Story of the Week
College coaches have a distinct disadvantage that pro coaches don’t have to concern themselves with when they get their hands on a great player or team; the clock is ticking quickly. They know they can get, at best, four years of service from an athlete.
Thus, history’s most remarkable college basketball dynasty was quite unique in that it turned constantly and kept right on winning. That can be only one team, UCLA, and the greatest college basketball coach of all time period, John Wooden.
UCLA could have stocked an entire pro league with the players who were fortunate enough to play for John Wooden. He was a master in the art of recruiting, teaching, building, and rebuilding.
Wooden’s Bruins were not off an assembly line either. UCLA won with big centers, with small centers, often without anyone in the pivot at all. The Bruins would sometimes do it with outside shooting, with inside shooting, and always with a nagging, pressing defense; the latter was Wooden’s trademark.
The one consistent quality of those UCLA teams was their poise, and the records speak volumes to that fact, and to the teachings of their coach.
Wooden coached at Indiana State University from 1946-1948, where he compiled a 47-14 record. He coached at UCLA from 1948-1975. His UCLA record was an incredible 620-147.
And while he was winning all those games, John Wooden was a class act, on and off the court, and a credit to coaching. (I wouldn’t mention Bob Knight by name, but there are coaches who fall way short here.)
In addition to the 620 UCLA wins, Coach Wooden led the Bruins to four 30-0 seasons, 88 consecutive victories, 38 straight NCAA tournament wins, 19 Pac-10 championships, and 10 national championships including seven in a row.
He was the NCAA Basketball Coach of the Year six times, the Sports Illustrated Man of the Year, and the Sporting News Man of the Year.
What you may not know about John Wooden is the fact that he was an outstanding collegiate basketball player at Purdue University. He was an All-American three years, College Player of the Year, Captain of his team, and led Purdue to a National Championship.
The ‘Wizard of Westwood’ is only one of two men enshrined in the Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach.
Last Week’s Trivia
Who was John Murphy? He was a beer and soda vendor in the left-field bleachers at old Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis. Now, to my friends and cousin, so-called sports trivia experts who couldn’t come up with this rather obvious answer, put a sock in it.
Trivia Question of the Week
Who is the only player to make the last out of a World Series while attempting to steal a base? See next week’s Sports
Junkie for the answer.