Legendary UCLA coach John Wooden to be honored by Notre Dame

by Dennis Brown

John Wooden, the most successful coach in collegiate basketball history, will be honored Friday night (April 6) for his longtime commitment to integrity in athletics by the University of Notre Dame’s Mendelson Center for Sport, Character&Culture.p. The recognition will come during the 25th annual presentation of the Wooden Award to the nation’s outstanding men’s basketball player at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., president emeritus of Notre Dame, will make videotaped remarks on behalf of the University, and Mendelson Center codirector David Shields will present Wooden with a plaque that reads in part:p. “The consistent modeling and promotion of teamwork, sportspersonship, respect, hard work, and integrity ? timeless values nurtured by Coach Wooden and honored in perpetuity by the John R. Wooden Award ? remains the most important goal for student-athletes, coaches, and all who are concerned with the quality of sport. The Mendelson Center unites with the legions of friends, colleagues, and admirers in congratulating John Wooden and the Wooden Award Committee for keeping this goal foremost in mind and action.”p. Tommy Hawkins, a 1959 Notre Dame graduate and All-American forward for the Irish, will serve as master of ceremonies for the Wooden Award. He is the vice president of communications for the Los Angeles Dodgers.p. Notre Dame also will be represented at Friday’s black-tie event by junior Troy Murphy, a finalist for the Wooden Award, and Irish men’s basketball head coach Mike Brey.p. A native of central Indiana, Wooden led his Martinsville High School team to the state championship in 1927. He went on to become a star at Purdue University, earning recognition as the college player of the year and leading the Boilermakers to the national title in 1932.p. After coaching for two years at Dayton High School in Kentucky, Wooden spent the next nine years just a couple of miles from Notre Dame, coaching at South Bend Central High School. His overall high school coaching record was 218-42.p. Following service in the Navy during World War II, Wooden coached at Indiana State University from 1946-48, compiling a record of 47-14 and leading the Sycamores to the finals of the NAIA Invitational in his final year.p. In 1948, Wooden accepted the head coaching job at UCLA, where for the next 27 years he established one of the greatest dynasties in sports history: 620 wins against just 147 losses, four perfect 30-0 seasons, 88 consecutive victories (a streak broken by Notre Dame in 1974), 38 straight wins in NCAA Tournament games, 20 conference championships, and 10 national titles, including seven in a row.p. For all of his accomplishments as a coach, however, Wooden is equally admired for his personal integrity, commitment to academic excellence, faith, and self-control, all with the intent of helping his players develop to their fullest both on and off the court. “Ability may get you to the top,” he said, “but it takes character to keep you there.”p. Wooden, now 90, resides in the Los Angeles suburb of Encino.

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