UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, left, holds the game ball as he leads his players off the floor after
beating Notre Dame for a record 61st win in South Bend, Ind., Jan. 27, 1973. At right is UCLA's Larry Farmer and center is Larry Hollyfield. The Bruins won
82-63. (The Associated Press)
STREAK: Iconic run of 88
took Bruins and the
nation on a roller-
By Tom Hoffarth and Jill Painter, Staff Writers
The Los Angeles Daily News
Posted: 12/19/2010 12:12:38 AM PST
Updated: 12/19/2010 08:09:30 PM PST
It was March 1, 1971. Win Number 8 in a
remarkable, iconic streak of 88.
UCLA's top-ranked basketball team had somehow escaped with a victory at the University of Washington -- Curtis Rowe's jumper over Louie Nelson with 29 seconds left put the Bruins on top, and then Nelson missed a driving layup with less than two seconds left.
UCLA prevailed 71-69.
"Damn," said Huskies coach Tex Winter. "How can those people continue to be so lucky?"
It had nothing to do with luck, according to Larry Farmer, who, with Larry Hollyfield, won 89 of their 90 games at UCLA during their playing career.
"Luck happens when perspiration and preparation meet opportunity," said Farmer, the
former Bruins head coach from 1981-84, now an assistant at Western Michigan, using a John Wooden maxim to illustrate his point.
"My junior year we won every game by 30.3 points a game. The next year the games were closer, we were undefeated. I don't know how you can attach luck to that.
"You're going to get every team's best shot. Of all the games on their schedule, that will stand out the most with all of the special things going on. There was a level we knew we had to play at every time. I was part of winning 75 of them and
it wasn't a lot of luck. It was a lot of hard work. We were pretty good."
A streak that spanned four rosters, three national titles, two All-American centers and the "The Walton Gang" era has to have more than just some fortunate bounces.
The fortunes of a streak book-ended in history by painful losses to rival Notre Dame has become the standard by which so many things in sports are measured.
The Sports Illustrated cover for the week of Feb. 5, 1973 featured UCLA and breaking the Div. I basketball consecutive winning streak of 60, held by the University of San Francisco Dons. (Sheedy & Long)
The current winning run by the University of Connecticut's women's basketball team could match UCLA's 88 straight victories with a win over Ohio State today in the Maggie Dixon Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York. And Tuesday, UConn could own the longest consecutive win streak in college basketball at 89 with a victory over Florida State in Hartford, Conn.
Whether the two somewhat ridiculously difficult streaks are comparable is a hotly contested debate between genders and generations. But looking back at it nearly 40 years later, it continues to be a remarkable achievement that has more than withstood the test of time, and a measure of historical significance.
Wooden's teams were the envy of every other college basketball coach in the country. Even when the streak ended.
"The only thing my dad ever said about it was that it was a relief when it was over,"' said Nan Muehlhausen, Wooden's daughter. "That's the way he felt. It builds and builds and builds. It was a relief. It gets to be more and more of a burden.
It was like, `It's OK. We'll start it all over again."'
UCLA played in the rugged Pacific-8 Conference. And the Bruins never avoided playing top-ranked opponents - there were 10 of them during the run, including a couple of No. 1 vs. No.2 matchups - some against rival USC.
Two games were one-point victories. Three more were by two points. But luck?
Denny Crum, the former Wooden assistant who was there for the first 15 games of the streak, and then tried to end it as the Louisville coach in the 1972 NCAA semifinals, knew the formula:
"It has more to do with being fundamentally sound and having honest respect for an
opponent," said the former SanFernando High standout guard, who played for the Bruins in the 1950s under Wooden before joining his staff and recruiting many of the seniors on the '72 title team.
"Luck won't hurt you, but it's more with having the right players at the right time doing the right things. That's not so easy, but it's an amazing thing when it happens. We were just so dominant, we expected to win every game."
