1948 - 1963


It was the spring of 1948 and it was raining in Minnesota and throughout the Midwest. The storm was so bad that telephone lines were down linking Minnesota with Indiana. But the basketball coach at Indiana State Teachers College didn’t know this. John Wooden was sitting by the phone, anxiously awaiting a call.

Wooden had been born in Martinsville, Indiana on October 14, 1910. An outstanding athlete, Wooden lettered in baseball, track and basketball at Martinsville High School, leading them to the state basketball title in 1927 as a junior. He took them to the championship game again in his senior year, but ran into a game that would leave a lasting impression on him.

Martinsville’s opponent in the championship game at Butler Fieldhouse in Indianapolis was Muncie. Muncie had a potent offensive threat in its tall center, Charlie Secrist. It was a good matchup because Wooden himself was feared throughout the state. A 5-10 forward, he was described as, “the tumbling artist from Martinsville. (He) has everything a forward could possibly need. He is fast, he can dribble like a streak, he can guard, he can shoot long, and he can twist ‘em in as he flies under the basket.”

Because Wooden was such a good ball handler, Martinsville held the ball to keep it away from Secrist. There was no requirement that the ball be advanced beyond the center stripe within ten seconds, so they held it and held it. With less than a minute left Martinsville was ahead 12-11 and had possession of the ball. Muncie was out of timeouts, but Secrist, who had injured his ankle earlier, called time, feigning that his ankle was hurt again.

Muncie was assessed a technical foul for this maneuver and Wooden went to the line with the ability to clinch a tie in regulation time. But he missed and the ball went to the center jump. Secrist controlled the tip by grabbing it himself. Instead of risking a pass, he stopped behind the center circle and threw up an underhanded half court shot that swished to give Muncie the title, 13-12.

After being named All-State three years in a row at Martinsville, Wooden attended Purdue where he was a three time All-American and captain his junior and senior years. He was also an excellent student. Majoring in English, he made the honor roll and won the Big Ten medal for outstanding merit and proficiency in scholarship and athletics.

For eleven years he taught English in high school and coached his teams to a record of 218-42. Two years at Indiana State Teachers College had produced a record of 47-14 and now he felt he was ready for a major college-coaching job. He had applied for jobs at Minnesota and UCLA. He favored Minnesota for many reasons. He was a Big Tenner and a Midwesterner. As important, the facilities at Minnesota were far better than at UCLA, where the Bruins played most of their home games in a 1,500 seat gymnasium. The UCLA people had vaguely talked of a new arena within three years, but made no promises.

Minnesota had offered Wooden the job and he was delighted. But there was a condition attached to the offer. Minnesota’s budget was not large and they requested that Wooden retain the outgoing coach as his assistant. This was unacceptable to Wooden. He felt that this arrangement would put him under a tremendous burden and he wanted to retain his assistant at Indiana State. He told Minnesota that he could not accept such a condition and the Minnesota people told him that they didn’t have the authority to hire his assistant. They had to present it to the Board and would let him know

Meanwhile, UCLA had offered him the job as their head basketball coach and Wooden had requested extra time in order that Minnesota could present the problem to their Board. Wooden waited for the call that stormy evening but the deadline came and passed and he had not heard. At the appointed time, UCLA called and Wooden was presented with a dilemma. He had not heard from Minnesota. If he turned down UCLA and Minnesota refused to hire his assistant, he would be in a vise. Since the UCLA position was being offered with no strings attached, he accepted it. One hour later the telephone lines had been repaired and Minnesota finally got through to tell Wooden that the Board had approved the hiring of his assistant. But it was too late. Wooden was UCLA-bound.

# # #

The state of the game at that time was much different than it is today. That spring, a rules change allowed coaches to talk to players during timeouts. The game was played in four ten-minute quarters. The key was only six feet wide and the tall men were beginning to dominate. During the last two minutes there was a different free throw rule than there was for the other 38 minutes of the game. A team fouled had two free throws during the last two minutes and could elect to take the ball out of bounds instead of taking the second free throw, thereby retaining possession of the ball. Thus, if a team was ahead after 38 minutes and in possession, there was very little that the opposition could do to regain possession, short of turnover.

Wooden was coming to a school whose main claim to basketball fame was that Ralph Bunche and Jackie Robinson had played for it. Between 1932 and 1943, the Bruins had lost 39 consecutive games to its bitter crosstown rival, the University of Southern California Trojans. The last Bruin win before the drought had occurred in 1932 when SC had stalled by holding the ball under its own basket. UCLA had pulled it out, 19-17 and, as a result of the game, the NCAA had installed the requirement that the ball be advanced beyond the center of the court within ten seconds.

# # #

With no basketball tradition at UCLA, Wooden arrived to find a bleak situation. He had no returning starters from the Bruin squad, which had finished last in the conference the prior year. Wooden surveyed that which greeted him, but was not discouraged. He says, “I had confidence. I felt that I was ready for a college coaching job and I felt that a metropolitan area would be more to my liking because I wouldn’t have to get involved, never had liked, recruiting. I thought that in a metropolitan area I wouldn’t have to recruit very much.”

Practice started on October 1, 1948 and a veritable flood of 60 eager undergraduates showed up to try out. They were tall and short, fat and skinny. Most had played basketball before. Wooden took his time paring the squad. He was a newcomer. He had to move slowly. One month later the squad had been reduced to 18 and the 18 were being ground into the best condition a UCLA basketball team had ever achieved. And he immediately installed Wooden discipline. Anyone caught drinking alcoholic beverages at any time during the season would be dismissed from the squad.

Wooden worked on three things. He got them in condition. He drilled them endlessly in the fundamentals of the game and he emphasized that he wanted them to play as a team. Wooden was not a man who talked a lot, but he was a stern disciplinarian. He did not smoke, drink or use profanity, but the players knew when he was angry. He knew how he wanted things done and that was the way they were going to be done.

Basketball on the west coast at that time was a slow, ball-control game. Wooden installed an entirely different style. He had his team run and fast break. In practice they worked and got into the shape that would be required to run the entire game. He installed a pressure defense. The Bruins picked up their men at the center stripe and pressured them continually.

It was in practice that the Bruins worked. The game was pleasure. Practice was grueling. Wooden had a reason for this, other than conditioning, “Basketball is a game of habit. The kids have to be kept at it until they go through certain plays and maneuvers without even stopping to think. When they learn the right habits on the court and are doing what comes naturally, then they begin to reap the profits of all that hard work.”

The men were George Stanich, an Olympic high jumper in 1948, Eddie Sheldrake, a pint sized, 5-9 sharpshooter, Alan Sawyer, Carl Kraushaar and Ralph Joeckel and they won the Pacific Coast Conference Southern Division championship the first year, only to lose the conference playoff to Oregon State, the Northern Division champion that spring of 1949, at Corvallis, Oregon.

