This Week in L.A. History: The “Greatest Coach of All Time” Stepped Down


UCLA men’s basketball coach John Wooden announces his retirement on March 29, 1975.

Minutes after the UCLA men’s basketball team defeated Louisville in the 1975 NCAA semifinals, John Wooden announced his retirement. The era of Wooden basketball, which spanned one of the longest winning streaks of all time (88 games), ten NCAA championships, four perfect 30-0 seasons, and six NCAA College Basketball Coach of the Year awards, was coming to an end. The coach’s achievements reached such heights that The Sporting News named Wooden the “Greatest Coach of All Time” in 2009. His accolades don’t end there; he was one of only three men to enter the National Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach, he has had countless awards, programs, and facilities named after him (including Wooden Center, at UCLA), and he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

Wooden’s coaching skills extended off the basketball court. His “Pyramid of Success,” which consists of philosophical building blocks for success, has been the subject of lectures and books. In fact, Wooden’s inspirational lectures were so highly valued that he was often paid more than his annual coaching salary during his tenure at UCLA. Wooden proudly claimed that his late-in-life success allowed him to set up education accounts for all seven of his grandchildren.

Wooden died of natural causes on June 4, 2010. He was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park following a private ceremony. A public service was held in his honor two weeks later at UCLA, where a bronze statue was erected in his memory outside Pauley Pavilion last fall.

RELATED: Read “John Wooden,” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s August 2010 essay on the passing of his former coach

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