99 things about John Wooden


In honor of John Wooden’s 99th birthday, here are 99 things you may, or may not, know about the legendary former UCLA basketball coach:

1. He was born in Martinsville, Ind., on Oct. 14, 1910.

2. Wooden led Martinsville High to the Indiana state title in 1927 and runner-up finishes in 1926 and 1928.

3. As a boy, one of his role models was Fuzzy Vandivier of the Franklin Wonder Five, a basketball team that dominated Indiana high school basketball from 1919 to 1922.


4. He was a three-time high school all-state selection.

5. Wooden met his future wife, Nell Riley, at a carnival in July 1926.

6. They married in a small ceremony in Indianapolis in August 1932. Afterward, they attended a Mills Brothers concert to celebrate.

7. Wooden and Nell were married 53 years before Nell’s death in 1985.

8. After high school, Wooden enrolled at Purdue, where he won varsity letters in basketball and baseball his freshman year and earned All-American honors as a guard on the basketball team in 1930-32.

9. He was a three-time consensus All-American.

10. Wooden was captain of Purdue’s basketball teams in 1931 and 1932 and led the Boilermakers to two Big Ten titles and the 1932 national championship.

11. While playing basketball at Purdue, Wooden was nicknamed “the Indiana Rubber Man” for his dives on the hardcourt.

12. Wooden is noted for his philosophical quotes about life and sportsmanship, such as: “Failure is not fatal but failure to change might be.”

13. After college, he spent several years playing professionally with the Indiana Kautskys (later the Indianapolis Jets), Whiting Ciesar All-Americans and Hammond Ciesar All-Americans while teaching and coaching in high school.


14. During one 46-game stretch, he made 134 consecutive free throws.

15. His first coaching job was at Dayton High in Kentucky.

16. In his first year, the team went 6-11, his only losing record as a coach.

17. Wooden went on to coach basketball, baseball and tennis at South Bend Central High in Indiana and taught English for nine years. His 11-year high school coaching record was 218-42.

18. World War II interrupted his coaching career and he was a lieutenant in the Navy from 1943 to 1946.

19. Following his discharge in 1946, he went to Indiana Teachers College (now Indiana State University) as athletic director, basketball and baseball coach for two seasons before moving to UCLA.

20. At Indiana State, Wooden also coached baseball, served as athletic director, taught and completed his master’s degree in education.

21. Another quote from Wooden: “Learn as if you were to live forever; live as if you were to die tomorrow.”

22. In 1947, Wooden’s basketball team won the Indiana Collegiate Conference title and received an invitation to the NAIB tournament in Kansas City. Wooden refused the invitation, citing the NAIB’s policy banning African American players. A member of the Sycamores’ team was Clarence Walker, an African American from East Chicago, Ind.


23. In 1948, the NAIB changed its policy and Wooden led Indiana State to another conference title.

24. That same year, Wooden guided his team to the NAIB final, losing to Louisville -- the only loss by a Wooden team in a college championship game.

25. Wooden was inducted into the Indiana State Athletic Hall of Fame on Feb. 3, 1984.

26. His top salary while coach at UCLA was $35,000.

27. Wooden turned down an offer to coach the Lakers from owner Jack Kent Cooke that may have been 10 times what UCLA was paying him.

28. The record Wooden is the most proud of? His Bruins teams won 19 conference championships.

29. Wooden’s name was inscribed on Purdue’s academic honor roll and he was awarded the 1932 Big Ten Conference medal for outstanding merit and proficiency in scholarship and athletics.

30. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame both as a player (class of 1961) and as a coach (1973). He was the first person ever enshrined in both categories, later joined by Bill Sharman and Lenny Wilkens.


31. Another quote from Wooden: “The main ingredient of stardom is the rest of the team.”

32. At UCLA, Wooden became known as the “Wizard of Westwood,” though he disliked the nickname.

33. He gained lasting fame with UCLA by winning 664 games in 27 seasons and 10 NCAA titles during his last 12 seasons.

34. Wooden’s UCLA teams won seven consecutive NCAA championships from 1967 to 1973.

35. His UCLA teams had a record winning streak of 88 games and four 30-0 seasons.

36. His Bruins also won 38 straight NCAA tournament games and a record 98 straight home games at Pauley Pavilion.

37. In 1967, he was named the Henry Iba Award USBWA college basketball coach of the year.

38. In 1972, he was honored as Sports Illustrated magazine’s Sportsman of the Year.

39. Wooden coached his final game at Pauley Pavilion on March 1, 1975, a 93-59 victory over Stanford.

40. Four weeks later, he surprisingly announced his retirement after a 75-74 NCAA semifinal victory over Louisville and before his 10th national championship game victory over Kentucky.

41. Another quote from Wooden: “Young people need models, not critics.”

42. UCLA was Wooden’s second choice for a coaching position in 1948. He had also been pursued by Minnesota, and it was his and his wife’s desire to remain in the Midwest.


43. Inclement weather in Minnesota prevented Wooden from receiving the scheduled phone offer from the Golden Gophers. Thinking they had lost interest, Wooden accepted UCLA’s offer instead.

44. Minnesota contacted Wooden right after he accepted the position at UCLA, but he declined because he had given his word to the Bruins.

45. His alma mater, Purdue, wanted Wooden to return to campus in 1947 and serve as coach Mel Taube’s assistant until Taube’s contract expired. Wooden declined, citing his loyalty to Taube, as it effectively would have made Taube a lame-duck coach.