The next year they won their second consecutive title and beat Washington State in the conference playoff, this time at Westwood. Only one addition had been made to the squad. Jerry Norman had become a sixth man and gave much needed help at forward. UCLA was knocked out of the Regionals, at that time composed of only eight teams, by Bradley, despite leading 57-50 with less than six minutes remaining. UCLA disintegrated and Bradley scored ten straight points in less than 3 minutes to go into the crucial two minute period with a three point lead, 60-57. The last two minutes continued the debacle and Bradley ended up on top 73-59. The Bruins did have a moral victory, though, as CCNY went on to win both the NCAA and the NIT Tournaments. The Bruins had defeated CCNY earlier in the year at Madison Square Garden, 60-53.

Wooden had been a success. He had been ready for a major college and UCLA had been fortunate to get him. But he wanted a better place to play than the tiny Men’s Gym. On March 14, 1950 the UCLA varsity club passed a petition calling for a new basketball pavilion, saying that it was “one of the key factors in the Bruins’ retaining Coach Wooden. If there was no hope of a new pavilion, there was no hope of keeping Wooden.”

The mainstays of his teams, Stanich, Kraushaar, Sawyer and Joeckel, graduated that spring, but it seemed to make no difference to Wooden. Dick Ridgway, potentially one of the best basketball players ever to enroll at UCLA, was up from the frosh where he had averaged 14.2. Grover Luchsinger took over at center and Art Alper and Don Johnson were the guards, Sheldrake playing forward at 5-9. They won the Southern Division title again, but lost the Conference playoff in the north to Washington.

Ridgway, who had led the team in scoring with 16.2 as a sophomore, suffered a tragic accident during the summer. He was working under a car when it fell off the jack and crushed his head. For the rest of his life he suffered severe headaches and epileptic type fits. Wooden says, “He had a great sense of humor and laughed at himself, but it wasn’t any laughing matter. The doctors said that the worst thing for him to do would be to play basketball because he’d get too tired. I think had he not been injured he would have been our all-time leading scorer. He had a great touch. I started him once in awhile, but never with they intention of letting him play very long.”

Even this crippling loss couldn’t stop Wooden. The next year freshmen were eligible for varsity competition and UCLA had the best crop of freshmen in the school’s history, John Moore, a 6-5 forward from Indiana, Don Bragg, a 6-4 forward and Ron Bane, a 6-2 forward. Joining them were Mike Hibler, 6-7 center and Ron Livingston, 5-10 guard, both sophomores.

With all this talent, they won the Southern Division title for the fourth year in a row and the Conference playoff for the second time, defeating Washington two out of three at Westwood. But again, they could not get by the first game in the Regionals, losing to Santa Clara 68-59 despite holding a 35-31 halftime lead. Their poor performance in NCAA tournament play continued the following night as they lost to Oklahoma City 55-53.

Despite everybody returning from such a successful year and a year’s experience under their belts, Wooden’s string was snapped the next year as they finished third behind Cal and SC.

# # #

Two sophomores joined the many returning lettermen in the fall of 1953 and they would reassert the Bruins place in the ranks of the national powers, Willie Naulls and Morrie Taft. Despite the promise, the year was to see a heartbreaking end. They started out by winning their first five before losing to eventual National Champion, LaSalle, 62-53. After beating Michigan State a few weeks later, the Bruins closed their preconference play with a record of 9-2 and were favorites to win the conference.

They lost two of their first three conference games, to Cal and SC, but a star was emerging. After winning their fourth conference game over SC, 81-63, Bob Hunter wrote in the Los Angeles Examiner, “Willie Naulls, the talented Bruin rookie who had shown nothing except size in his early appearances…for the first time indicated the greatness that is in store for him…played the boards well and showed himself as a fine all-around floorman.”

The winning streak, which reached seven games, propelled them into the lead and they seemingly had the title all sewn up as they went into the last games of the year with a one game lead over SC. And the last two were against SC at Westwood. But the Trojans, led by center Roy Irwin’s 29 points over Naulls, won the first 79-68. Going into the last game of the season, SC and UCLA were tied.

In the finale, the Trojans jumped into a 26-17 lead in the second quarter, but four straight baskets by Naulls and Livingston pulled the Bruins to within one, 26-25. Taft then entered the game and hit three in a row and UCLA had a 33-26 halftime lead. They maintained that until four minutes were left in the third quarter, 44-36. But SC rallied and was down by only one, 50-49 at the end of the quarter.

SC’s spurt continued to a lead of 64-55 midway through the fourth quarter when Bragg and Naulls pulled the Bruins to within one, 66-65. Then Naulls fouled out at :50 with SC up by two, 67-65. Eddie White tied at 67 with a 25 foot one hander and SC got the ball for the last shot. As the tightly packed Westwood Gym was erupting in bedlam, SC passed the ball around trying to work it into Irvin, who was tightly covered. Finally, as time ran out, guard Chet Carr threw in a fall away desperation ten footer and SC had won the title.

The season was over with the Bruins on the threshold. Livingston, the leading scorer at 12.5 was returning. So was Bragg, number 2 at11.1. And so were Naulls and Taft.

# # #

Over the summer, the four quarter game became a thing of the past as henceforward games would be played with two twenty minute halves instead. In the opening AP poll, UCLA was ranked eighth as defending National Champion LaSalle was number one. Wooden opened the season with a lineup of Moore and Bragg at forwards, Naulls at center and Taft and White at guards.

On December 11, 1954, unranked University of San Francisco invaded Westwood for a seemingly routine nonconference game. USF was led by a gangly 6-9 center named Bill Russell. The Bruins jumped off to an 11-2 lead but were quickly tied at 15. The Bruins led 23-20 at the half, but only 37-36 with three minutes to go. Amazingly, UCLA, the runningest team in the west, was holding the ball against this little known rival! Moore hit two free throws and a basket to give the Bruins a five point lead, 41-36 and the Bruins outlasted them, 47-40. USF did not lose another game for two years as the next weekend they won the first of their astounding 60 straight wins. Wooden remembers, “I had no idea that after we beat USF they would win 60 games in a row. But I knew they were good. It wasn’t the defense against Russell. It wasn’t stopping Russell. It was Russell stopping you. We got a lead and we held the ball and played it very cozy from there on.”

Jack Geyer commented the following morning in the Los Angeles Times, “The Bruins had to contend with one of the classiest all-round performers they’ll see all year in Russell.

“In his all-round play, Russell was amazing. Time after time he indulged in a sort of one man volleyball, going high in the air to tap the ball over to where he would retrieve it unmolested. And at least a dozen times Russell bounced high in the air to block what appeared to be easy Bruin two-pointers.

