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

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.

Jamaal “Silk” Wilkes and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar embrace during the first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the new commemorative USPS Forever stamp celebrating the legacy of legendary basketball coach John Wooden at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Axel Koester, Contributing Photographer)
Jamaal “Silk” Wilkes and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar embrace during the first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the new commemorative USPS Forever stamp celebrating the legacy of legendary basketball coach John Wooden at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Axel Koester, Contributing Photographer)
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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.

  • Gene Block, Chancellor of UCLA, Valorie Kondos Field, former UCLA...

    Gene Block, Chancellor of UCLA, Valorie Kondos Field, former UCLA gymnastics head coach, Derek Kan, a member of the USPS Board of Directors and Christy Impelman, John Wooden’s granddaughter, attend the first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the new commemorative Forever stamp celebrating the legacy of legendary basketball coach John Wooden at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Axel Koester, Contributing Photographer)

  • Gene Block, Chancellor of UCLA, Valorie Kondos Field, former UCLA...

    Gene Block, Chancellor of UCLA, Valorie Kondos Field, former UCLA gymnastics head coach, Derek Kan, a member of the USPS Board of Directors, Christy Impelman, John Wooden’s granddaughter, and Jamaal Wilkes attend the first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the new commemorative Forever stamp celebrating the legacy of legendary basketball coach John Wooden at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Axel Koester, Contributing Photographer)

  • Jamaal “Silk” Wilkes and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar speak during the first-day-of-issue...

    Jamaal “Silk” Wilkes and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar speak during the first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the new commemorative USPS Forever stamp celebrating the legacy of legendary basketball coach John Wooden at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Axel Koester, Contributing Photographer)

  • The USPS holds a first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the new...

    The USPS holds a first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the new commemorative Forever stamp celebrating the legacy of legendary basketball coach John Wooden at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Axel Koester, Contributing Photographer)

  • The USPS holds a first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the new...

    The USPS holds a first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the new commemorative Forever stamp celebrating the legacy of legendary basketball coach John Wooden at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Axel Koester, Contributing Photographer)

  • Jamaal “Silk” Wilkes and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar embrace during the first-day-of-issue...

    Jamaal “Silk” Wilkes and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar embrace during the first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the new commemorative USPS Forever stamp celebrating the legacy of legendary basketball coach John Wooden at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Axel Koester, Contributing Photographer)

  • The USPS holds a first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the new...

    The USPS holds a first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the new commemorative Forever stamp celebrating the legacy of legendary basketball coach John Wooden at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Axel Koester, Contributing Photographer)

  • The USPS holds a first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the new...

    The USPS holds a first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the new commemorative Forever stamp celebrating the legacy of legendary basketball coach John Wooden at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Axel Koester, Contributing Photographer)

  • Jamaal “Silk” Wilkes, NBA All-Star who played for Wooden at...

    Jamaal “Silk” Wilkes, NBA All-Star who played for Wooden at UCLA for two championship seasons, leads the first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the new commemorative USPS Forever stamp celebrating the legacy of legendary basketball coach John Wooden at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Axel Koester, Contributing Photographer)

  • The USPS holds a first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the new...

    The USPS holds a first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the new commemorative Forever stamp celebrating the legacy of legendary basketball coach John Wooden at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Axel Koester, Contributing Photographer)

  • The USPS holds a first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the new...

    The USPS holds a first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the new commemorative Forever stamp celebrating the legacy of legendary basketball coach John Wooden at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Axel Koester, Contributing Photographer)

  • Jamaal “Silk” Wilkes, NBA All-Star who played for Wooden at...

    Jamaal “Silk” Wilkes, NBA All-Star who played for Wooden at UCLA for two championship seasons, leads the first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the new commemorative USPS Forever stamp celebrating the legacy of legendary basketball coach John Wooden at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Axel Koester, Contributing Photographer)

  • Jamaal “Silk” Wilkes and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar embrace during the first-day-of-issue...

    Jamaal “Silk” Wilkes and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar embrace during the first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony for the new commemorative USPS Forever stamp celebrating the legacy of legendary basketball coach John Wooden at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024. (Photo by Axel Koester, Contributing Photographer)

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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 usps.com.

“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.”

  • UCLA Coach John Wooden won 7 straight NCAA men’s basketball...

    UCLA Coach John Wooden won 7 straight NCAA men’s basketball titles in the 1960’s and 70’s. ORG XMIT: HO

  • John Wooden, guard for Purdue University, poses in action in...

