With all due respect to Bob Knight, Mike Krzyzewski and even Bear Bryant and Vince Lombardi, John Wooden was in a class by himself.
Wooden will go down as the most accomplished coach anywhere. Ever.
The Wizard of Westwood won 10 national titles in a 12-year span, including a remarkable seven consecutive from 1967 through ’73.
There were four seasons of 30-0 perfection, a record 88-game winning streak and also 38 consecutive NCAA Tournament victories.
Wooden’s success is almost unfathomable.
Wooden passed away on Friday night at the UCLA Medical Center, just months prior to his 100th birthday on Oct. 14.
Wooden was still mentally sharp in his 90s and was spotted at UCLA games and other events.
However, he spent three days in the hospital for diverticulitis in 2006, went into the hospital the next year for a bleeding colon and then broke his wrist and collarbone in a fall in 2008. Last year Wooden came down with pneumonia.
For the past year or so, he didn’t make any public appearances as age finally began to take its toll.
Wooden was born in Hall, Ind., in 1910 and was a three-time All-American guard at Purdue, where he won the national championship in 1932.
He worked his way up through the high school coaching ranks over 11 years before serving in the Navy from 1942 to ’46. He then spent two seasons as the head coach at Indiana State, where he was 47-17 before taking over at UCLA in 1948.
Wooden was with the Bruins for 27 years and compiled a record of 620-147 before retiring in 1975 following yet another national championship. He was the first person inducted into the National Basketball Hall of Fame as a player and a coach.
He made a dozen appearances in the Final Four in his career, was 47-10 in the NCAA tournament and won an unprecedented 10 titles.
No one will ever catch him.
Just think about this:
Lombardi, regarded as the best coach in NFL history, won five league titles during his nine seasons as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers.
Bryant won six national titles in his 25-year career as Alabama’s football coach.
Wooden’s competition in college basketball is Knight, Krzyzewski and Adolph Rupp. Knight won a trio of national titles in his illustrious career, Coach K got his fourth this past April — but he’s not even within striking distance and turned 63 this past February. Rupp finished his career with four.
Phil Jackson is going for his 11th title in his NBA coaching career with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers, but it hasn’t been with the same dominance as Wooden’s teams exhibited.
Wooden’s UCLA teams set the benchmark for the word “dynasty.”
Since the Bruins won seven straight titles, just two teams have claimed back-to-back championships: Duke in 1991 and ’92 and Florida in 2006 and ’07.
The Bruins were virtually untouchable from the mid-’60s until Wooden called it a career in 1975.
UCLA won back-to-back titles in 1964 and ’65 with Gail Goodrich leading the way. Then it was Lew Alcindor, now known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who dominated in winning three straight titles from 1967 through ’69.
Wooden won two more in 1970 and ’71 before Bill Walton came along and led UCLA to championships in 1972 and ’73.
The players changed, but the one constant was Wooden.
“No one can truly be the very best,” Wooden said at an event a few years ago. “No one.”
No one in the coaching ranks — except maybe for Wooden.