“Coming down after bagging rebounds, Russell resembled an egg beater as he moved his arms back and forth like a woman shopper trying to edge up to a bargain sale counter.

“Russell is a cinch to be either a Harlem Globetrotter or a top pro player, whoever bids the higher.”

The following week, on December 17, UCLA traveled to the Cow Palace in San Francisco and the Dons got their revenge with a vengeance. The Bruins went ten minutes before they got their first field goal and ended with only 12 field goals for the entire game, as USF won 56-44. Actually, the game was not even that close as the Dons led 54-29 with five minutes to go when USF coach Phil Woolpert pulled Russell.

In the next AP poll, released on December 21, USF and UCLA were tied for 17th as Kentucky was number one and SC 13th. But after beating Colorado, 65-62, and setting a school scoring record in dismantling New Mexico 106-41 the following weekend, the UP poll on December 28th had the Bruins ranked ninth. USF had moved up to sixth. Kentucky was still number one.

The next week UCLA took part in the Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden in New York. They won their opener over Niagara, 88-86, but lost to LaSalle, 85-77. They then set a Madison Square Garden scoring record in defeating Dayton 104-92 to finish third in the tournament. Morrie Taft finally arrived as a consistent scorer in New York, getting 22 against Niagara, 11 against LaSalle and 24 against Dayton.

Shortly after returning from the east, Wooden signed what was described as a “long term pact with UCLA.”

The Bruins lost their conference opener to Stanford 61-56 but got back on track the next night, 91-75 and then revenged the preceding season’s heartbreak by beating SC twice, 70-67 and 76-64. In the AP poll of January 17th UCLA, 11-3, had dropped to tenth while USF climbed to third. By February 7th UCLA, at 15-3, was ranked seventh as USF finally became number one.

UCLA was tied with Stanford for the conference lead, both with records of 5-1. Stanford had an outstanding shooting team led by Ron Tomsic, 5-11 guard, who was hitting 50% of his shorts and Russ Lawler, 6-6 center, who was hitting at a 42% clip. Other sharpshooters were George Allen, 41%, Bill Bond, 45% and Barry Brown, 38%. Only a few years before, the Bruins had led the conference in shooting with 34%! Although Stanford had handed the Bruins their only conference loss of the year in the opener at Stanford, the titanic battle never materialized as the Bruins shot down the Indians at Westwood, 85-63, Taft holding Tomsic to 15. After the game Tomsic said, “I had the shots, but couldn’t hit them. No I don’t think Taft did such a fine job. He didn’t bother me more than any other guard.”

Taft ended the game with 24 and Moore had 21. The following night the Bruins completed the sweep 72-59, Naulls getting 20, Taft 13 and Tomsic 12. But the real story of the game occurred in the first half. Stanford was playing a tight zone and Wooden, in trying to bring them out of it, ordered UCLA not to shoot. With UCLA leading 32-25, Bragg stood for three and a half minutes just over the ten second stripe with the ball under his arm and the Bruins didn’t take a shot for five minutes. During this time both bands entertained the fans by playing while the clock was running. In the second half, at 8:30 and the Bruins on top by seven, 53-46, they again held the ball, this time for two minutes and lost their momentum. Stanford took the lead 54-53 at 7:20 but Wooden sent Taft back in and the Bruins pulled away to their final margin.

Wooden defended his tactics with a refrain which would become familiar in the coming years, “It not only is the responsibility, but the obligation of the team behind to press the action.”

The game produced other side effects which become commonplace for a winner. Bob Brachman, a Bay Area sportswriter, wrote on February 12, 1955, calling the UCLA fans, “as hostile a crowd as there is in college basketball today.” Brachman continued, “The Stanfords are at a complete loss about the ethics they say were employed by Wooden from the coaching bench when he allegedly yelled such phrases as ‘you busher’ and ‘go cry to the ref’ at Tomsic.”

Forrest Twogood of SC heaped more abuse on UCLA by saying that “playing at UCLA is a question of getting out alive more than anything else.”

Wooden says, “A lot of coaches didn’t like to play in our small gym. Our gym was no different than theirs, but we were winning. That type of game is more difficult for the visiting team when the crowd is closer to you. A lot of people complained about the heat. They said that I turned up the heat when the other teams came in to play us. It was small and it got hot, but I didn’t have anything to do with it and I’m sure nobody else did either.”

Notwithstanding this controversy, on March 1 UCLA was ranked seventh in the UP poll as USF continued as number one. The Bruins roared through the conference and won the Southern Division easily with a record of 11-1 winning 11 in a row after the opening loss to Stanford at Palo Alto.

After the conference season ended they had to travel north to face the winners of the Northern Division, Oregon State, led by 7-3 Swede Halbrook. The Bruins made the battle of it in the opener, finally succumbing 82-75 as Halbrook had 35. Moore was high for the Bruins with 21. The following night it was no contest as Halbrook completely dominated Naulls, pulling down 20 rebounds to Willie’s 6. Naulls was four for eighteen from the floor while Swede poured in 25 as the Beavers completed the sweep 83-64.

UCLA’s dominance of the Southern Division was emphasized as Moore (17.1), Naulls (13.2) and Bragg (8.6) made first team. All Southern Division and Taft was named to the second team. The Bruins, with a 21-5 record, finished 12th in the UP poll and 13th in AP. Bragg ended his UCLA career by making Phi Beta Kappa.

# # #

The men who had been the mainstays of the squad for four years were gone when the 1955-56 season started. Bragg, Bane and Moore had graduated. Replacing them were Dick Banton, a JC transfer at guard, Connie Burke, a sophomore forward and Ben Rogers, sophomore center.

Over the summer the conference merged and the playoff at the end of the season was eliminated. Each conference team would play the other conference teams twice each. But there was an inequity in that the two game series were not home-and-home affairs. UCLA played Washington, Oregon and Cal at home and Washington State, Oregon State and Stanford away.

The Bruins started out poorly as Morrie Taft was bothered by a bad back, losing two games to Brigham Young away from home, 75-58 and 67-65, beat Denver and Purdue and then lost again to Nebraska and Wichita State. After their first six games they stood 2-4. With this unimpressive record they traveled to New York for the Holiday Festival at Madison Square Garden. The pot at the end of the rainbow was USF who was in the other bracket and ended the 1955 season as NCAA Champions, the loss to UCLA the only blemish on an otherwise perfect record.

In the opener against St. Johns they won a high scoring contest 93-86. In the semifinals they were up against highly touted Duquesne with Dave and Dick Ricketts and jump-shooting Sihugo Greeen, all legitimate All-American candidates. But the Bruins easily handed them 72-57. Now for the rematch against USF in the finals.