    John Wooden, guard for Purdue University, poses in action in West Lafayette, Ind., in this undate photo. As a student at Purdue, Wooden was the All-American basketball player for three years, 1930-1932, and Player of the Year in 1932. (AP Photo)

  • Coach John Wooden Nhat Meyer / The Virginian-Pilot)

    Coach John Wooden Nhat Meyer / The Virginian-Pilot)

  • UCLA coach John Wooden introduces new UCLA player Lew Alcindor...

    UCLA coach John Wooden introduces new UCLA player Lew Alcindor at the Bruins’ picture-day in Los Angeles on Oct. 14, 1966. (AP Photo/stf)

  • Former UCLA coach John Wooden, 93, greets the crowd during...

    Former UCLA coach John Wooden, 93, greets the crowd during the dedication of Nell and John Wooden Court at UCLA’s Pauley Pavillion. (Photo by Scott Varley/Daily Breeze)

  • FILE – In this March 22, 1964, file photo UCLA...

    FILE – In this March 22, 1964, file photo UCLA coach John Wooden, right, and members of the team celebrate with their trophy after defeating Duke to win the NCAA basketball championship, in Kansas City, Mo. Players in front row are, from left: Gail Goodrich, Walt Hazzard and Jack Hirsch, holding trophy. UCLA has been the most frequent No. 1 in the AP ranking with 134 appearances at the top. (AP Photo, File)

  • UCLA coach John Wooden is flanked by Sidney Wicks, right,...

    UCLA coach John Wooden is flanked by Sidney Wicks, right, and Lew Alcindor, draped with basket ropes, after the UCLA team beat Purdue 92-72 to win the NCAA basketball title for the third consecutive year, in Louisville, Ky., March 24, 1969. (AP Photo)

  • FILE – UCLA Bruins coach John Wooden, left, is congratulated...

    FILE – UCLA Bruins coach John Wooden, left, is congratulated by Jacksonville coach Joe Williams after UCLA beat the Dolphins, 80-69, in the national championship game of the NCAA college basketball tournament on March 21, 1970, in College Park, Md. Williams, who coached Artis Gilmore and tiny Jacksonville University to the 1970 NCAA Tournament championship game against mighty UCLA, died Saturday, March 26, 2022, in Enterprise, Miss., while in hospice care after a lengthy battle with cancer, his son Joe Williams said. He was 88. (AP Photo/File)

  • Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the late John Wooden pose for a...

    Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the late John Wooden pose for a photo on the set of the documentary, “On the Shoulders of Giants.” Abdul-Jabbar’s latest book delves into the relationship between the former UCLA and Lakers star and his legendary college coach. (Photo courtesy of Iconomy LLC)

  • UCLA coach John Wooden wears the basketball net around his...

    UCLA coach John Wooden wears the basketball net around his neck in celebration after the Bruins won the NCAA basketball championship game with a 92-85 victory over Kentucky in San Diego, Ca., Monday night, March 31, 1975. (AP Photo)

  • FILE – UCLA coach John Wooden listens to Greg Lee,...

    FILE – UCLA coach John Wooden listens to Greg Lee, left, during a timeout in the team’s NCAA college basketball game against Iowa in January 1974 in Los Angeles. Lee, who helped UCLA to consecutive national championships in 1972 and ’73 as a starting guard under Wooden, has died. He was 70. Lee died at a San Diego hospital Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2022, from an infection related to an immune disorder, the university said Thursday after being informed by his wife, Lisa. (AP Photo, File)

  • Nan Wooden, right, seen sitting next to her father, former...

    Nan Wooden, right, seen sitting next to her father, former UCLA coaching great John Wooden, at a Bruins game Feb. 27, 2010, at Pauley Pavilion, died at 87 early Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021. John Wooden preceded her in death on June 4, 2010. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

  • UCLA basketball coach John Wooden claps his hands and shouts...

    UCLA basketball coach John Wooden claps his hands and shouts encouragement to members of his Bruin team during a practice session in Los Angeles, Ca., March 7, 1967. (AP Photo)

  • FILE – Former UCLA NCAA college basketball coach John Wooden,...

    FILE – Former UCLA NCAA college basketball coach John Wooden, center, is flanked by UCLA alumni stars Bill Walton, left, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar during a birthday party for Wooden in Los Angeles, Oct. 20, 1980. (AP Photo/File)

  • FILE – Former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden listens during...

    FILE – Former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden listens during a news conference Friday, Dec. 9, 2005, in Anaheim, Calif., about Wooden Classic basketball tournament. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson, File)

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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.

 

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