LOS ANGELES - Former Indiana State head basketball coach, and a legend in the game, John Wooden has passed away at the age of 99 at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center due to natural causes. Wooden was the ISU head coach from 1946-1948 where he compiled a two-year record of 44-15 and led the 1947-48 squad to NAIB National Finals.
Wooden went on to a legendary head coaching career at UCLA from 1948 until 1975 where he led the Bruins to 10 NCAA National Championships, including a record seven in a row from 1967 through 1973.
In 2008, Indiana State named the playing court at Hulman Center in he and his wife's honor as the Nellie & John Wooden Court was dedicated prior to the first basketball contest of the season. Members of his family were in attendance that historic evening and a video tribute, including a taped message from coach Wooden was played inside the arena.
"John Wooden is an icon in college basketball coaching," Indiana State head basketball coach Kevin McKenna said. "The success he enjoyed at Indiana State early in his coaching career began a strong tradition of Sycamore basketball that has continued for over 60 years. It's a privilege for our teams to compete on a floor that is named in he and his wife, Nell's, honor inside Hulman Center. In addition to his mastery of coaching the game of basketball, I've read and studied his ‘Life Lessons' books which we try to apply to our personal lives and the Sycamore basketball program each day. We are keeping all of his family and numerous friends in our thoughts during this difficult time."
After World War II, Wooden coached began his collegiate coaching career at Indiana State from 1946 to 1948, succeeding his high school coach, Glenn Curtis. In addition to his duties as basketball coach, Wooden also coached baseball and served as athletic director, all while teaching and completing his master's degree in Education. In 1947, Wooden's basketball team won the Indiana Collegiate Conference title and received an invitation to the National Association of Intercollegiate Basketball (NAIB) National Tournament in Kansas City. Wooden refused the invitation, citing the NAIB's policy banning African American players. One of Wooden's players on the team was Clarence Walker, an African-American athlete from East Chicago, Ind.
In 1948, Wooden again led Indiana State to the conference title. The NAIB had reversed its policy banning African-American players that year, and Wooden coached his team to the NAIB National Tournament final, losing to Louisville. This was the only championship game ever lost by a Wooden-coached team. That year, Walker became the first African-American to play in any post-season intercollegiate basketball tournament. Wooden was inducted into the Indiana State University Athletic Hall of Fame on February 3, 1984.
"It is a sad day for college athletics as we acknowledge the passing of Coach Wooden," ISU Director of Athletics Ron Prettyman said. "He was a role model and mentor to many. My several interactions with him were inspiring and meaningful. He was intelligent, humorous and genuine. He had a work ethic that was reflective of his Hoosier upbringing. Coach Wooden has a strong place in Indiana State University Athletics Department history. His success at ISU catapulted him to an opportunity at UCLA and success there that is unparalleled. He was a man of integrity and principles that dealt with challenges such as racism, inadequate facilities and low budgets. He handled these challenges with class and rose above them to achieve the ultimate success in college basketball on a regular basis.Please join me in wishing the family of Coach Wooden peace and contentment during this time of mourning. Coach Wooden led a fulfilled life that will forever be appreciated and respected by all."
Wooden's coaching career began at Dayton High School in Kentucky. After leaving Dayton, he returned to Indiana, where taught English and coached basketball at South Bend Central High School before entering the military. He coached high school basketball for 11 years, two at Dayton and nine at Central, where he compiled a record of 218-42.
Wooden was born on October 14, 1910 and is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player (class of 1961) and as a coach (class of 1973). He was the first person to be enshrined in both categories and is one of three to currently share that honor. His ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period while at UCLA are unmatched by any other college basketball coach.
Wooden was born in Hall, Indiana, and he moved with his family to Centerton in 1918. As a youth, he idolized Fuzzy Vandivier of the Franklin Wonder Five, a legendary basketball team that dominated Indiana high school basketball from 1919 until 1922. Wooden moved to Martinsville when he was 14, where he led his team to the state championship finals for three consecutive years, winning the title in 1927. He was a three-time All-Indiana selection.
He graduated in 1928 from Martinsville and attended Purdue, where he was coached by Ward Lambert. He helped the Boilermakers to the 1932 National Championship, which was decided by a vote as the NCAA Tournament did not begin until 1939. Wooden was an All-Big Ten and All-Midwest selection for three seasons and was the first player in the history of college basketball to be named a three-time consensus All-American. He graduated from Purdue in 1932 with a degree in English.
Wooden then moved on to UCLA where he was dubbed "The Wizard of Westwood" during his historic coaching run with the Bruins and gained lasting fame with UCLA by winning 620 games in 27 seasons and 10 NCAA titles during his last 12 seasons, including seven in a row from 1967 to 1973. His UCLA teams also had a record winning streak of 88 games and four perfect 30-0 seasons They also won 38 straight games in NCAA Tournaments and a record 98 straight home game wins at Pauley Pavilion.
Wooden was named NCAA College Basketball's "Coach of the Year" in 1964,1967, 1969, 1970,1971, 1972, 1973, In 1967, he was named the Henry Iba Award USBWA College Basketball Coach of the Year. In 1972, he received Sports Illustrated magazine's "Sportsman of the Year" award (shared with Billie Jean King).
Wooden coached his final game in Pauley Pavilion on March 1, 1975, in a 93-59 victory over Stanford. Four weeks later, he surprisingly announced his retirement following a 75-74 NCAA semi-final victory, over Louisville and before his 10th national championship game victory over Kentucky.