Wooden recalls, “We had a one point lead with the ball and if we get a three point lead we are going to hold the ball. While Naulls got the ball and faked Russell and went up for a two hand dunk shot with Russell faked out behind him but when he went to slam the ball through the net, Russell’s hand was there blocking the ball. It stunned everyone and that alone beat us, even though it happened in the first half.” The Bruins never recovered and the Dons won again, 70-53.

The conference season was a Bruin breeze. The only near miss in their 16-0 conference record was against Washington at the Pan Pacific auditorium, one of the Bruins’ many home courts, on February 3. Washington had the ball and a one point lead with eight seconds left in the game when Banton fouled Ron Olsen. Olsen missed the free throw and Naulls got the rebound passed to Taft who raced down court and took a 15 foot jumper which missed, but Naulls was there to tip it in at the buzzer for a 61-60 Bruin victory. On February 24 they set a school point record in beating Oregon 108-89. Taft contributing 31, Naulls 26 and Burke 25. On March 1 Naulls set a school individual one game scoring mark with 39 n an 85-80 victory over Cal to clinch the conference title.

Since they were alone at the top of the newly recognized conference, the Bruins were preparing for the NCAA Regionals for the first time since 1952. But who were they looking at? None other than Big Bill Russell and his USF Dons. But this time it appeared that the Bruins should have a better chance. Russell’s All-American teammate, guard K.C. Jones was ineligible for NCAA competition and was replaced by Gene Brown. But the Bruins had their problems, too, as Taft reinjured his back on the Monday before the game. It appeared that a good battle was shaping up. But, as usual, the Dons ended on top as Brown scored 23 and Russell 21 with 23 rebounds. Naulls and Taft had 16 apiece. There was a little happiness, though. The following night UCLA won its first NCAA playoff game in history, defeating Seattle 94-70.

Naulls ended the season as the Bruins’ high scorer, averaging 23.6, followed by Taft at 20.2. Willie was to get a further disappointment in the Olympic tryouts where he was the second leading scorer and second leading rebounder, but was not chosen as a member of the team. The team was limited to three collegians and Russell and Jones were joined by Carl Cain of Iowa. Naulls outscored Cain in the tournament 42-14. Willie did end up being named to the NBA and INS second team All-American picks.

That spring Russell forced a major rules change. The width of the key was changed from six feet to twelve feet.

# # #

Although Naulls and Taft graduated, UCLA ended the next season with its best won-lost record in history, 22-4, but didn’t win the conference as three of their four losses were to conference teams, Washington, Cal and SC. Pete Newell’s California Bears won the first of four consecutive conference titles and the Bruins began to sink into basketball oblivion.

Wooden changed his fast break. He says, “They caught up with the fast break after while so we altered it. They were stopping the fast break so I switched to a safety fast break. We didn’t abolish it completely, we just ran it more cautiously. Sometimes when I had pretty good personnel, we’d run it. If you have good personnel who are good rebounders and can get the pass out we try it every time. If we don’t have a good ball handler who can handle it through the middle and we’re fighting on the boards just to get the good outlet passes we just play it safe when we get the ball and go down without the break.”

In the spring of 1957 the rules were refined further by the addition of the one-and-one. After the sixth team foul in each half, the team fouled would receive a bonus free throw.

The winning years seemed to be a thing of the past. Jerry Norman, who had been a forward on the early conference titlists, joined the coaching staff in the summer of 1957 as freshman coach and this was the most significant thing to happen during these dark years.

As Newell’s California teams dominated the conference the Bruins’ record dipped to 16-10 in 1957-58, 16-9 in 1958-59 and 14-12 in 1959-60, Wooden’s worst record in his career.

# # #

Norman was acting as the catalyst for a change in method for UCLA basketball that was to bring results. When Jerry joined the coaching staff the recruiting budget was $150. Wooden didn’t like to recruit and usually ignored inquiries from out-of-state players.

One day Norman walked into Wooden’s office and noticed a letter from high school player from the south. He looked at it and asked Wooden about it. Wooden was noncommittal and Norman asked if he could follow it up. Wooden replied he could if he wanted to and forgot about the matter. Norman investigated the player and found that he was All-State and a fantastic athlete, along with being an outstanding student. He answered the letter and offered him a scholarship. Ron Lawson came to UCLA as the second of many out-of-state blacks who would contribute to the Bruins’ success, following in Johnny Moore’s footsteps.

Lawson was a sophomore in 1960-61 and he teamed up with Gary Cunningham, 6-6 forward, John Berberich, 6-7 center and John Green and Bill Ellis at guard. Although their conference record was only 7-5, they finished second behind SC. The PCC had broken up following the recruiting scandals of 1956 and a new conference had been formed called the Athletic Association of Western Universities, consisting of the four California schools and Washington, each team playing the others three times apiece.

UCLA had a shot at the title as they played SC at the Sports Arena in their third to last game of the season, tied with the Trojans. Seemingly they had it all wrapped up, holding a 13 point lead with less than seven minutes to play. SC applied a full court press and somehow the Bruins ended up with Berberich and Cunningham, the two least effective ball handlers on the team, bringing the ball down and SC roared back. The Trojans had the ball with 13 seconds left and down by two. Chris Appel had fouled out and had been replaced by seldom used sub Wells Sloniger. SC was trying to work the ball in to their high scoring center, John Rudometkin, as the seconds ticked off. But Berberich had Rudometkin well covered and Sloniger found himself dribbling the ball with two seconds left 25 feet from the basket, so he threw up a one hander that went in to tie the game and the Trojans won in overtime, 86-85.

A new basketball scandal erupted that spring and many outstanding players such as Connie Hawkins and Roger Brown had their careers damaged. It was rumored that some west coast players were involved and although no official action was taken against anybody, Ron Lawson became a victim.

J.D. Morgan, UCLA athletic director, says, “The man who was in my chair at that time choked. Lawson was implicated because he had attended a camp and played ball with some of the players who were involved. My predecessor forced Lawson to leave school. I wouldn’t have taken that action.”

Lawson did not return for his junior year and his place in the starting lineup was taken by Pete Blackman. Ellis had graduated but a promising sophomore from Philadelphia had entered UCLA, 6-2 guard Walt Hazzard. Hazzard had been Player of the Year at Overbrook High School in Philadelphia, as well as student body president. He had only been casually recruited in the east, so came to Los Angeles where he attended junior college for a year prior to entering UCLA, having been touted on UCLA by Willie Naulls who was playing in the NBA for the New York Knicks.

Hazzard was a tremendous passer and playmaker, but the Bruins were not used to his passes. As a result, Walt would bounce passes off his teammates’ heads and shoulders as he would get the ball to them when they wouldn’t expect it. This made Walt look bad and he was very depressed. The Bruins got off to a woeful start, losing two in a row to BYU and five of their first seven games.