Among the nuances, nooks and crannies revealed when you examine each piece of the big-picture puzzle:
== The prime cut of it was back-to-back 30-0 seasons in Bill Walton's sophomore and junior years (he was ineligible as a freshman because of NCAA rules at the time).
== UCLA had a 15-0 run to end the 1970-71 season (ending in another NCAA title) and a 13-0 start to Walton's senior season.
UCLA head coach John Wooden, center, holds the NCAA championship trophy after his Bruins defeated Villanova University, 68-62, to win their fifth straight national title in Houston, Texas, March 27, 1971. Standing next to Wooden at right is Sidney Wicks (35), wearing basketball net around his neck, and the others are players, assistant coaches and student managers. (AP Photo)
== Twelve of them were in the sudden-death NCAA Tournament, resulting in the three
== They beat each of the other conference schools six times, and Notre Dame fell four times (three times, led by coach Digger Phelps).
== The average margin of victory: 23.4 points.
== Wooden actually missed one; Walton missed the last three.
== Opposing coaches like Crum, Jerry Tarkanian (twice at Long Beach State), Bob Boyd, Lefty Driesell, Marv Harshman, George Raveling and Bob Knight couldn't figure out how to end it.
Even with a few predictable blowouts - the greatest, by 64 points over Texas A&M, followed by a 58-point win over the Fighting Irish 11days later, in December '71 - the roller-coaster ride was something to experience.
Muehlhausen, who lives in Reseda, attended almost all of those games during the streak.
"I just loved to keep winning," she said. "I don't remember any particular game, but we wanted to keep winning. I did."
HOW IT STARTED:
Despite a 13-0 mark to start the '70-71 season, and an 18-game win streak going back to the season before, UCLA got rear-ended by Austin Carr -- a 46-point effort in an 89-82 Notre Dame win Jan. 23, 1971.
The night before, UCLA was in Chicago defeating Loyola. The drama started in the wee hours of the morning.
"(Athletic director) J.D. (Morgan) got some big money guarantee from (Loyola) Chicago," reserve Andy Hill said. "That was the only (non-Pac-8) trip we were taking. We were still in Pauley for every game.
"We got on the bus to go to Notre Dame, and we got lost. I think it was around 1 in the morning and J.D. finally figures out our bus driver - who had an Irish name, that's all I'm going to say - was literally taking us for a ride. We got in about
3:30 in the morning. We had to wake up in four hours.
"That was probably the only time in his life that J.D. Morgan got taken for a ride."
The Irish win ended a streak of 49straight UCLA non-conference wins, going back to the loss to Houston in the Astrodome (Lew Alcindor vs. Elvin Hayes) in 1968. Wooden said it was possible there would be the same psychological effect on the team as the '68 loss to Houston left that squad.
"It may," he said, "but we don't hold any revenge motives. We'd just like to get into the NCAA Tournament ourselves and take it from there. Notre Dame beat us today and they might do it again."
That wouldn't happen for another three years.
Six nights later, the streak officially began with an uneventful, humble 13-point win over UC Santa Barbara. The starting five: Rowe, Sidney Wicks, Steve Patterson, Kenny Booker and Henry Bibby.
Win No. 2 mattered more in the grand scheme of things.
UCLA had fallen to No. 3 in The Associated Press poll when crosstown rival USC, which was undefeated and rose to No. 2, behind Marquette, hosted the Bruins. A 64-60 UCLA victory at the Sports Arena seemed to revitalize the team - although the next two wins were by a combined three points at the Oregon schools.
The 1971 NCAA championship over Villanova on March 27 made it 15 in a row, with Patterson's 29-point game making up for the combined 15 points by fellow seniors Rowe and Wicks. It was UCLA's sixth consecutive NCAA title, and it outscored opponents by 30.3 points a game, an NCAA record that still stands.
But just prior to all that, things got tense.
