John Wooden, legendary former basketball coach at UCLA, passed away on Friday, June 4. He was 99 years old — his 100th birthday would have been Oct. 14. Wooden was admitted to the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center on May 26. Prior to the first NBC finals game Thursday, June 3, Lakes assistant coach Bill Sharman visited Wooden in the hospital. He told ESPN, “We said goodbye today. I think he realized it.”
]]><![CDATA[UCLA is reporting that funeral services will be private. Per the wishes of the family, there will be a public memorial at a later date, with a reception for former players and coaches. As a player for Purdue University, Wooden won his first NCAA title in 1932. He went on to win 10 more as a coach for UCLA (1964, 1965, 1967, 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1975). At one point, the Bruins won an NCAA-record 88 games in a row. UCLA also won 38 consecutive NCAA Tournament games between the 1963-64 and 1973-74 seasons, another record. Wooden retired from coaching following the 1975 season — only twice during his tenure did the Bruins lose home games at Pauley Pavilion, where he coached from the 1965-66 through 1974-75 seasons. But even more great than his coaching was Wooden’s immense character. He was one of the greats both on and off the court. This is a sad day indeed for the sporting world. Via UCLA’s news room:
Shortly after graduating from Purdue in 1932, Wooden married Nell Riley, whom he had met at a carnival when he was 15. They remained together until her death in 1985. He considered his wife his “lucky Nell” — he never began a game without finding her in the stands and getting a wink and an OK signal from her.RIP Coach.
During World War II, he served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy and spent time aboard the USS Franklin in the South Pacific. Following his discharge in 1946, he coached at Indiana Teachers College (now Indiana State University) for two seasons before coming to UCLA.
Wooden is survived by a son, James, of Orange County, Calif.; a daughter, Nancy Wooden, who lives in Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley; three grandsons and four granddaughters; and 13 great-grandchildren.
Wooden often said that with the passing of his wife, Nell, he lost his fear of death.
“I look forward to seeing her again,” he told UCLA Magazine in 2007.