During Christmas, Hazzard flew home to see Willie Naulls and told him of his depression and that he was thinking of leaving UCLA. Naulls pointed out that he would lose a year of eligibility if he did that and then related that he had had a similar depression during his sophomore year after a disastrous trip to the Bay Area. He had resolved to quit UCLA, but after thinking it over for a day, reported to practice and ended up with a good college career and a good professional career. Hazzard took this advice and returned for the Los Angeles Classic which had defending NCAA Champion Ohio State and the crosstown Trojans, who ranked number four.

The Bruins faced Ohio State in the semifinals and it was the best ___page 13? Of the young season for the Bruins although the Buckeyes won by ____ 105-84. The Bruins had jelled for the first time that year.

They lost to Utah the following night, but since then, UCLA basketball has been indomitable. After evening their record at 7-7 with three straight conference wins, Mal Florence proved to be something less than sibyllic when he commented in the Los Angeles Time of January 25, 1962:

“Pressure, self-inflicted, is closing in on UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.

“A monster of his own making, a record of never experiencing a losing season as a college coach, is in jeopardy.

“…eight of UCLA’s remaining eleven games are with teams which, on paper at least, figure to beat the Bruins…

“Home edge or no home edge, Wooden has dribbled himself into a corner. Maybe that’s the price of success, John.”

In the ten years since Florence wrote, Wooden’s team lost a total of 28 games of 290 played.

# # #

By the time they met SC on February 2, they had won five in a row, including three straight conference games. UCLA went into the game with the Trojans unranked and SC, 12-3, was ranked fifth, but was coming off a three week layoff for the semester break. Johnny Green hit his first eight shots and the Bruins played virtually flawless basketball in winning 73-59. Wooden said, “We were mentally prepared. Vengeance prompted inspiration. It was that tough one we lost to them last year, 86-85 in overtime. We thought we were a better team in that one and kicked it away.”

The oddsmakers had changed their tune when they met a week later and UCLA was a four point favorite. But John Rudometkin could not be stopped as he had 19 points and 9 rebounds to Fred Slaughter’s 4 rebounds. Wooden’s sophomore center was held scoreless. SC forward Ken Stanley had 20 rebounds as SC got even 74-60, setting up the rubber match the following evening.

It was nip and tuck all the way. The halftime score showed UCLA leading 27-25 and they had the same margin, 64-52 at :29, but SC had possession. Neil Edwards inbounded the ball to Stanley who passed to Appel behind the center stripe for a backcourt violation and a turnover. Hazzard added two free throws and Green a bucket for the final margins. All starters were in double figures, Green 20, Cunningham and Blackman 14 and Slaughter and Hazzard 10 to counteract Rudometkin’s 30.

The Bruins continued their hot playing, losing only to Stanford and clinched the title with a 10-2 conference record. Wooden said, “We simply developed into a team. In fact, I’ve never had a club that was more of a team. These guys have forgotten individuality completely. They’ve become appreciative of each other’s capabilities. They don’t attempt to do the other’s job. Actually, they’ve meshed together a lot better than I had expected. I guess we all felt SC was going to win it and I though a 9-3 record and possibly 8-4 would be good enough for the championship. However, I felt that we were a better club than our 4-7 record showed. With a little bit of the poise we have now we might have won three or four of those earlier games. Now this group comes as close to attaining maximum efficiency as a team than any group I’ve coached. But we didn’t have this earlier. We hadn’t learned to work together well.”

They sailed through the Regionals for the first time, beating Utah State, 73-62 and Oregon State 88-69. They dominated the All-Tournament team, placing Green, Hazzard and Cunningham, with Hazzard winning MVP.

They faced Cincinnati in the semifinals and tournament nervousness had them behind 10-6, 16-2 and 18-4, but they fought back to tie it at 37 at the half, Cunningham leading the way with 14 in the first half, mostly long jumpers. The second half was a battle all the way. The Bruins were ahead 45-43, 55-53, 57-54, 60-56, 62-59 and 66-63 at 6:21. Although the Bruins were playing well, they could not stop Cincinnati’s 6-9 center Paul Hogue. Slaughter fouled out at 5:23 trying to check him, but Hogue got a three point play to tie it at 66. Cincinnati took the lead as Hogue did all their scoring, 70-68, but Green tied it with two free throws at 2:27. Hogue was called for an offensive foul at 1:59, but Hazzard was called for an offensive foul as 1:34 to give the ball back. After the game Wooden received hundreds of letters from coaches who had attended the game saying that Hazzard did not foul. Mysteriously, the official NCAA film of the game does not show the play, despite the fact that it occurred in the middle of the floor in the middle of play! But Cincinnati had the ball and stalled until :10 when they called time to set up a play. They inbounded the ball to Tom Thacker who hit his only basket of the game, a 25 foot jumper from the corner, at the buzzer to give Cincinnati a narrow 72-70 victory. Disconsolate, the Bruins lost another touch one to Wake Forest the following night in the game for third place, 82-80.

# # #

Cunningham, Blackman and Green graduated, but sophomores Hazzard and Slaughter returned to be joined by the men who would start the dynasty, Keith Erickson, Gail Goodrich and Jack Hirsch, who had redshirted 1962-63.

Gail Goodrich was a man nobody wanted. His father had captained SC’s team in 1939-40, but the Trojans weren’t too interested. Gail recalls, “When I was a junior we played in the city tournament and Wooden was there and was sitting right behind my parents, although he didn’t know it, and made the comment that he liked me. At the time I was only 5-8 and weight 120. He said he thought I’d grow enough to play. Then I got a letter from Norman saying they had gone over my transcript and that I needed certain grades the rest of my time in high school, Polytechnic High School in the Valley, where I was second team All-League as a junior.

“After I got the letter, I was really determined. I needed an A in American History and went in and talked to the teacher and showed her the letter and she said if I did A work the rest of the semester she’d give me an A, despite the fact that I only had a C then, the middle of the semester. And I did it. So at the end of my junior year Wooden offered me a scholarship. Then I went to summer school and took some courses they told me to take. A couple of times during the summer Norman would call and check on my grades.

“I picked UCLA for two reasons. One was Wooden. I was really impressed with him. The other was that UCLA was the only school that was interested in me. I had only two scholarship offers, one from Wooden before my senior year and the other from USC which was offered before I graduated and I think it was offered to save face since my father had played there. At the beginning I think my father would have liked me to go to SC and I probably would have gone there had they shown any interest in my at all because I grew up as a Trojan, but my mother wanted me to go to UCLA. She was really impressed with Wooden. My father was impressed with him, too, and he changed. My senior year, that’s where he wanted me to go.”

Goodrich was 6-0 and weighed 140 by the time he was a sophomore but where he played wasn’t set. Freddie Goss, another All-CIF player, was joining the team as a sophomore, too, and he too was a guard. And they already had Hazzard.

