It was during this era that the Bruins won 88 consecutive games, a streak that ended with a loss to Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., on Jan. 19, 1974.
Yet, away from the game, the redhead could be too free-spirited and outspoken for Wooden's tastes. In his senior year, teammates hinted at tension in the locker room, and UCLA's championship run ended with a double-overtime loss to high-flying David Thompson and North Carolina State in a 1974 NCAA semifinal game.
One more year
The man known as the "Wizard of Westwood" -- a nickname he despised -- reportedly considered retirement that winter but decided to stay one more year.
His finale would not be like the hallowed seasons of the past. There would be no All-American guard in the backcourt and no dominant player along the frontline, with forward David Meyers the only returning starter from the Walton era. The team had to rely heavily on sophomores Marques Johnson and Richard Washington.
The Bruins suffered two upsets during the 1974-75 season -- including a humiliating 22-point loss at Washington -- and barely escaped close games on numerous other occasions. Yet, as Meyers said, the team did not have to deal with the "personality conflicts" that had marked the previous season. This squad reflected its coach's intense and focused personality.
In the NCAA tournament, UCLA stayed alive with two overtime victories. After a last-second win over Louisville in the semifinal, a triumphant Wooden walked into the locker room and gave his team one more reason to play hard in the final: "I'm bowing out."
On his final night as a coach, March 31, 1975, the Bruins played in a manner befitting the first of Wooden's championship teams. They outran a stronger Kentucky squad and even out-hustled the Wildcats on the boards, winning 92-85.
"I've always said my first year in coaching was my most satisfying," Wooden reflected during the tournament. "My last year has been equally satisfying. This is as fine a group of youngsters as I've ever had."
Assessing the Wooden era, Joseph Valerio of the New York Post wrote: "There has never been a dynasty in sports to compete with UCLA's. The Yankee dynasty was built around center field, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. The Celtics around Bill Russell. UCLA's has been built around John Wooden. The faces have changed at least every three years, but 64-year-old John Wooden remains."
Wooden slipped quietly into retirement, enjoying more time with wife Nell and their family. In 1977, the Los Angeles Athletic Club established the Wooden Award, recognizing the best college player of the year -- a basketball version of football's Heisman Trophy.
Wooden ended his support for the award in 2005, however, after the club objected to the former coach lending his name and support to the Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup, an award sponsored by Athletes for a Better World that honors a college or professional athlete for community service.
Busy final years
His final years were kept busy by resurging interest in his life philosophy and "Pyramid of Success" -- the diagram that includes 15 blocks arranged in rows, each containing a quality that Wooden believed would help people reach their potential.
"From the everyday basics to life's lessons on realizing our dreams, Coach was always leading and teaching: the underlying themes, his principles, his foundation, his core as a human being, his pyramid," Walton wrote in a forward to the book "They Call Me Coach."
Advocates of the teaching system Wooden developed, which was based on such traditional values as cooperation and responsibility, began using it as a motivational tool in the corporate world.
Nissan, Southern California Edison and the U.S. Air Force were among the companies and organizations that had employees attend a seminar called the John R. Wooden Course.
With each year that passed since his retirement, it seemed less likely that any coach would match his record of success. The NCAA tournament expanded significantly, meaning that teams had to win more games to reach the championship. Wooden's legacy seemed complete.