Steve Alford marked today’s 104th anniversary of the birth of John Wooden by having breakfast at the Tarzana restaurant frequented by his late legendary predecessor as UCLA men’s basketball coach for the second consecutive year.
Alford was joined by Wooden’s family members, including his daughter, Nan Wooden Muehlhausen, at Vip’s Cafe in celebrating the anniversary of the coach known as “The Wizard of Westwood.”
Wooden coached UCLA from 1948 to 1975, guiding the team to 10 NCAA championships in his final 12 seasons, including a record seven in a row from 1967 to 1973. The Bruins won 88 consecutive games from 1971 to 1974 and 38 consecutive NCAA tournament games from 1964 to 1974, both records.
The record Wooden said he was the most proud of were UCLA’s 19 conference championships.
Along with his coaching record, Wooden was known for the values he espoused and for integrity. He had three rules for his players — don’t use profanity, be on time and never criticize a teammate.
Wooden was born Oct. 14, 1910, in Hall, Ind., moving with his family to a small farm in Centerton, Ind., in 1918 and then to Martinsville, Ind., when he was 14. He helped lead Martinsville High School to Indiana’s state championship finals three consecutive years and the state championship in 1927.
Wooden was a three-time All-American and helped lead Purdue to two Big Ten championships and the 1932 national championship.
He began his coaching career in 1932 at Dayton (Ky.) High School, spending two years there, coaching a variety of sports. He spent the next nine years at South Bend (Ind.) Central High School, coaching basketball, baseball and tennis and teaching English.
Wooden served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy from 1943-46. He resumed his coaching career at Indiana State Teacher’s College, now Indiana State University, coaching basketball and baseball and serving as athletic director for two years
In 1948, Wooden was offered coaching positions by both UCLA and Minnesota. He was prepared to accept the offer from Minnesota, but when a Minnesota official failed to call by a stipulated deadline, Wooden accepted UCLA’s offer.
The Minnesota official called minutes later, explaining he had had trouble getting to a telephone because of a snowstorm and that the school still wanted to hire him. But Wooden refused to break the promise he had made to UCLA minutes earlier.
Wooden’s long list of honors includes the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, being named by ESPN as the greatest coach of the 20th century, and having a post office and high school in Reseda named for him.
Wooden also was the first person selected for the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach. He died in 2010 at the age of 99.
Wooden “had a positive and lasting impact on this entire campus, on the greater community off campus and on millions of people around the country, indeed around the world,” UCLA Chancellor Gene Block said in 2012 at the unveiling of a statue of Wooden outside Pauley Pavilion, the Bruins’ home court since 1965.