The Legacy of John Wooden

April 1, 2021

The legacy of the John Wooden led UCLA Bruins, transcends the game of basketball.

Wooden took over the Bruins during the 1948-49 season and met instant success, taking a faltering program into a perennial powerhouse and ultimately a dynasty. A dynasty the likes of which we haven’t seen since.
During his tenure the Bruins never had a losing season and won 10 NCAA Championships, 7 of these titles were won in a row with the team going a staggering 205-5. His teams, led by the likes of Lew Acindor (later known as Kareem Abdul Jabar) and Bill Walton, dominated the later 60’s and early 70’s. Known as the “Walton Years” in the early 70’s, the 71-72 team finished the season 30-0, winning by an average of more than 30 points a game. The Walton led Bruins finished the 72-73 season 30-0 as well. During this stint they also won a remarkable 88 games in a row. His 10 National Championships in 12 years earned Wooden the nickname “The Wizard of Westwood”.
A career that could not be adequately described with UCLA’s incredible numbers, Wooden was more than just a coach. His “Pyramid of Success”, created by him before 1948, offered his players a way not just to be a successful team, but also a way to be a successful human being. The tenets and life principles he introduced had no reference to basketball itself, but were simply a way for a person to better himself. The tenets include such simple concepts as there is no substitute for work, loyalty to yourself and those who depend upon you, be always eager to learn, etc. The man taught his players more than the game of basketball and in doing so developed them into better players and year in and year out champions.
While it seems that today’s coaches make life a subset of basketball, Wooden taught to embrace all moments and “make each day your masterpiece.” He treated each player with respect, never belittling of toadying up to stars and fostered an environment where all are welcome so long as they put in hard work and tried to better themselves. This led to such eccentric characters as Walton to thrive under his leadership.
Today, the Wooden led Bruins still seem to stand an echelon above the greats as an untouchable mark to even fathom. Both in terms of basketball success and in the development of young men into better individuals.

Tagged: College, college basketball, NCAA