View Full Version : Legendary UCLA coach John Wooden dies at 99

Jun 4, 2010, 09:23 PM
LOS ANGELES -- Former UCLA basketball coach and Hall of Famer John Wooden died of natural causes on Friday at age 99, the school announced.

Little had been released regarding his condition.

Earlier in the day, former UCLA and Los Angeles Lakers star Jamaal Wilkes told The Associated Press that he visited Wooden in his hospital room twice this week and they chatted briefly.

Wilkes said Wooden recognized him and that the coach's mind remains "sharp as a tack," although he said the 99-year-old Wooden's body is "very, very frail."

During his second visit on Wednesday night, Wilkes asked Wooden if he recognized him.

"His glasses fogged up and he had to clean his glasses," Wilkes said. "He looked at me and said, 'I remember you, now go sit down."

Wilkes teamed with Bill Walton to help UCLA win NCAA titles in 1972 and '73. He was part of UCLA's record 88-game winning streak under Wooden.

Besides his grown son and daughter and other family members, Wilkes said Wooden has had several visitors since being admitted to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center on May 26, including Walton.

UCLA officials said Friday afternoon that Wooden was resting comfortably and was surrounded by family. The university's statement said the family wanted to thank Wooden's fans for their thoughts and prayers.

A few hundred students gathered around the Bruin Bear statue near Pauley Pavilion on the UCLA campus Friday, performing the university's eight-clap chant and shouting Wooden's name. He frequently attended men's basketball games until a couple years ago.

The university had said that the former coaching great was being treated for dehydration.

"I got the sense that it's an overall physical decline," Wilkes said while attending an event for an NBA charity.

"His mind and his spirit is very lucid and sharp. He was sharp as a tack, still got the sense of humor. People don't realize how funny he is, but his body is very, very weak, very frail."

Wilkes said he recognized what he called "that little glint" in Wooden's pale blue eyes. He was in the room with Wooden's son, James, when Wooden asked to be shaved.

"His son made the comment that when he got shaved he was getting ready to see Nellie," Wilkes said, referring to Wooden's late wife who died of cancer in 1975.

Like many of Wooden's players, Wilkes, now 57, has stayed in regular contact with his former coach through the years. He said they rarely discussed basketball and mostly talked about their lives.

"He's such a tough survivor and you want to keep wishing and hoping that he's going to live forever, but we all know he's not," Wilkes had said. "The realization that this may actually be it hasn't really hit me yet. I'm so overwhelmed with what's happening."

Wilkes, however, said Wooden seemed at peace with himself, and that the coach's pastor was another visitor.

"He's OK with it. It's the rest of us that have to," Wilkes said, his voice trailing off. "It's hard."

Wooden led the Bruins to 10 NCAA championships -- at one time winning seven in a row -- during a 27-year run that ended with his team cutting down the nets one last time in 1975.

The Bruins won 88 consecutive games from 1971-74 and 38 consecutive NCAA tournament games from 1964-74, both records.

Jun 4, 2010, 09:28 PM
damn.. :(

This guy's outlook on leadership, and life was absolutely wonderful. If any of you haven't read his book, I'd suggest to have a look at it. You'll find quite a bit of good nuggets there on sportsmanship, leadership, and how to win not just in sports, but in life.

Really great guy. RIP.


Jun 4, 2010, 09:32 PM
What Wooden did with UCLA was nothing but amazing. Granted the competition wasn't as strong but it is still a great feat.

Doctor Q
Jun 5, 2010, 02:28 AM
A great man. Not only was he the first person elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame as both player and coach, but the year he led Purdue to the national championship as a player he also had the highest grade-point average of any Purdue athlete.

It's hard to believe he won 10 national championships in a 12 year span as coach, the first time with no starters taller than 6'5".

I'm sorry he didn't get to celebrate his upcoming 100th birthday.

Jun 5, 2010, 03:35 AM
You had a profound influence on many persons.


Jun 5, 2010, 05:57 PM
Damm, being from LA and knowing the UCLA dynasty.....you have to know John r wooden,,,, he was a good man!:)

Doctor Q
Jun 5, 2010, 09:29 PM
Richard "Duke" Llewellyn (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/basketball/ncaa/06/04/obit.llewellyn.ap/), who created the annual John R. Wooden award given to the best all-around college basketball player, also died yesterday, just hours before Wooden. How's that for karma?

Wooden's teams won 38 straight games in the NCAA tournament, in the days before there were so many lesser teams in the tournament. Yet he was more interested in how each of his players developed as a person rather than as a ball player.

He won championships when he had players like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton but also in the years in between. He talks about some of his philosophy in the clip at 7:00 in this 1973 championship game summary (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MdFEII_p1M). That's the game in which Walton made 13 rebounds and was 21 of 22 shots from the field and 2 for 2 from the free throw line.

Looking at those old videos, the most remarkable thing is how short basketball shorts used to be!