John Wooden, the gentleman of college basketball who built one of the greatest dynasties in all of sports at UCLA, died Friday night. He was 99.
The university said Wooden died of natural causes at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, where he had been hospitalized since May 26.
"We want to thank everyone for their love and support for our father. We will miss him more than words can express," son Jim Wooden and daughter Nancy Muehlhausen said in a statement.
"He has been, and always will be, the guiding light for our family. The love, guidance and support he has given us will never be forgotten. Our peace of mind at this time is knowing that he has gone to be with our mother, whom he has continued to love and cherish."
With his signature rolled-up game program in hand, Wooden led the Bruins to 10 NCAA championships, including an unmatched streak of seven in a row from 1967 to 1973.
Over 27 years, he won 620 games, including 88 straight during one historic stretch, and coached many of the game's greatest players — including Bill Walton and Lew Alcindor.
As a coach, he was groundbreaking trendsetter who demanded his players be in great condition so they could play an up-tempo style not well-known on the West Coast at the time.
But the Wizard's legacy extended well beyond that.
He was the master of the simple one- or two-sentence homily, instructive little messages best presented in his famous "Pyramid of Success," which remains must-read material, not only for fellow coaches but for anyone in a leadership position in American business.
"What you are as a person is far more important that what you are as a basketball player," was one of Wooden's key messages.
"It's kind of hard to talk about Coach Wooden simply, because he was a complex man. But he taught in a very simple way. He just used sports as a means to teach us how to apply ourselves to any situation," Abdul-Jabbar said in a statement released through UCLA.
"He set quite an example. He was more like a parent than a coach. He really was a very selfless and giving human being, but he was a disciplinarian. We learned all about those aspects of life that most kids want to skip over. He wouldn't let us do that."