Friday, June 4, 2010

Breaking News: John Wooden Passes

By Jon E. Easter

Well, the news was encouraging earlier today, but the news is now sad. John Wooden has died. It was quite a journey from rural Indiana to the highest levels of college sports.

Wooden was born in Hall, Indiana, on October 14, 1910. His family moved to Centerton and then to Martinsville. In 1927, Wooden led his Artesians team to a State Championship. The gym at Martinsville High School carries his name. He played at Purdue University for legendary coach Piggy Lambert helping the Boilers to a pre-NCAA tounament National Championship in 1932.

After playing professionally, he entered the coaching ranks. First he coached in Kentucky and then moved on to South Bend Central High School. He joined the Armed Forces and fought in World War II. After the war, he accepted a job at Indiana State University. He coached there for three years.

Wooden had job offers on the table from Minnesota and UCLA. His wife Nellie wished to stay in the Midwest, and a blizzard prevented him from getting a scheduled phone call from the Gophers Athletic Department, so he accepted the job at UCLA thinking they had lost interest. He would stay there until his retirement in 1975.

During that time, he won seven straight National Championships. That is a feat that will never be equaled. He won 10 titles at UCLA overall and a record of 664-162.

Beyond that, his legacy extends outside of basketball. Politicians, CEOs, and leaders of all sorts have developed many of his leadership techniques. Wooden was a quiet, stoic leader that believed in gaining respect not by yelling and screaming but by respecting those he led.

John Wooden was 99 years old. This is an amazing report by Rick Reilly on Coach Wooden.

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