Monday night’s NCAA tournament final between Kentucky and Connecticut marks 50 seasons since UCLA’s first basketball championship -- a title the Bruins might not have won if not for the cheerleaders.
In his book, “Wooden: A Coach’s Life,” Seth Davis recalls that UCLA was tied with Kansas State late in the 1963-64 semifinal when the cheerleaders finally showed up.
Their connecting flight had been delayed by a Chicago snowstorm. How important were they? Two of the young women were dating starters.
After their arrival, UCLA scored the next six points and never looked back. The Bruins subsequently defeated Duke for the first of their coach’s 10 titles.
The NCAA championship game was special to John Wooden, who recalled those victories as the most thrilling of his career.
“I think for many years I was a very poor tournament coach,” he said near the end of his run. “I think I’m better now.”
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