UCLA to Honor John Wooden

UCLA will honor legendary basketball coach John Wooden this Saturday, by enscribing the name of the greatest coach in the history of college sports and his wife on the floor of Pauley Pavilion...

UCLA will honor the best coach in the history of college sports, John Wooden, when it names the basketball floor at Pauley Pavilion "Nell and John Wooden Court" Saturday.

The ceremony will take place at 3:00, thirty minutes before UCLA tips off against Michigan State. Wooden, who was UCLA's coach for 27 years (1948 through 1975), led the Bruins to a record 10 NCAA National Championships, including seven in a row from 1967 to 1973. This season will mark the 40th anniversary of UCLA's first NCAA Championship in 1964.

Coach Wooden is 93 years old.

Over 70 former players, coaches and managers will be in attendance Saturday to watch UCLA honor Coach Wooden. Five players from his first UCLA team (1948-1949) and one student manager will attend. Each of Coach Wooden's 27 teams will have at least two members present, while the teams from 1962 and 1967 will have ten members each present.

Some of the former players and coaches who are attending include Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Keith Wilkes, Sidney Wicks, Marques Johnson, Walt Hazzard, Keith Erickson, Kenny Washington, Lucius Allen, Mike Warren, and Gary Cunningham.

The entire UCLA football team will be in attendance, along with the recruits that are taking their official visits.

Wooden and his wife Nell, who passed away in 1985, were married for 53 years. They were married shortly after Wooden's graduation from Purdue in 1932 and had two children, a son, James Hugh and a daughter, Nancy Anne. The Wooden family now consists of seven grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

"Saturday, December 20th, will be remembered as one of the great days in the history of the UCLA Athletic Department," said UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero. "It is appropriate that the dedication of ‘Nell and John Wooden Court' in Pauley Pavilion should coincide with the 40th anniversary of Coach Wooden's first NCAA Championship team. Nell and John could be considered the ‘first couple' of Bruin athletics and now they will forever be enshrined in the house that Coach Wooden made famous."

During his 27-year coaching career at UCLA, Coach Wooden led the Bruins to an overall record of 620-147 (80.8%), including an NCAA record 88-game winning streak and 38 consecutive NCAA Tournament victories. He led the Bruins to four unbeaten seasons (1964, 1967, 1972, 1973), 19 conference championships and a Pauley Pavilion record of 149-2. He's the first person to be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and coach.

"Coach Wooden is the greatest coach in the history of the game," said Bruin head coach Ben Howland. "It's appropriate that the floor of Pauley Pavilion – where the tradition of the best in all of college basketball was started by Coach Wooden and all his greatest players – should be named after Nell and John."

Coach Wooden said: "Although I deeply appreciate the sentiment of having the basketball floor in Pauley Pavilion named after me and my dear Nellie, I will always be grateftul to Edwin Pauley, who provided the impetus for making a dream become a reality (the construction of Pauley Pavilion) and for the many young men who were under my supervision before and after Pauley Pavilion. Thank you so much to everyone involved."

"The Wizard of Westwood" was born in Martinsville, Indiana, on October 14, 1910, and was always a champion. He attended Martinsville High where he won All-State honors in basketball for three years, leading his team to the State title in 1927 and the runner-up spot in 1926 and 1928.

At Purdue, he won letters in basketball and baseball as a freshman, then went on to win All-American honors as a basketball guard in 1930-31-32. He captained Purdue's great teams in 1931 and 1932, winning two Big Ten titles and the 1932 National Collegiate Championship.

As an English major, he was awarded the Big Ten Conference medal for outstanding merit and proficiency in scholarship and athletics for 1932.

Wooden then began his teaching career at Dayton High School in Kentucky , where he coached all sports. Two years later, he returned to Indiana, to coach basketball, baseball and tennis at South Bend Central High School, while also teaching English for nine years.

World War II interrupted Wooden's coaching career, as he served from 1943 to 1946 in the U.S. Navy with rank of full lieutenant. Following his discharge in 1946, he became the athletic director at Indiana State University, as well its basketball and baseball coach, before he was named the UCLA head basketball coach two years later.

He came to UCLA on something of a fluke. The University of Minnesota wanted to hire Wooden as its head basketball coach, a job he would have taken. But because of a snow storm, Minnesota officials couldn't contact Wooden by phone. In the meantime, Wooden had accepted the UCLA head coaching job, and wouldn't go back on his commitment to UCLA.

John Wooden, a national treasure, was award the Presidential Medal of Freedom last summer.


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