The distractions over a court ruling that abolished the "hardship" rule and allowed
players to leave college early for the pros - which now was an NBA-ABA bidding war - could have taken Wooden's team apart. Wicks had contracts of $2 million waved at him. Wooden said that "without hesitation, I'm quite sure" that it was having an effect on the team that was already living in a time of anti-Vietnam War
protests, wild fashion trends and drug experimentation.
Even Walton, playing on the undefeated UCLA freshman team at a time when the NCAA prevented first-year players from being on the varsity squad, was hearing he could go straight to the pros, threatening Wooden's protective team unit.
Streaks aside, winning conference titles and national championships were Wooden's mantra. Yet, the media reminded everyone the NCAA record at the time was 60 games by the 1955-57 University of San Francisco squad led by Bill Russell. UCLA had come close to that once before - the school record was 47 in a row, with Alcindor leading the way.
After the Bruins' 27th in a row on Jan. 15, 1972, an 82-43 victory over Cal, Farmer said: "My personal goal? To go all the way, and I do mean 30-0. I really don't think as a team we've really put it all together in any game yet. We haven't exploded."
Before Win No. 35 at Washington on Feb.19, 1972, however, the basketball world was rocked: No. 2 Marquette lost junior center Jim Chones to the New York Nets of the ABA for $1.5 million in what was called "hard cash." UCLA senior guard Henry Bibby, as well as juniors Farmer and Hollyfield, said they would leave school immediately if the price was right, too.
"What would be the sense in waiting?" Bibby said. "I'd want to get the best opportunity at the best time - and if that time were now I'd sign right away."
Walton, however, wanted no part of it.
"They've called my parents and my brother because I don't have a phone and don't want to be bothered," he said. "Playing pro ball doesn't mean that much to me now. I think I'd be better off financially if I waited until I'm through playing college ball."
Wooden said he would not dissuade his players if the ABA tried to pick them off.
"There was a time when I would have opposed them flatly," he said. "But now, if it happens, it happens. I'll not try to talk any of our players out of signing."
The streak somehow endured. It wasn't until it hit 40 games that the local media seemed to make a bigger deal of it, including the numbers in the headlines after each win.
"We talked about the streak a couple of times when we'd read it in the newspaper," said Gary Cunningham, Wooden's top assistant from 1965-75, and then the head coach from '77-'79. "But (Wooden) never talked about winning. He always referred to his Pyramid of Success and doing the best you can.
"Obviously, the fans wanted to keep it going forever. I know Coach Wooden was very relieved when it was over. I think he thought things could get back to normal."
Hill wanted it to be a normal routine for substitutes to garner even more playing time. He got in at the end of win No. 42, a 90-58 NCAA Tournament-opening win over Weber State, scoring 10 points in about two minutes. He tried to make a joke with Wooden.
"My senior year I averaged six points a game because he put the subs in," Hill said. "I said, `Geez, Coach. Give me 40 (minutes) and I'll give you 200 points. I thought it was pretty good."
A week later, it was Win No. 44 - halfway through - although Crum had what he thought was the best chance of ending it. The architect of the UCLA zone press knew exactly how the Bruins would play against his Louisville team in the '72 NCAA semifinals.
UCLA's Bill Walton looks for a teammate after taking control of rebound during NCAA semifinal playoff game with Louisville at the Sports Arena on March 24, 1972 in Los Angeles. (Anonymous)
"We devised a way to attack their press to get wide-open shots - but at halftime we were 0-for-9 on those shots," Crum said. "Open 15-footers ... Walton's presence was just too distracting."
Crum still enjoyed celebrating the Bruins' 1972 title win over Florida State, and 30-0 season, at the Houston Astrodome with many of his former recruits.
As Walton and Keith Wilkes started their junior seasons in 1972-73, and Farmer and Hollyfield added the senior presence, complacency couldn't set in. Too many opposing coaches were intent on ending it.
Stan Morrison, a former USC assistant who tried many times to devise a plan of attack against Wooden's teams, was now the head coach at the University of Pacific to start the season - and was victim No. 48 right away.
