Though his fame extended beyond the sports world, it was Wooden's achievements during 27 seasons at UCLA that put him in the company of such legendary coaches as the Green Bay Packers' Vince Lombardi and Notre Dame's Knute Rockne.
Wooden's string of championships began with back-to-back victories in 1964 and '65. Starting in 1967, his team ran off seven consecutive NCAA titles -- going 38 tournament games without a loss -- a feat unmatched before or since in men's college basketball.
The Bruins won with such dominant big players as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton. They also won with teams -- such as Wooden's last squad in 1974-75 -- that had no marquee stars.
That team defeated Kentucky, 92-85, in the national championship game to give Wooden his 10th and final title. Mike Krzyzewski of Duke won his fourth national title this spring, matching the total won by the late Adolph Rupp of Kentucky.
In 40 years of coaching high school and college, Wooden had only one losing season -- his first. He finished with 885 wins and 203 losses, and his UCLA teams still hold an NCAA record for winning 88 consecutive games from 1971 through 1974.
The man known as the "Wizard of Westwood" -- a nickname he despised -- built his dynasty on simple precepts. He insisted that his squad be meticulously prepared and in top physical condition. He demanded crisp fundamentals and teamwork. He wanted his players to be smart, both on the court and in their lives away from the game.
To that end, the stern, dignified Midwesterner developed his "Pyramid of Success" -- a teaching system based on such traditional values as cooperation and personal responsibility. Years later advocates of the program used it as a motivational tool in the corporate world.
John Robert Wooden was born Oct. 14, 1910, in Hall, Ind., the third of six children. His father was a farmer who guided the family through tough economic times by stressing hard work, honesty and the value of education.
In 1932, Wooden, a three-time All-American, led Purdue to its only national basketball championship and married his high school sweetheart, Nell Riley. After graduation, he went to work as a coach and English teacher at Dayton, Ky., High School, where his first team went 6-11, and then at South Bend, Ind., Central High, where he nurtured a string of winning teams.
During World War II, Wooden enlisted in the Navy to serve as a physical trainer for combat pilots. Upon his discharge in 1946, he took a job as athletic director and coach of the basketball and baseball teams at what is now Indiana State University.
After two winning seasons there, it was on to UCLA in 1948. Wooden had highs and lows at first, his teams advancing to the NCAA tournament a few times but then falling to 14-12 in 1960.
The UCLA team of 1963-64 had no one taller than 6 feet 5 in the starting lineup but compensated for lack of size with veteran leadership and great quickness.
The so-called "Bruin Blitz" -- a zone press -- smothered opponents and allowed guards Walt Hazzard and Gail Goodrich to score in bunches. The Bruins stormed into the NCAA tournament undefeated and in the championship game pulled away for a 98-83 victory over Duke.
The winning continued into the next season, with the Bruins losing only twice. In the NCAA title game UCLA scored a 91-80 victory over Michigan.
Those first two championships had been won with strategy and fundamentals. After a mediocre season in 1965-66, Wooden and his Bruins would resume their streak with something else: star power.
The winter of 1966 brought Lewis Alcindor -- who later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar -- to the starting lineup. Alcindor actually had enrolled the previous year, recruited from Power Memorial High School in New York City. However, he had to wait a season because at that time NCAA rules did not allow freshmen to play on the varsity team.
Alcindor, at 7 feet plus, dominated the game over the next three seasons, with the team playing in brand-new Pauley Pavilion. Not even a controversial rule change -- college basketball outlawed the dunk in a move thought to be aimed directly at Alcindor -- could faze him. In all, he led the Bruins to an 88-2 record and three straight titles.
Even with historic success, those years were not idyllic. Wooden, the ultimate conformist, was coaching in a time of great social upheaval.