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Coach, mentor, leader: Stamp celebrates UCLA legend John Wooden

City News Service

One of Los Angeles’ most beloved figures of the past century, and a giant of college sports, was honored Saturday with a stamp approval.

A first-day-of-issue ceremony for a commemorative U.S. Postal Service Forever stamp depicting the late UCLA basketball coach John Wooden was help on Saturday outside Pauley Pavilion, where the legendary coach, mentor and leader enjoyed record-setting success.



UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, NCAA and NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar —who played for Wooden’s Bruins during three consecutive championship seasons — former Bruins’ women’s gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Christy Impelman, a granddaughter of Wooden, and Derek Kan, a member of the U.S. Postal Service Board of Governors, spoke at the early afternoon ceremony, which came about six hours before the start of UCLA’s game against USC at Pauley Pavilion.

Basketball Hall of Famer Jamaal Wilkes, who played under Wooden in the 1970s and later for the Los Angeles Lakers, was master of ceremonies. The ceremony also featured performances by the UCLA Quartet and the UCLA Reserve Officers’ Training Corps.

The stamp, which features original artwork by Alexis Franklin, based on a photograph by Norm Schindler, depicts Wooden at the peak of his career in the early 1970s. The image shows a portrait of Wooden looking intently beyond the viewer. The numbers on the two players’ jerseys, 4 and 10, evoke the Bruins’ four perfect seasons and the 10 national championships during Wooden’s tenure.

“John Wooden’s contributions transcended basketball, offering lessons in integrity, teamwork, and personal excellence that resonate across our nation,” Kan said. “In dedicating this stamp, the United States Postal Service honors not just a legendary coach, but a transformative figure in sports and leadership.”

The John Wooden stamp is being issued as a Forever stamp in panes of 20. The stamps will always be equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce rate, and are available at Post Office locations nationwide and

“We take enormous pride in the fact that the U.S. Postal Service has added to coach Wooden’s legacy with this honor,” Block said earlier. “A USPS Forever stamp can be used as postage in perpetuity and that is quite appropriate for a man whose timeless wisdom will continue to shape lives for many years to come.”

Wooden coached UCLA to a 620-147 record from 1948 to 1975, and 10 NCAA basketball championships in his final 12 seasons a coach, including a record seven in a row from 1967 to 1973, with teams led by future Hall of Fame centers Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, then Lew Alcindor, and Bill Walton, accounting for five of those titles.

Despite having just one returning starter from a team that finished third the previous season, UCLA won another title in 1975, in what Wooden called his most gratifying UCLA season.

The Bruins won 88 consecutive games from 1971 to 1974 and 38 consecutive NCAA tournament games from 1964 to 1974, both records.

The record Wooden said he was the most proud of was UCLA’s 19 conference championships.

Along with his coaching record, Wooden was known for the values he espoused, his integrity, which figured into his becoming UCLA’s coach, and his “Pyramid of Success.”



Wooden had three rules for his players — don’t use profanity, be on time and never criticize a teammate.

In 1948, Wooden was offered coaching positions by both UCLA and Minnesota. He was prepared to accept the offer from Minnesota, but a complication briefly delayed the deal. When Minnesota did not call by a stipulated deadline, Wooden accepted UCLA’s offer.

A Minnesota official called minutes after the deadline, explaining that a snowstorm had caused him to be late calling because he could not get to a telephone and that the school still wanted to hire him. However, Wooden refused to break the promise he had made to UCLA minutes earlier.

Wooden began developing the “Pyramid of Success,” in the 1930s. He called it “the only truly original thing I have ever done.”

At the base of the five-level pyramid are industriousness, friendship, loyalty, cooperation and enthusiasm. The next levels up are self-control, alertness, initiative and intentness; condition, skill and team spirit; and poise and confidence.

UCLA coach John Wooden, right, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sit on the sidelines during a UCLA game. (Photo courtesy of Getty Collaborator Bill Ray)
UCLA coach John Wooden, right, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar sit on the sidelines during a UCLA game. (Photo courtesy of Getty Collaborator Bill Ray)

At the pinnacle is competitive greatness, which he defined as performing at one’s best ability when one’s best is required, which, he said, was “each day.”

“Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable,” Wooden once said in explaining the pyramid.

Wooden also promoted his “12 Lessons in Leadership,” including Lesson 11 — “Don’t look at the scoreboard.”

Wooden would begin each season with a coaching session on dressing properly that included showing his players how to put on their shoes and socks the right way.

“This is a game played on your feet,” Wooden said. “If you get blisters, you can’t play the game.”

Wooden was born Oct. 14, 1910, in Hall, Indiana, moving with his family to a small farm in Centerton, Indiana, in 1918 and then to Martinsville, Indiana, when he was 14. He helped lead Martinsville High School to Indiana’s state championship finals three consecutive years and the state championship in 1927.

Wooden was a three-time All-American and helped lead the Purdue Boilermakers to two Big Ten championships and the 1932 national championship, which was then determined by polls. The NCAA did not begin conducting a men’s basketball championship until 1939.

The John Wooden stamp was designed by Antonio Alcala, a U.S. Postal Service art director, using original artwork by Alexis Franklin. (Courtesy, USPS)
The John Wooden stamp was designed by Antonio Alcala, a U.S. Postal Service art director, using original artwork by Alexis Franklin. (Courtesy, USPS)

Wooden began his coaching career in 1932 at Dayton (Kentucky) High School, spending two years there, coaching a variety of sports. He spent the next nine years at South Bend (Indiana) Central High School, coaching basketball, baseball and tennis and teaching English.

Wooden served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy from 1943-46. He resumed his coaching career at Indiana State Teachers College, now Indiana State University, coaching basketball and baseball and serving as athletic director for two years

Wooden’s long list of honors includes the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, being named by ESPN as the greatest coach of the 20th century and having a post office and high school named for him in Reseda. He was the first person selected for the Basketball Hall of Fame as both a player and coach.

Wooden died June 4, 2010, at age 99.


Source: Orange County Register

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