"It was my second game as a head coach," said Morrison, later the head coach at USC and San Jose State, and currently the athletic director at UC Riverside. "We beat Cal State Hayward handily in my first game. Now we were at UCLA. We saw both ends of the basketball spectrum - the game at its highest level."
Pacific was lucky to have 15 at halftime in an 81-48 loss. After the game, Morrison said: "It's murder to prepare for the Bruins. We have to change our whole normal routine both on offense and defense and it still doesn't work. ... Playing here is not psychological, it's physical."
Two weeks later, Wooden missed Win No. 49 - he was at St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica with a mild heart condition. Cunningham replaced him to guide the 31-point win over UC Santa Barbara. Wooden was back on the bench the next game, Win No. 50, over Pittsburgh.
Still, any kind of pressure of the streak didn't show up until UCLA closed in on tying the USF record of 60.
In Win 54 against Oregon, the Ducks tried a stall that left them trailing 18-14 at halftime. The Bruins fought through it, regrouped, and won by 26. But afterward guard Greg Lee, the former Reseda High star, revealed: "Tonight, Coach Wooden did mention our long win streak, but told us not to think about it. Speaking for the
team, I know I'm not thinking about it. I don't worry about losing when I go to bed."
USF actually had a chance to end it - twice. UCLA chalked the Dons up in Wins No.58 and 73, the latter in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals. And up popped Notre Dame again - in position to end the Bruins' chances of Win No. 61 to set the new mark. A 19-point win came pretty easily Jan. 27, 1973, behind Wilkes' 20 points.
Someone asked Walton afterward about the chance of him never losing a game in his college career - which would run the streak to 105.
"I'm trying not to think about it," he smiled.
Wooden allowed himself to comment on the record: "I'm very happy about it but it doesn't compare with winning your first national championship. ... It's not something one team could do all by itself."
Farmer remembers being "really excited about that week because we had Notre Dame on national TV and the next Saturday we were playing at USC," he said. "That's a big weekend. I remember being equally jazzed to go whoop up on 'SC as I was to go whoop up on Notre Dame."
Win No. 62 was by 23 points over USC, and No. 71 a month later against the Trojans was by 20.
THE LAST 13, AND WALTON'S MAGIC MOMENT
Win No. 75 might be the most memorable. Walton's 44-point championship-record
performance in an 87-66 victory against Larry Finch, Larry Kenon and Memphis State (and future UCLA coach Gene Bartow) should have been a celebration, but Walton left the arena in St. Louis abruptly.
"I don't want to talk about it, man," he said, leaving with "financial advisor" Sam Gilbert to discuss a $2million offer on the table from the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers.
Walton came back for his senior year, and two important matchups right away tested the streak early in the '73-'74 season.
A tight, one-point win over Lefty Driesell's heralded Maryland team, with John Lucas and Tom McMillen, was No. 77. McMillen, who would go onto a fine NBA career and a life as a U.S. Congressman, said afterward: "We were privileged to have come that close to UCLA on its home court and we hope to play them again later this season somewhere else."
No. 79, two weeks later against North Carolina State - with David Thompson and Tom Burleson - was an 18-point win in St.Louis that would turn out to be something of a mirage. Wilkes' career-best 27 points, and sophomore David Meyers' breakout game (15points, 11 rebounds) offset Walton's foul trouble. The two would meet again
in the NCAA semifinals a few months later, with a much different result.
It was somewhat status quo after that - three more non-conference blowouts - until Win 85 came with a price. Walton fell hard on his back at Washington State and had to come out. He missed the next three games - Wins 86, 87 and 88 - as Ralph Drollinger stepped in, with freshman Richard Washington, to hold down the
Walton might not have been at 100 percent Jan. 19, 1974, for a trip to Notre Dame, but he insisted on playing with a back brace - and scoring 24 points with 11 rebounds.
But the pain from the streak ending at 88 might have been much greater.