Keith Erickson was another player that nobody wanted. He had graduated from El Segundo High School, where he had only been second team All-League as a forward. He went to El Camino Junior College where he played low post center for George Stanich, who liked the way he played and told Norman. Erickson recalls, “We played the UCLA frosh one time and I felt I had the worst game I had all year. Consequently, they didn’t want to give me a full scholarship, so they split it. The baseball team gave me a half and the basketball team gave me a half.

“So my going to UCLA wasn’t a life-long goal. It just worked out that way. No other schools were after me. It was just lucky for me that I went to El Camino and George Stanich was there. Loyola wouldn’t give me a scholarship out of high school and neither would Pepperdine.”

Jack Hirsch had been All-City Player of the Year at Van Nuys High School. He was unique, a loner but a happy-go-lucky type who worried about nothing. He says, “At first I didn’t like Wooden. I had come in two years before when I graduated from high school and didn’t have the grades to get in and he told me to come back when I was grown up. He kind of rubbed me the wrong way. When I came back it took him a year to get used to me. I was a screw-off anyway.

“I went to UCLA as a favor to my father. He always wanted me to go to a big college. I wanted to screw around with my friends. I would have never gone there. My dad was a chain smoker. So I said, ‘I’ll tell you what, I’ll go to UCLA if you’ll quit smoking.’ And he says, ‘OK, you have a bet.’ Naturally I went to UCLA and he never quit smoking and it killed him. That’s how I ended up at UCLA. I didn’t want to go there.”

Hirsch had been a 6-3 center in both high school and junior college. He went to Valley JC where he teamed with Hambone Williams and averaged 28 points a game.

So Hirsch enrolled at UCLA. “Since I wasn’t going to go there I didn’t know where I was going to stay or anything. I just came there by accident, not by choice. I went into the dorm and stayed there for one week. My family had a lot of money and I’m used to not having to do anything and all of a sudden I have to wash my clothes, eat at a certain time and so on. So I said the hell with that and went home. I stayed there a week and lost a whole year of money to stay in the dorm. I didn’t care.”

# # #

Goodrich wanted to go to UCLA, Erickson was ambivalent and Hirsch didn’t. But another athlete joined the Bruins as a freshman in the fall of 1962 whose background was as different from these typical products of Southern California as night is different from day. His name was Kenny Washington. He was from Beaufort, South Carolina and attending UCLA was the answer to his dreams.

“I was born and raised in Beaufort. My father was a career marine and I figured if I didn’t get into college I’d go into the army myself. Each of my five older sisters had been valedictorian of our high school, so the Washington family was a sort of aristocracy of the Beaufort black population. My big ambition was to go to a big school and play against the best.

“One of my sisters had married and moved to Philadelphia. I had heard so much about how good the northern cats were that after my junior year in high school I went up to live with her for the summer.

“She lived in the area of Philadelphia that was close to Haddington Park, which just happened to be the park where everybody came. I was just lucky that she lived three or four blocks from there. When I first came I didn’t have a job so I came to the park during the days and was there alone. Everyone else was working, so I’d just go to the park and shoot all day long.

“I bought my own ball, the first ball I ever had. It was a Pennsylvania. I ran that baby slick. I’d dribble down to the court around 7:30 when my sister was going to work and run all day. I had a friend, Eugene Farrel. He’d always come over. He’d tell me about ‘The Hawk,” Connie Hawkins and Roger Brown. He’d tell me about those legends. He’d tell me about how bad those cats from New York were. He’d say, ‘Maan, the cats from Philly, man the cats can shoot. But, like, the cats from NEW YORK, man them cats … them cats is baaad.’ And I was sitting there saying, ‘yeah, man, tell me.’

“He’d come out with me and we’d run full court, one-on-one, full court. It’d be 12 o’clock, it’d be hot, be steamin’ and we’d be out there and I’d be in my ankle weights. And he used to physically beat me – see I was from the south and in the south we had no contact stuff – and I used to get up and cry about the contact and he said, ‘Look, man, you can’t cry. You cry and cats gonna shun you. The more you cry, you dig, you definitely not going to get any respect. You gotta take it and then dish it out.’ So whenever he used to really make me angry – he knew all the city tricks like getting you back and holding you and then spinning around – I used to yell, ‘Wait a minute, that’s you know, cheatin’’. And he’d say, ‘Ah, man, stop cryin’, man.’

“There was this whole gang of cats that’d come out and they used to dislike me because I used to cry. So Eugene’d say, ‘Man, stop that cryin’.’ Like when the cat touches you, you call a foul. Listen, you’re better than those cats and those cats’re not going to let you win. Those cats are out here to win and they’re not gonna let you beat ‘em, so they’re gonna give you the old pushy-pushy and you’re callin’ fouls and all that. Man, you’re wastin’ your time – forget it, just play.’

“And when I’d call a foul they’d say ‘I ain’t given’ you the ball! I ain’t given’ you nothin’. What’s wrong with you, dude?’

“Nobody’d call a foul unless you were with the status cats, like Hightower and Hazzard. Even then you only call fouls under certain conditions. You call flagrant fouls. Especially whenever a game was tight, call the foul, especially if you were shooting. Cats wouldn’t give you any layups. You’d really come unglued, you’d get killed. No fouls called on drives unless the game was tough.

“Then, if you lose you may as well go home because there are cats over there waitin’.

“But I really wanted to play with the Big Boys, like Hazzard and Hightower and the rest of those cats. But the way you’d get on a team was if you had a rep. Me, I really didn’t have a rep. It was hard for me to get to play. Cats’d be standin’ around and Wally Jones’d walk up and cats’d say, ‘Man, there goes my man, Wally, get Wally.’ And Wally comes and he’s definitely gonna play. Cats would choose. Whoever had next would choose. That’s why you really had to get there early. The only way I could play would be for me to be on the first team and keep winning.

“So in order for me to get in I had to be lucky. I could always play the first game because I was the first one there, but if I lost, it was a matter of being rechosen. Hazzard and Jones could play and lose and be rechosen. But me, well, it’s over. I lose and they’d say, ‘Well, you had your down.’

“And then when I played, I was a rebounder and a defensive player, and if I really wanted one, I had to go get it. Otherwise, I’m worthless. They’d say, ‘Hey, Washington, pass the ball here, young boy, here.’ And I’d pass it to ‘em and boom, they’d put it up. And they’d say, ‘Good, boy, good.’