46. At UCLA, Wooden had four undefeated teams. No other coach has more than one.

47. He also had seven teams that went undefeated in conference play.

48. He won five titles without Lew Alcindor or Bill Walton.

49. He coached 15 seasons at UCLA before winning his first NCAA championship.

50. His winning percentage in college and high school was .813.

51. Another quote from Wooden: “Talent is God given; be humble. Fame is man given; be thankful. Conceit is self given; be careful.”

52. Wooden won his first national title in 1964.

53. In 1965, the Bruins became one of the few teams to win two NCAA championships in a row.

54. In the 1965 final, Gail Goodrich scored 42 points for UCLA as the Bruins defeated Michigan and Cazzie Russell.


55. The 1965-66 season was a down year for Wooden. His team failed to win the NCAA title, the last time that happened until 1974.

56. The 1966-67 season marked the beginning of the Lew Alcindor era and UCLA easily defeated Dayton in the final.

57. Wooden’s Bruins had a 47-game winning streak before a 71-69 loss to Houston and All-American center Elvin Hayes on Jan. 20, 1968, in front of what was then the largest basketball crowd in NCAA history, 52,693.

58. That game was called “the Game of the Century.” The same teams met again in an NCAA semifinal, where the Bruins routed the Cougars, 101-69.

59. UCLA defeated North Carolina in the 1968 final to become the only team to win consecutive titles twice.

60. Wooden has called that team as good as any he coached.

61. Another quote from Wooden: “Ability is a poor man’s wealth.”

62. In 1969, UCLA became the only men’s basketball program to win three consecutive NCAA titles.


63. In the final, Wooden faced Purdue, his alma mater, and won easily, 92-72.

64. With that 1969 championship, Wooden became the first coach to win five NCAA titles.

65. In 1970, Wooden won his fourth consecutive NCAA title despite the loss of Alcindor to the pros.

66. In the final, 6-foot-8 Sidney Wicks outplayed 7-footer Artis Gilmore of Jacksonville for another easy victory.

67. In 1971, Wooden won his fifth NCAA championship in a row; the Bruins defeated Villanova in the final.

68. The Bill Walton era began in the 1971-72 season, and the Bruins won a sixth consecutive championship with a victory over Florida State.

69. Walton starred, making 21 of 22 shots, as Wooden won his seventh consecutive title in 1973 with a victory over Memphis State in the final.

70. UCLA’s record 88-game winning streak under Wooden started on Jan. 30, 1971, with a 74-61 victory over UC Santa Barbara.


71. The streak ended when Notre Dame upset UCLA, 71-70, on Jan. 19, 1974.

72. Notre Dame also handed UCLA the loss before the streak started, 89-82, on Jan. 23, 1971.

73. The Bruins’ record streak included two one-point victories: 69-68 at Oregon on Dec. 12, 1971, and 65-64 at home against Maryland on Dec. 1, 1973.

74. Wooden won his last NCAA title in 1975.

75. In Wooden’s last game as UCLA coach, the Bruins defeated Kentucky, 92-85, on March 31, 1975.

76. Wooden spent 40 years as a basketball coach.

77. He coached 27 years at UCLA, finishing with a record of 620-147.

78. Wooden’s teams went 149-2 at Pauley Pavilion.

79. Wooden’s “Pyramid of Success” has become an organizational and inspirational tool for coaches everywhere.

80. The foundation for Wooden’s “Pyramid of Success” is Industriousness, Friendship, Loyalty, Cooperation and Enthusiasm.

81. The peak of the Pyramid is Competitive Greatness.

82. Another quote from Wooden: “A coach is someone who can give correction without causing resentment.”


83. Since 1977, the most prestigious postseason award in college basketball has been the John R. Wooden Award.

84. Two annual doubleheader men’s basketball events are named after Wooden -- the Wooden Classic and the Wooden Tradition.

85. In 1999, ESPN elected Wooden the “Coach of the 20th Century.”

86. The recreation center for intramural sports on the UCLA campus is named after Wooden.

87. A high school in Reseda is named John R. Wooden High.

88. In 2003, UCLA named the basketball court at Pauley Pavilion after Wooden and his wife, Nell. Wooden insisted the court be named the “Nell and John Wooden Court,” keeping Nell’s name first.

89. Wooden has his own website,

90. In 2007, UCLA announced it was planning to renovate Pauley Pavilion, while setting a goal of opening the renovated facility on Wooden’s 100th birthday, Oct. 14, 2010.

91. Another quote from Wooden: “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

92. On July 23, 2003, Wooden received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.


93. Wooden is a fan of women’s basketball, because he says it often features more fundamentally sound basketball than the men’s version of the game.

94. Wooden has written several books, including “They Call Me Coach” and a book for children, “Inch and Miles.”

95. He has another book scheduled for release today called, “A Game Plan for Life: The Power of Mentoring with John Wooden.” In conjunction with the book’s release, fans can visit the website to send the coach birthday wishes.

96. On Wooden’s 96th birthday in 2006, a post office in Reseda was named the John Wooden Post Office.

97. Wooden retains the title head men’s basketball coach emeritus at UCLA and attends most of the team’s home games.

98. On Nov. 17, 2006, Wooden was a member of the founding class of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. Others were James Naismith, Dean Smith, Oscar Robertson and Bill Russell.


99. One more quote from Wooden: “Don’t give up on your dreams, or your dreams will give up on you.”