Friday, October 14, 2005


Today is the 95th birthday of John Wooden, UCLA basketball coach from 1948-1975. Wooden's illustrious record of 10 NCAA championships, and personal qualities of leadership, decency, and commitment to having his players develop as full, well-rounded individuals need little elaboration. Detailed biographical sketches of Wooden are available here and here.

The 1968 Game of the Century match-up of Wooden's Bruins and the University of Houston Cougars is obviously but a small aspect of Wooden's career. Yet, because this webpage is devoted to the GOTC, a few reflections are in order. From what I can tell from reading various sources, the traditionalist Wooden naturally found many aspects of the game distasteful (e.g., playing a non-conference game in the middle of the conference season, playing basketball in a huge baseball-football venue). The prime mover behind the game was Houston Coach Guy Lewis, and UCLA Athletic Director J.D. Morgan saw the financial rewards of it.

But, as things ultimately worked out, the Houston-UCLA game made a huge mark on the history of college basketball, and something would have been wrong had Wooden not been a part of it.

For an interesting look at Wooden, the coach and the man, I recommend the 2001 book Be Quick -- But Don't Hurry! by former Bruin player Andy Hill (book homepage). Wooden's wisdom and greatness come through unmistakably, but like any human, Wooden is shown to not always be perfect, however much we may think of him that way.

On to the century mark for Coach Wooden!

[An addendum: Someone on a UCLA basketball discussion board pointed out a lovely article at on how several former Bruin players gave Coach Wooden a little birthday celebration, and on the strong bonds that have formed between Wooden and the players.]