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Former UCLA coach John Wooden dies at 99

John Wooden, who coached UCLA to 10 NCAA basketball championships in 12 seasons, has died at the age of 99.
June 5, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
Former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden has died of natural causes at the age of 99.John Wooden passed away at 6:45 p.m. Friday at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. He had been admitted to the hospital on May 26 for dehydration.

Funeral services will be private. A public memorial for the legendary coach will be announced at a later date.

Wooden is considered one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time, building a dynasty at UCLA with 10 national championships. Seven of those were consecutive, between 1967 and 1973.

At one point, the Bruins had an 88-consecutive-game winning streak.

On Thursday, word about Wooden's hospitalization spread immediately on the Internet and at the Staples Center, where the Lakers and the Celtics were playing Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

"We all appreciated his teaching and his mentoring of his college students," said Lakers coach Phil Jackson. "His coaching has been an inspiration to all of us coaches."

Lakers player Jordan Farmar, who was a UCLA point guard from 2004 to 2006, said Wooden was a big figure in his life.

"(He's) a big reason why you go to UCLA in the first place and wear that jersey and play for a the school he helped build so much tradition," Farmar said.

Basketball hall-of-famer and UCLA alumni Kareem Abdul-Jabbar released this statement about Wooden's passing:

"He set quite an example. He was more like a parent than a coach. He really was a very selfless and giving human being, be 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."

Southern California coaches are sharing their thoughts on the beloved coach.

UCLA head football coach Rick Neuheisel expressed his thoughts on Twitter:

"Please join me in extending your thoughts and prayers to Coach Wooden and the entire Wooden Family."

Former USC coach Pete Carroll also commented on Twitter:

"So saddened about Coach Wooden's passing, but so thankful for the impact he had on me and countless others. Thank you, Coach."

President Barack Obama said Saturday he was saddened to hear of "the passing of an incredible coach, and an even better man, John Wooden. ... As an American, I salute the way he achieved all that success with modesty, and humility, and by wholeheartedly dedicating his life to the betterment of others."

Wooden began his career at UCLA in 1948 and won 620 games before retiring in 1975.

On his website CoachWooden.com, there are a number of photographs chronicling his extraordinary life and career, including his own playing days at Purdue University.

For many years, Wooden has been a regular at Vip's Family Restaurant in Tarzana. He calls it his favorite coffee shop.

"The coach gave me his book. He's not only the coach for basketball. He's coach for life. I really learned a lot from him," said Paul Ma, owner of Vip's Restaurant.

In recent years, Wooden has dealt with a number of health issues. There are reports that he was briefly hospitalized about a month ago.

After retiring from coaching, Wooden had more success as an author and speaker, and he remains highly respected by UCLA students.

"He's the best basketball coach of all time," said Edwin Gonzalez, a UCLA student. "His teachings can be applied to life."

Hundreds of students gathered on campus before Wooden's death to cheer in his honor. Friday night, many returned to the hospital and held a somber candlelight vigil in his memory.

Wooden's basketball triumphs are just part of the reason he's so fondly remembered. Many say that he was a teacher and mentor whose values influenced the lives of players and students. Current UCLA students are celebrating his legacy.

"I believe in the lessons that he taught us, and I want to support his family and really what he did for this program and this city and it goes beyond that," said Mustafa Abdul-Hamid, a UCLA basketball player.

"We used to always read his quotes, and his quotes are so powerful. There were times when I used to come in and have a hard day of football practice or just with life in general and I'd read one of his quotes, and it'd give me so much strength. They kind of remind me of bible verses. That's the impact he had," said UCLA student Rahim Moore.

Many students say that his words of wisdom and the way he lived his life will stay with them for a long time to come.

"He kept true to what he believed in, and that's why so many people admire him today because that's what they should aim to do," said student Lily Wong.

The following statement was issued by Nan and Jim Wooden on the passing of their father, John Wooden:

We want to thank everyone for their love and support for our father. We will miss him more than words can express. 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.

We wish to express our gratitude for your support and appreciate your respecting our privacy.

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