Happy Birthday to John Wooden

Oct. 14, 2008

UCLA's basketball program has the international reputation of being No. 1. There is a major reason for that -- his name is John Robert Wooden, who announced his retirement after the 1974-75 season (his 27th campaign) as the Bruins' head coach with the winningest record in all of the sport's history.

Coach Wooden is celebrating his 98th birthday today, Oct. 14, 2008.

Last year, the U.S. Post Office in Reseda was named in his honor for his birthday and in November, he was inducted as a charter member of the NABC College Basketball Hall of Fame.

Wooden concluded his 40 years as a head coach that season and his 885-203 overall career win-loss record (a percentage of .813) is unequaled. A large part of that success was at UCLA. In 27 years as Bruin coach, his teams registered 620 wins, and only 147 losses while earning far more national honors than any other university.

Under Wooden, UCLA won an unprecedented 10 NCAA championships, including seven consecutive (1966-73). Included in the string is one of the most amazing win streaks in all of sports, 38 straight NCAA tournament victories.

In addition, there is the all-time NCAA consecutive winning-streak record of 88 games over four seasons, which included consecutive 30-0 seasons in 1971-72 and 1972-73. UCLA also won 149 of 151 games in Pauley Pavilion during his Bruin tenure.

John Wooden is the only coach to compile four undefeated seasons of 30-0 and his Bruin teams captured 19 conference championships (the record of which Wooden is most proud).

Coach Wooden is the first person to be inducted into the National Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and coach. He is also a charter member of the NABC National Basketball Hall of Fame.

Complimenting the honors listed elsewhere in his biography, Wooden also has received two others he is especially proud of: being named the 1969 'Outstanding Basketball Coach of the U.S.' by his denomination, the Christian Church, for his services to collegiate basketball and the community. The other is having his hometown of Martinsville, Indiana, naming a street after him and at the same time serving as the 1969 King of the famed Morgan County Fall Foliage Festival and Grand Marshal of the Festival Parade. Their high school gymnasium also bears his name.

Born in Martinsville, IN on Oct. 14, 1910, Wooden attended high school there and won all-state prep honors in basketball three consecutive years, leading Martinsville High to the Indiana State title in 1927 and runner-up in 1926 and 1928.

At Purdue University, he won letters in basketball and baseball his freshman year and later earned All-American honors as a guard on the basketball team from 1930-32. He captained Purdue's basketball teams of 1931 and 1932 and led the Boilermakers to two Big Ten titles and the 1932 national championship.

Wooden's name was inscribed on Purdue's academic honor roll and he was awarded the 1932 Big Ten Conference medal for outstanding merit and proficiency in scholarship and athletics.

Shortly after graduating from Purdue in 1932, he married his charming wife, Nell. He than began his teaching career at Dayton High School in Kentucky where he coached numerous sports. After two years, he returned to the state of Indiana where he coached basketball, baseball and tennis at South Bend Central High School and taught English for nine years. His impressive 11-year prep coaching record was 218-42.

World War II interrupted his coaching career as he served as a full lieutenant in the U.S. Navy from 1943-46. Following his discharge in 1946, he went to Indiana Teachers College (now Indiana State University) as athletic director, basketball and baseball coach for two seasons prior to moving to UCLA.

Wooden and his wife, Nell, who died in Los Angeles on March 21, 1985, were married for 53 years. Parents of a son, James Hugh, and a daughter, Nancy Anne, John has seven grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. On Dec. 20, 2003, the basketball floor in Pauley Pavilion was dedicated 'Nell and John Wooden Court.'

Highlights of the life and career of John Robert Wooden

1930-31-32 -- All-American basketball player at Purdue.

1932 -- College Basketball 'Player of the Year'

1932 -- Big Ten Conference Medal for Proficiency in Scholarship and Athletics

1943 -- All-Time All-American Basketball team, Helms Athletic Foundation

1960 -- Inducted to the National Basketball Hall of Fame, as a player

1964 -- Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, First Group

1964 -- California 'Father of the Year'

1964-'67-'69-'70-'72-'73 -- NCAA College Basketball 'Coach of the Year'

1970 -- The Sporting News 'Sports' Man of the Year'

1971 -- Friar's Club 'Coach of the Century'

1972 -- Inducted into the National Basketball Hall of Fame, as a coach (first person inducted in more than one category)

1973 -- Sports Illustrated 'Sports' Man of the Year'

1973 -- UCLA Honorary 'Alumnus of the Year'

1973 -- Whitney M. Young, Jr., National Urban League Memorial Award for Humanitarianism

1973 -- Campbell College 'Honorary Doctorate of Humanities'

1974 -- First Annual Dr. James Naismith Peach Basket Award for outstanding contributions to basketball

1974 -- First Annual National Layman's Leadership Institute Velvet Covered Brick Award for Christian Leadership

1974 -- First John Bunn Hall of Fame Service Award

1974 -- California 'Grandfather of the Year' Award by National Father's Day Committee

1975 -- California Sports Father of the Year Award

1984 -- Indiana State Athletic Hall of Fame

1985 -- Bellarmine Medal of Excellence. First sports figure to be honored following such figures as Mother Teresa and Walter Cronkite.

1993 -- First CASEY Award for exceptional service in amateur athletics.

1993 -- Sportslink 'Pathfinder Award' to Hoosier with extraordinary service on behalf of American youth.

1994 -- Inducted into GTE/Academic All-America Hall of Fame.

1994 -- Sports Illustrated '40 for the Ages'.

1994 -- Landry Medal for Inspiration to American youth.

1995 -- The Frank G. Wells Disney Award

1995 -- Lexington Theological Seminary Service to Mankind Award.

1995 -- Reagan Distinguished American Award.

1995 -- AYA Humanitarian of the Year.

1995 -- NCAA Theodore Roosevelt Sportsman Award

1996 -- Given Sixth Victor Award from City of Hope

1998 --ICON Award, UCLA Center on Aging

1998 --Roy Firestone Award, Westcoast Sports Associates

1998--Corvette Award, St. Vincent Medical Center

1999 -- Named by ESPN as the Greatest Coach of the 20th Century

1999 -- San Pedro Boys and Girls Club Sevice to Youth award

2000 -- Naismith Men's College Coach of the 20th Century

2000 -- Uni. of Louisville 'Honorary Doctorate of Public Service'

2001 -- 25th Anniversary of the John R. Wooden Award

2002 -- Charter Member, Pac-10 Hall of Honor

2003 -- Awarded U.S. Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush

2003 -- (Dec. 20) 'Nell and John Wooden Court' in Pauley Pavilion

2006 -- Named one of the 100 Most Influential Student-Athletes in NCAA History (No. 5)

2006 -- U.S. Post Office in Reseda, CA, named in Coach Wooden's honor

2006 -- Inducted into the NABC National Basketball Hall of Fame as a Charter Member

Now on Pac-12 Network
6:00 PM PT

Airing on:

  • Pac-12 Network
Get Pac-12 Networks
Pac-12 Networks Channel Finder