Saturday, June 5, 2010

John Wooden (1910-2010)

There was a time when UCLA ruled the college basketball world back in the 60's & 70's, under the direction of coach John Wooden, whose simple, effective strategies resulted in 12 Final Four appearances and 10 National titles for the Bruins, including 7 straight, and an 88 game winning streak between 1971-74. When Wooden retired, it was truly the end of an era. UCLA has won since, but not with the dominance of the Wooden years.

On Friday, Wooden, the "Wizard of Westwood", passed away at the age of 99. The first man to be enshrined in the James Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach (he won a National championship as a player at Purdue), Wooden spent two years at Indiana State before moving west to forge his legend at UCLA. Wooden's chief directive to his players was to focus on the game at hand, and not worry about what the other team is doing. Wooden, in turn, coached future Hall of Famers as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then known as Lew Alcindor) & Bill Walton, as well a number of other future NBA players.

I will admit that I never watched much college basketball as a child, and thus never really saw the "Wizard" at work. The college game today isn't what it was 30 or 40 years ago, not with television and corporate interests becoming more of a factor, something that I doubt Wooden would have tolerated.

Rest in peace, Coach.

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