John Wooden Biography

John Wooden, who spent most of his coaching career at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), was among the most successful college basketball coaches in history. His UCLA teams won the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship title a record ten times, including seven consecutive times from 1967 to 1973.

John Wooden, born in 1910, American basketball player and coach, winner of more National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships than any coach in history. Wooden was the first person elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player (1961) and a coach (1973).


John Robert Wooden was born in Martinsville, Indiana, and raised on his parents’ farm. He began playing basketball as a young boy, shooting into a tomato basket nailed to a barn wall. In high school Wooden became an All-State guard, pacing his team to three straight Indiana championship games and winning the state title in 1927. He then starred at Purdue University under future Hall of Fame coach Ward “Piggy” Lambert. Nicknamed “the Indiana Rubber Man” for his relentless play, Wooden earned the 1932 college player of the year award while leading the Boilermakers to the national championship.

During the remainder of the 1930s Wooden played for a variety of semiprofessional teams, such as the Whiting Ciesar All-Americans of the National Basketball League (NBL). At the same time he began coaching high school basketball in Kentucky and Indiana, compiling a 218-42 record in 11 seasons.

During the second half of World War II Wooden served in the United States Navy. After leaving the military in 1946 he accepted a coaching job at Indiana State Teacher's College (now Indiana State University), where in two seasons he led the team to a 47-14 mark.


Wooden was named head basketball coach at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) before the 1948-49 season. At that time the UCLA program had a small gymnasium and little history of success. Wooden quickly became known for his rigorous practices, strict rules, and demanding expectations. During his first 15 years at the school, the coach built the Bruins into a well-run, winning program.

From 1963 through 1975 UCLA went on a streak that will likely never be equaled in college basketball. During those 12 seasons Wooden guided the Bruins to a slew of record achievements: ten NCAA championships (1964, 1965, 1967-1973, 1975), including seven straight titles from 1967 to 1973; 38 consecutive NCAA tournament victories (1967-1974); 88 straight wins (1971-1974), and four undefeated seasons (1964, 1967, 1972, 1973). From 1966 through 1975 the Bruins lost just 12 games.

After winning his tenth national title in 1975, Wooden retired. His college coaching record of 667-161 ranks among the best in the sport’s history. Top players coached by Wooden included Lew Alcindor (now known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), Bill Walton, Walt Hazzard, Gail Goodrich, Henry Bibby, and Sidney Wicks.


In 1977 the John R. Wooden Award was created to honor the men’s collegiate player of the year (a women’s award was added in 2004). Wooden published his autobiography, They Call Me Coach, in 1972; his other books include Wooden (1997), Coach Wooden One-on-One (2003), the children’s book Inches and Miles: The Journey to Success (2003), and My Personal Best (2004).

In 2000 Wooden received the Naismith Award as the men’s college coach of the 20th century. He was honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2003.

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