“The only way I’d get on a team was because cats’d see that I really was a fiend. They’d say, ‘Man, that cat’s out there all day.’ And they’d figure I had something. And then, whenever they’d come out they’d see I could jump and they’d say, ‘Well, let’s get this young boy.’ But whenever I would get on the team I was basically a boarder, a rebounder, and a defensive cat. And then when I’d board, I’d pass it to them. That’s really how I learned to go to the offensive boards. Because the cats weren’t getting it to me, so I said, ‘Well, the cats won’t give it to me, I gotta go get it.

“Eugene Farrel gave me his ankle weights. I wore them when I was doing everything. I wore ‘em to sleep, in games, all the time. The only time I took those babies off was when I washed my body.

“Oscar Robertson was my idol. I’d read how he used to take the ball to bed with him and he dribbled down the street and while he was doing his homework and all that. So I figured that any cat that really fiend’d would really be a great ball player. It was just a matter of being a fiend. I wasn’t thinking about size and matchup or anything like that stuff. And I used to dream of glory of doing to this big college and play against these guys.

“Drake Hightower, Wayne’s brother, was my friend. He introduced me to Blinky Brown who was the playground director. And every time Blinky Brown came out I was there. I was there from sunrise until the lights went out. I’d go home for about fifteen minutes at lunch and eat something and then come back. It used to be hot. I used to have a black leather Jeff. Picture that? It’s hot and humid, 100 degrees, 95% humidity and I’m out there bareback with a black leather Jeff and when I finished playing I’d go over to the water fountain and fill it with water and it was leather so it held it and I’d put it on my head and it just came all over me and cool me off and I’d sit down and I’d be drippin’ hot.

“I met Hazzard my first summer back there between my junior and senior year, after his first year at UCLA. But I really wanted to go to Kansas because Drake’s brother, Wayne, was a star there and he’d see what we could get. So I had dreams of Kansas. But Wayne had just returned from Spain and he didn’t have time for us.

“So I knew Hazzard, but it wasn’t until the next summer, after I graduated from high school and really was desperate that Hazzard said he’d recommend me. I asked him through Drake. Drake asked Hazzard if he’d recommend me and Hazzard checked with Blinky Brown and Blinky Brown knew I was a fiend and told Hazzard I was out there all day long every day. And then when I’d play I’d try and make an impression and when I’d guard Hazzard I’d really be tough.

“I followed Hazzard around like he was Abraham Lincoln. Then Hazzard asked me would I like to go. Then he went to Blinky Brown and asked what kind of a cat I was. Then he called Coach Norman. He told him that I was 6-5 and weighed 205.”

Norman recalls, “Walt told me, ‘Kenny can shoot better than Gary Cunningham, pass better than I can, jump higher than Ron Lawson and is smarter than I am.’ After we saw him, we had a rule that we had to see anyone before offering a scholarship.”

Kenny continues, “Norman called me and asked me about my transcript. I finally heard from UCLA that I was accepted about August 15. Before that I didn’t know whether I was going in the army or what. UCLA was my only chance. I did have a scholarship offer from South Carolina State, but I rejected it because someone from there told me once, ‘Man, you ain’t nothin’ and you’ll never be nothin’.’ My coaches at high school did absolutely nothing for me. In high school before basketball season started I’d go to the football field and do my calisthenics and run 59 laps. Every day. Then when basketball season started I’d run 100 laps around the gym before every practice. So I really got fatigued. By the end of the season I had shot my wad. Then at the end of my senior year Iowa wanted to see a film of me. So two weeks after the season ended they said, ‘OK, we’re going to make a film.’ Now, you have to understand the brothers down south. The purpose of the film was for Iowa to see me, but that means that everybody else wants to look good, too. So everybody comes on me. They give it to me and everybody goes to me so that while the Iowa coaches are looking at Kenny, they might say, ‘Hey, who’s that over there?’ So nothing ever came of the film.”

But Kenny was saved and got in UCLA. His worries weren’t over, however. He had a tremendous culture shock to survive. “When I first met Norman at the bus station I was apprehensive as heck. I was so scared I thought I had an ulcer. Hazzard had told him I was 6-5, 205 and here I am 6-2, 165. I thought sure I was going to be sent back.

“He was really surprised but he was diplomatic. He didn’t tell me, ‘Shoot, you’re really a wimp!’ He drove me around campus. Then he showed me Bel-Air and I had seen the 1961 fire on television and here I was, right across the street from it and I said, ‘Man, Washington, you’re here!’

“They gave me a job working at the steam plant, moving furniture, making $2.92 an hour. I couldn’t believe it. I was earning wages that grown men weren’t getting back home!

“Then I had to move into the dorm and I was really nervous. I was scared to heck. And I had to have a roommate and live with a white guy! I’ll never forget it. Ward Zumstead. I’m scared to speak to white people in general, scared to eat with ‘em and here it is, the ultimate, I gotta sleep with the cat!

“It was tough to sleep. I couldn’t relax because I always had to be proper. Back in those days the brothers had to have curls in their hair, you know, waves. My hair is terrible. So I was trying to get my hair to look right, put a lot of grease on it to make it long and then a stocking on it to mat it down. Then you’d have waves. The name of the game was to have waves. So I had to wear a stocking cap, but I couldn’t wear it while the cat was in the room. So I’d wait until late at night after he went to sleep to put on the stocking cap and then I had to be sure to wake up early in the morning to take it off. I slept nervous that he would wake up before me and one morning he caught me with the stocking cap on. I overslept. He didn’t know what it was. ‘What is that? What’re you doin’?’ But he was a straight guy and didn’t tell anyone.

“I was always alone. I was scared. When cats would speak to me I would mumble because I didn’t want to say anything wrong. So cats’d come up to me and say, ‘I’m so-and-so from such-and-such.’ And I’d say, ‘I’m Washington from south grumble, grumble,’ really low. So the word got around that I was from South AMERICA! Everyone thought I was from South America!

“My first meal in the dorm was brunch. I finally got enough nerve about 12 o’clock and I got in the line when it was as small as possible. Inside I was nervous as heck, but outside, I was cool! I bop on in the joint, profilin, I was cool. So I went through the line. And looked for an empty table but there was somebody white sitting at every table. So finally I saw a guy I knew and went and sat by him. I had chicken but they had knives and forks. I about starved my first month. All that good chicken and I couldn’t eat half of it.

“So, anyway, I went up to the milk machine. I had never seen a milk machine before. All the milk in the world and I didn’t know how to get it. So, being cool, I went up and got in line and, still being cool, watched the cats work the machine. There was a recess in the machine and you set your glass in there and the milk comes down. It’s got a spout coming out of the top. And a button. So I was trying to profile and be cool, but also try and check out what’s happening. Well, cats would really cover it up and I thought it was just a matter of pressing down on the tray in the recess with your glass to get the milk to come. So I wanted to wait until the line was down so there wouldn’t be anybody behind me and then I’d do my thing.

