When UCLA Ruled College Basketball

Posted 3/12/17

Southern California in the 1960's- sun, surf, beach and of course, UCLA basketball. The Bruins go back to 1919 yet it was only during a short historic period in 1964-75 when they forged UCLA’s legacy as the NCAA’s winningest Division I men’s basketball team.

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When UCLA Ruled College Basketball

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Southern California in the 1960's- sun, surf, beach and of course, UCLA basketball.

The Bruins go back to 1919 yet it was only during a brief period in 1964-75 that they forged UCLA’s legacy as the winningest NCAA Division I men’s basketball team.

Under the stewardship of legendary coach John Wooden, the school’s basketball squad ruled the court, racking up ten national titles in twelve consecutive seasons.

Wooden joined UCLA in 1948, toting his “pyramid of success” philosophy to a team that had only known two conference victories in almost a generation. The first year saw him turn the Bruins’ losing record of 12-13 to 22-7, laying the groundwork for an unprecedented 27 uninterrupted winning seasons under his tenure.

The first championship came in 1964, closing out a perfect 30-0 season. UCLA faced Duke at the Final and took down the Blue Devils 98-83. Junior Gail Goodrich led with 27 points and senior Walt Hazzard took home the MVP; both were later drafted by the LA Lakers.

The second national crown came in 1965 with Goodrich netting a then record 42 points to upend Michigan 91-80. 

Post 1964, UCLA rode another three perfect seasons in 1967, 1972 and 1973.  Central to Wooden’s coaching tenet were 25 behavioral traits he identified as cornerstones to competitive success. 

Fundamental game skills was just one.  The rest were qualitative measures transcending sports and touching on life in general: industriousness, initiative, enthusiasm, cooperation, patience, etc.

1966 introduced another future Laker to the Bruins lineup, sophomore Lew Alcindor, later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The imposing 7’1” center helped guide the California school to three straight NCAA championships: 1967 (Dayton), 1968 (North Carolina) and 1969 (Purdue).

Alcindor’s dominance could only be matched by the MVP awards he earned after each tournament.  At the end of his college career, his superstar legacy would be marked by more than just points and rebounds.  Jabbar's towering presence under the net led the NCAA to ban the slam dunk until it was reinstated in 1976.

Junior Sidney Wicks picked up where Jabbar left off, clinching the MVP in 1970 after UCLA defeated Jacksonville for the trophy.  Wicks helped overtake Villanova at the 1971 Final before joining the Portland Trail Blazers.

With sophomore Bill Walton on the Bruins' 1972 roster, UCLA was on its way to a record 88-game winning streak. That season, UCLA averaged over 30-point winning margins and overcame Florida State at the championship.  Memphis State succumbed the following year as the 6’11” Walton landed 21 of 22 field goal attempts and scored 44 points to claim the title.

After defeating Kentucky in 1975, Wooden retired with a UCLA career record of 620-147 (81%).  Regarded by many as the greatest coach of all time, the dynasty he created and the players he inspired remain unmatched in the annals of college basketball.

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