John R. Wooden is college basketball. He coached the legendary UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles) teams to an unprecedented 10 national championships. As the school lost in the championship final against Florida, VOA's Jim Stevenson reports many fans and players are looking back at the amazing run Wooden had at UCLA.
Current UCLA coach Ben Howland has no doubt what John Wooden means to the sport.
"He is the greatest coach in the history of basketball," Howland says.
John Wooden was the 1930 player of the year at Purdue University. As coach at UCLA, he won 10 titles in just 12 years and at one point, his teams won an amazing 37 straight NCAA national championship tournament games in a row.
Wooden's last title came in 1975. The school won just one other championship without him in 1995.
Coach Howland says Wooden was successful because he surrounded himself with quality people.
"The whole key to his run was recruiting really good players that were really good people and good human beings that were selfless and worked hard and improved every day," explains Howland. "They gave themselves to reach other just like our kids are doing now."
Wooden's teams from 1948 through 1975 included now legendary players like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, known then as Lew Alcindor, Bill Walton, Willie Naulls and Henry Bibby, each who still hold various school records. Wooden led his teams to four undefeated seasons.
But Howland says Wooden's legacy is actually more impressive off the basketball court.
"As great a coach Wooden was, he is a better person than he is a coach. He took all the opportunity of his fame and his recognition for being a great college basketball coach to help others," Howland notes.
Wooden has written several children's books. He has been active in several charities, including special Olympics. But current UCLA coach Ben Howland says the coach still enjoys watching college basketball.
"Coach watches every game. Coach is always there at the home games sitting behind our bench," he says.
Howland says he is comfortable working in John Wooden's shadow because he says there will never be another like the legendary coach. And even now, Howland says coach Wooden is able to pass along words of wisdom.
"It is shocking how well he can still recite poetry no matter what you are talking about at age 95. He is so sharp mentally. It is just incredible," Howland says.
No doubt, the incredible coach has enjoyed watching UCLA make another run through the championship tournament this year.