA was for three years and paid him $6,000 annually.

  • After his second season at UCLA, Wooden became interested in the vacant head coaching position at his alma mater, Purdue. But UCLA wouldn't release him from the last year of his contract.

  • When preparing a game plan, Wooden seldom scouted the opponent. The Bruins played their game, forcing opponents to do the adjusting.

  • Wooden was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as a player in 1960. Twelve years later, he was inducted as a coach.

  • Wooden's 1964 national championship team didn't have a starter taller than 6-foot-5.

  • Wooden's 1967 national championship team had only one year of varsity experience among the starting five.

  • Wooden was named Sports Illustrated's "Sportsman of the Year" for 1973.

  • The first Wooden Award, given to college basketball's top player, was presented to UCLA's Marques Johnson in 1977.

  • Wooden's teams won 149 of 151 games played at Pauley Pavilion.

  • Wooden is the only coach with four undefeated seasons of at least 30 victories.

  • The closest UCLA came to a losing season in Wooden's 27 seasons was 1959-60 when the Bruins went 14-12.

  • Wooden's teams were 47-10 in the NCAA Tournament, including 20-2 at the Final Four. They were 10-0 in finals.

  • Most of Wooden's practices were held in the evening to correspond with the time the Bruins had games.

  • Next to his family, Wooden considered his players the most important people in his life. "They were my children," he said. "I got wrapped up in them, their lives and their problems."

  • Wooden has advocated raising the basket to 11 feet, abolishing the dunk and moving back the three-point line.

  • Wooden's wife Nellie died in 1985. Wooden called it the most difficult thing he's ever experienced.

  • In December 2003, UCLA dedicated the court at Pauley Pavilion to Wooden and Nell.

  • Wooden's high school gymnasium in Martinsville, Ind., bears his name. He also has a street named after him in Martinsville.

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