The Life of Coach John R. Wooden

Without question, John Robert Wooden was the most influential coach of the 20th century.

Humble Beginnings

Coach Wooden's life began in the small town of Martinsville, Indiana. When he was a young boy, his mother "Roxie" gave him his first basketball, "a wobbly thing sewed together using rolled-up rags she had stuffed into some black cotton hose. Dad nailed an old tomato basket with the bottom knocked out to one end of the hayloft in the barn. That's how I got started playing the game of basketball."  Little did he know that coaching the game was to be his destiny.

The Gift of a Lifetime

Wooden grew up with an overwhelming admiration for his father, Joshua Hugh Wooden.  When young John graduated from grade school, his father handed him a small card containing a brief seven-point creed on one side and a meaningful poem on the other. Over eight decades later this humble teacher is still striving to become the man defined by his father's gift, helping and coaching others to prepare to be their very best.

Unprecedented Success

Coach Wooden's UCLA teams reached an unprecedented success that no future organization in any sport is likely to approach. His coaching molded the lives of young players at UCLA, like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton, who both went on to become professional NBA legends. Under his confident guidance, the Bruins won 81% of their games and set all-time records with four perfect 30-0 seasons, 88 consecutive victories, 38 straight NCAA tournament victories, 20 PAC-10 championships, and 10 national championships - seven of them consecutive. During a 2003 ceremony at the White House, President Bush honored Coach Wooden with America's most prestigious civil award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Trophies and Letters

Wooden's modest home contained an enviable collection of trophies and medals.  Many were awarded for his success coaching basketball, but still more are tributes to the legend he became, the legacy he leaves, and the lessons we can still learn from his life.  Above all, he exemplied a life of professional excellence, personal integrity, love and balance.

Often, John Wooden would kneel to pray in his modest condo and tenderly pen another love letter to his bride of 53 years, even though she had passed away almost two decades earlier.  Deep in his heart, the letters meant infinitely more than the trophies, medals, or victories and that made John Wooden a true success.

"I am just a common man who is true to his beliefs."- Coaching Legend John Wooden