Coach John Wooden


John Robert Wooden is considered the greatest NCAA basketball head coach of all time. But many people knew him simply as coach. On the court, Wooden led the UCLA Bruins men’s basketball program to an impressive number of wins, with a 664-162 record, and was named NCAA College Basketball Coach of the Year six times.

In his more than 40 years as a coach, and through his years as head coach at UCLA, Wooden built teams, an elite athletic program and a legacy that astounded the sports world. While his success on the court is heavily celebrated, Wooden’s teachings extend far beyond the realm of sports. A master teacher, he created the Pyramid of Success and wrote several books to share his philosophy with the world.

“(He) has a heart, brain and soul that have enabled him to inspire others to reach levels of success and peace of mind that they might never have dreamed possible on their own.” – Bill Walton

“My relationship with him has been one of the most significant of my life … The consummate teacher, he taught us that the best you are capable of is victory enough, and that you can’t walk until you crawl, that gentle but profound truth about growing up.” – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Coach & Dave




When Dave Hannah, who was a football player at Oklahoma State, had the vision to start Athletes in Action in 1966 he knew where to go for good advice about basketball…..He called John Wooden, first call. 
Coach Wooden did not disappoint. He told Dave that if he wants to get college teams to play AIA the game would have to be an exhibition game that wouldn’t count against their regular season games, along with getting it sanctioned by the NCAA. Dave talked to Coach again and Coach sent a letter to the NCAA on our behalf giving us great credibility as he had already won 2 NCAA titles with UCLA. Then in 1974 UCLA, led by Coach Wooden, played AIA in an exhibition game.
In 1976 Dave put together a 5 game series that was televised nationally against some of the best teams in the Country. Coach Wooden and UCLA won their 10th NCAA National Title the year before in 1975 then he retired. For this 5 game series in 1976 Coach was the color commentator, again giving AIA great credibility.
We fast forward to 1997 when we saw the success of the Super Bowl Breakfast where the Bart Starr Award was presented each year. It seemed like the next step would be to have an event like this during the Final Four. So, who do we ask???? Coach Wooden! We spoke with Coach a number of times about the possibility of him being the namesake for an award that we would give out. After several conversations Coach agreed to help in this way. The next hurdle was what should we call the award, the Pyramid to Success was used a lot, and there was already a John Wooden Player award. Then Coach told us about a 7 Point Creed that his dad, Joshua, gave him when he graduated from elementary school. It was very simple, fundamental and deep with meaning, so that seemed like the way to go. But, you can’t call the award the 7 Point Creed award. So, we kept talking and Coach said when his dad gave him this, that if he tried to follow this 7 Point Creed that he would have a good life. In hearing that, as we talked further, it seemed like this Creed was actually a key to a good life. So, we ended up with the “Keys to Life” award, while calling the event Legends of the Hardwood Breakfast. Coach attended this event for 6 years straight to present “The Keys to Life” award in person, then as his health kept him from traveling, his daughter Nan came every year to represent the Wooden family through to 2017.
After having a relationship with Coach Wooden for decades we asked him about lending his name to a future fieldhouse  on our campus and, as he always did, he listened and then thought about it for a while. We talked some more then after a few weeks he said “If it will help you at AIA we can do it, but it can’t be just John Wooden, it must be the family, hence the Wooden Family Fieldhouse.

Pauley Pavilion UCLA

Nell & John Wooden Court

UCLA Rec Center

John Wooden Center

Athletes In Action World Headquarters

John Wooden Family Fieldhouse