LOS ANGELES - John Wooden, college basketball's gentlemanly Wizard of Westwood who built one of the greatest dynasties in all of sports at UCLA and became one of the most revered coaches ever, has died. He was 99.
The university said Wooden died last night of natural causes at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where he had been hospitalized since May 26.
Jim Wooden and Nancy Muehlhausen issued a statement shortly after their father died, saying, "He has been, and always will be, the guiding light for our family.
"The love, guidance and support he has given us will never be forgotten. Our peace of mind at this time is knowing that he has gone to be with our mother, whom he has continued to love and cherish."
They thanked well-wishers for their thoughts and prayers and asked for privacy.
With his signature rolled-up game program in hand, Wooden led the Bruins to 10 NCAA championships, including an unmatched streak of seven in a row from 1967 to 1973.
Over 27 years, he won 620 games, including 88 straight during one historic stretch, and coached many of the game's greatest players such as Bill Walton and Lew Alcindor - later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
"It's kind of hard to talk about Coach Wooden simply, because he was a complex man. But he taught in a very simple way. He just used sports as a means to teach us how to apply ourselves to any situation," Abdul-Jabbar said in a statement released through UCLA.
"He set quite an example. He was more like a parent than a coach. He really was a very selfless and giving human being, but he was a disciplinarian. We learned all about those aspects of life that most kids want to skip over. He wouldn't let us do that."
Wooden was a groundbreaking trendsetter who demanded his players be in great condition so they could play an up-tempo style not well-known on the West Coast at the time.
But Wooden's legacy extended well beyond that.
He was the master of the simple one- or two-sentence homily, instructive little messages best presented in his famous "Pyramid of Success," which remains must-read material, not only for fellow coaches but for anyone in a leadership position in American business.
He taught the team game and had only three hard-and-fast rules - no profanity, tardiness or criticizing fellow teammates. Layered beneath that seeming simplicity, though, were a slew of life lessons - primers on everything from how to put on your socks correctly to how to maintain poise: "Not being thrown off stride in how you behave or what you believe because of outside events."
"What you are as a person is far more important than what you are as a basketball player," was one of Wooden's key messages.
"There will never be another John Wooden," UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said. "This loss will be felt by individuals from all parts of society.''
Nell, Wooden's wife of 53 years, died in 1985. Besides his son and daughter, Wooden is survived by three grandsons, four granddaughters and 13 great-grandchildren.
Ironically, Richard "Duke" Llewellyn, chairman and co-founder of the John R. Wooden Award that goes to college basketball's player of the year, also died yesterday. He was 93.