1967. The third NCAA championship. An undefeated season, 30-0, with four sophomores and two juniors.
1968. The fourth NCAA championship. The first school to win back-to-back titles twice.
1969. The fifth NCAA championship. The only team to win three straight.
1970. The sixth NCAA championship. The only team to win four straight.
Many basketball people—not all of them from Los Angeles—also suspect that had UCLA's 1966 team not been decimated by illness and injury to most of its starters at key points during the season, it would have won still another national championship for Wooden. The defending champions are, of course, the choice for the title again this season and—since the 1970 Bruin freshman team, featuring 6'10½" Bill Walton along with impressive balance and scoring talent through the first six men, has more potential than the Alcindor team—UCLA may be the favorite for years to come. The beat, as they say, goes on.
Whatever the future holds, Wooden remains the only man to have coached two teams to perfect 30-0 seasons, an implausible statistic in itself, and at UCLA he has now won 477 games (a .774 winning percentage), including 24 straight NCAA tournament games. His position as a coach—in terms of sheer winning success—is assured; indeed, it has now advanced beyond comparison with any other man in his field.
Moreover, for a true measure of Wooden's accomplishments, it is well to consider the parallel in college football. With the hue and cry about No. 1 in that other big-time campus sport, it is an established fact that a rating there is both less accurate and infinitely easier to attain—if only because in football you win No. 1 in a poll; in basketball you win it on the court. Thus, it is interesting to note that in 46 years of modern-day poll taking only three college football teams have been unanimous No. 1 picks more than once (Notre Dame, Texas and Army—each just twice) and only three other teams have been named No. 1 (not unanimously) three years in a row (USC, Minnesota and Army). When this is compared to the UCLA basketball team's record of six national titles and four in a row—all "undisputed" and all directed by one man—the dynasty takes on added stature. Any objective interpreter then could understand a UCLA man's throwaway line at lunch recently that "I'm only having a sandwich with the greatest coach of any sport who ever lived." Which may be similar to saying that a John Wooden is worth a handful of Bear Bryants, Woody Hayeses and Darrell Royals any day. One-on-one, it is no contest.
There are indications that UCLA is less appreciated than it deserves to be in Los Angeles. Though 12,800-seat Pauley Pavilion is sold out every game and the newspapers provide good coverage, nobody in the Southern California basin ever seems excited when UCLA wins another championship. "The only time this town really went crazy over a sporting event was after one of Sandy Koufax' no-hitters," says one Los Angeles man. "It's better that we're not fawned over," says Wooden. "If they made too much of it when we did well, they might make too much of it when we do poorly."
Wooden understands only too well that his basketball program has reached a point where any season in which he brings home something less than a national title will be considered a total washout. Such an awareness would seem a terrible burden to carry, but as always his sense of values sustains him. "Some of my most successful teams have been the ones that didn't win," he says.
Perhaps a blasé attitude is to be expected from any community that has to look out for the Rams, the Dodgers, the Angels, the Lakers, the Kings, USC track and field and various other college teams plus about 8,000 Mexican boxers, as well as find time to swim, sail, surf, golf, fish, play tennis and go for a drive in the car. A recent sports luncheon featured, in addition to representatives of all these, a man who had floated around the world in a boat, the world champion flycaster, two Globetrotters, Miss Alaska Airlines on 20-foot stilts and a member of Weightlifters for Christ. "There is a lot to do and see in Los Angeles," says Wooden.