20The Coach

Image of the icon for “The Coach” depicting two cartoon figures, with one person playing the coach who is training the other person.

The “Wizard of Westwood” is considered one of the world's greatest coaches of any sport. I'm referring, of course, to John Wooden, the famous UCLA basketball coach who led his team to ten NCAA championships over 12 years, including an unheard of seven in a row. John was born on October 14, 1910, in Indiana, where his family lived on a farm with no running water or electricity.

After graduating from high school he went to Purdue University, where he studied English and played basketball with great success. He was named All-Big Ten and All-Midwestern and after graduating was actually offered a spot on the Boston Celtics professional team. He turned it down so that he could begin his teaching career and marry the love of his life, Nellie (an entirely separate but fascinating story). After his wife passed away, he continued to write her a love letter on the 21st of every month. He ended each letter by saying how much he misses her and looks forward to being with her again.

After college, John turned professional and spent some time playing with the Indianapolis Kautskys (later the Indianapolis Jets). John then spent some time in both the Navy and the Armed Forces during World War II. He also had a few coaching jobs, including Dayton High School and South Bend Central High School. Eventually he landed a job coaching at Indiana State University, where his reputation really ...

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