“When the line was down to one guy I’d go up, check him out and then do my thing. So I went up and put my glass in the recess and waited. Nothing happened. So I figured you had to press on the tray on which the glass was sitting. So I pressed. No action. Meanwhile, people are coming and a line is forming behind me. Now I’m starting to get a little anxious, although outside I’m still cool. I walk around the machine and look cool. Finally I see the old red button. Ah! This’s gotta be something. So I hit it. Boom, it worked. Whew! Then I just waited and watched it come. Very calm as the milk comes out. But, the milk keeps coming. I said, wait a minute. This thing’s gotta stop. Maybe what happened is you gotta hit the button again in order to stop it. The milk should have stopped at this point. Obviously you gotta hit the buttons to stop it. Because some people may just want a half a glass of milk. So there’s no sense in giving cats a full glass of milk when they only want a half a glass of milk, right? So when it was that far from the top, I figured, whoa, baby, you gotta stop it. So I hit the button again and it just started up again. I was standing there looking cool but the milk was going all over everything. I was still cool, although I was standing back. But inside I was saying, ‘Ah, gee, you stupid idiot!’ So then, with milk all over, I took the glass and sat down and couldn’t eat the chicken.”


# # #

Things were not easy for the others during 1962-63, either. Goodrich says, “I considered quitting after my sophomore year to play baseball. My sophomore year was very discouraging for me. I talked to a couple of baseball teams, including Baltimore. But I wasn’t considering it that much. It was just a period of time when I was down. I hadn’t done as well as I felt I could and I was dissatisfied with the way I was handled. I thought about transferring but you quickly get that out of your mind because you quickly lose one year of eligibility.

“I had some discussions with Wooden. There were a couple of things that he did that I couldn’t see. I was playing partly as forward and partly at guard and by no means was I a forward. Here I was, 6-0, 140 pounds, playing forward. And I did very little practicing at forward during the course of the week because I was a guard. I talked to Wooden. Early in the year I wasn’t playing a whole lot and I thought I should be playing a little bit more. I told him I was dissatisfied. He told me I wasn’t playing as well as I should have been at the time. In due time I did start to play more. He didn’t say I’d be playing any more or any less. He said I hadn’t performed on certain occasions like he thought I would.

“Now as I look back I think it helped me a great deal. Playing from a forward I learned how to play under the boards as far as shooting quickly over the big men and general knowledge of the game. I think it helped me the next couple of years where in our particular offense I was underneath the basket. So it helped me from the experience I had as a forward although at the same time I couldn’t see it.

“Also I wasn’t a very good student at the time and didn’t really like school. Everything fell in at this time and I was down."

# # #

Washington also had problems during the freshman year, “I had an attitude problem at UCLA. Oscar was my idol and he could do everything and I figured that I could do everything. I was a perfectionist and practiced like a fiend and when I’d made a mistake I’d get angry and throw the ball and that caused problems at UCLA because Wooden didn’t’ dig that. He’d say it’s great to have your spirit, but you gotta keep your cool. I used to hang my head and I’d do it for a couple of reasons. Number one – white people. You never look white people in the eye down south, you look away. You look down when you’re talking to them. I didn’t dig making mistakes. So it may have looked like I was just hanging my head because I made a mistake but it wasn’t that, it was white people, talking to white people. I couldn’t look them in the eye.

“Second, I had trouble because I was a loner. I came in after Ron Lawson. I was a loner because I was scared to talk to white people. I didn’t have anything in common with them. I didn’t understand their jokes, I didn’t know anything about politics, about associating. If you had something to say, you said it. If you didn’t you were a loner. So I’d always be sitting by myself. And there really was a fear in the athletic department of another Ron Lawson. There was a longer, always alone.

“It got to the point where Hazzard told me they were concerned because I was always alone. So I got mad. I was seeing things from a different perspective. Mine was a social thing. I was scared of white people, first of all. I had nothing to contribute and I had an inferiority complex. Therefore, I was always alone. So during my freshman year I went to see Coach Wooden and told him if I was really causing problems he should send me home. After he understood my problem it was OK. He had really gone out on the limb for Lawson and Lawson did a job on him, so he figured we don’t need another one of those. He saw my fits of emotion and that I was a loner and that’s the way Lawson was. If he’d sent me home I would have gone with a full heart because I had accomplished what I wanted. I came to a big school. I did it. That was the end. That was a dream. Just to go. So when you accomplish everything you want to accomplish, what else is there? But now, I realize that was stupid. Suppose they had sent me home?”

# # #

The season itself was an odd one. After the success of the preceding year they started out well, going 12-2 in preconference games and winning the Los Angeles Classic. But when the conference started, they were shocked by two narrow losses at Washington, 62-61 and 67-63. They rebounded to win three in a row, but lost three of their next four and found themselves three games behind Stanford with three games to play. Wooden had experimented with several lineups. He had been hurt by losing Erickson during the Los Angeles Classic with a sprained ankle. His captain, Jim Milhorn, turned out to be the fourth best guard on the team behind Hazzard, Goodrich, and Goss. He didn’t have height to start off with and experimented playing Goss and Hazzard at guard and Goodrich at forward. Sometimes Hazzard would move to forward and Gail and Freddie would play guard.

He had speed, so he ended up the season starting Slaughter at center, Hirsch and Goodrich at forward and Goss and Hazzard at guard. He installed a full court press, a very tight and harassing man-to-man and they could fire, beating Washington and Stanford at Santa Monica to put them one game behind with one to go against Cal. As the gym at Santa Monica City College was jammed with Bruin fans, UCLA demolished Cal 72-53 and the fans spent the last half of the game listening to their transistors as SC did their cross-town rivals a favor and beat Stanford 67-61 and the Bruins and Indians were tied.

The Bruins picked the playoff site because two of the three conference games had been at Stanford and the Bruins picked SMCC despite the fact that the huge Sports Arena was free. The Bruins declined to televise the game “because it wouldn’t be fair to our radio sponsors.”

The Bruins pressed full count with their man-to-man and won the conference with a 51-45 victory.

They traveled to Provo, Utah, for the Regionals to play Arizona State , a run-and-shoot team led by Joe Caldwell. But UCLA, press and all, were massacred, behind 62-31 at half, losing 93-79. The following night they lost the third place game to USF 76-75, running their record in postseason NCAA tournament play since Wooden had arrived 15 years before to 3-9, two of their wins coming in the Regionals the previous year.




Table of Contents

1.  Prelude     3
2.  1963-64  The Press      25
3.  1964-65  Two in a Row    46
4.  1965-66  The Frosh        66
5.  1966-67  Four Sophomores and a Junior    83
6.  1967-68  Houston   114

7.  1968-69  Lew 

8.  1969-70  On Their Own  157
9.  1970-71  The Front Line  182
10. 1971-72 Déjà vu 207