"If ending the streak is good for basketball, then having the streak was bad for basketball," Wooden said afterward. "I think the streak was one of the finest things for college basketball. If it hadn't been for the streak, this would have
been just another game and it would not have generated the enthusiasm and interest that it did."
A week later, UCLA demolished Notre Dame by 19 points at Pauley Pavilion, starting another streak - ashort one, actually, that would last until "The Lost Weekend" in Oregon a couple of weeks later.
Those who remember the streak today hold it close to their hearts.
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) was an undergraduate student at UCLA from 1972-74. He attended an estimated 25 to 30 home victories during that stretch and never spent the night outside Pauley Pavilion to get into the arena.
"The best perk of being a UCLA student was good seats if you showed up early," Sherman said. "I didn't get great seats, but I got good seats."'
There were other perks, too.
"Going to UCLA, you expected to have a great team ever since Gail Goodrich and Walt
Hazzard," said Sherman, who later helped pass legislation to rename the Reseda post office in Wooden's name in 2006. "It's something the students were proud of, but it wasn't a surprise or novelty.
"I remember cheering for higher point spreads because you got a discount for, I think, a Big Mac back then. I don't think I ever took them up on the burger, it was something to cheer about."
Hill, who never got much playing time but became a successful businessman, speaker and authored a book with Wooden called "Be Quick - But Don't Hurry," enjoyed having a seat on the bench for his senior year, when UCLA went 30-0 in Walton's sophomore season.
"I've always been a basketball fan since I was a little kid. I still am. I didn't stop being a basketball fan when I was sitting on the bench. Those guys were good - Sidney (Wicks), Curtis (Rowe), Hollyfield, (Steve) Patterson, Walton, (Keith) Wilkes. ... Holy smokes. ... Larry Farmer, Greg Lee. If you were going to have to sit on the bench and watch, they gave me the best excuse of all-time. I wish I would've enjoyed it more."
Wilkes, who went on to an All-Star career in the NBA, told The Associated Press recently: "I didn't know how long it was going to go, but we were really playing ourselves each game. We really felt like we weren't going to lose again."
When Notre Dame finished UCLA's streak, Wooden's wife, Nell, had accompanied her
husband on the road.
Muehlhausen remembers the aftermath of the Irish victory than the game.
"The pressure of the streak builds and builds and builds," Muehlhausen said. "My mother was back there and it was before they went co-ed. Daddy didn't even have them shower. They went right to the bus. The crowd was terrible. Mother had to have police protection from the fans. The fans had fists in her face. I never liked Notre Dame, even before that."
UCLA coach Ben Howland says he even felt he was a part of that streak, though he was in high school in Santa Barbara. He didn't miss Bruins games, watching them tape-delayed on KTLA Channel 5.
"I remember when Notre Dame won (to end it)," Howland said. "It was stunning. It was like,`Wow. They lost.' It hadn't happened in a few years. I watched all those games -every one of those wins. It was fun to be a part of that time."
And then it ended.
But the great 88 is never forgotten.
Lucky for us.
Bill Walton on the UConn Women:
"They play with great sense of team, great purpose, phenomenal execution of fundamentals, relentless attack," he told The Associated Press recently. "It is what every team should aspire to, regardless of the sport."
Oh, if only the current Bruin Men can learn the same team attitude!
FILE - This Jan. 19, 1974, file photo shows UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, center, during the last time out against Notre Dame, in South Bend, Ind. At left foreground is Bill Walton (32). The date the streak ended is burned in Walton's memory. He spits it out with distaste when asked what he recalls most about UCLA's NCAA-record 88-game winning streak. (AP Photo/File)
Led by Bill Walton, UCLA won 88 straight games
By BETH HARRIS
AP Sports Writer
Daily Record, AP Wire
Dec 17, 2:41 PM EST
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- The date is burned in Bill Walton's memory. He spits it out with distaste when asked what he recalls most about UCLA's NCAA-record 88-game winning streak.
"When it ended," he said. "January 19, 1974."
As a freshman, Walton wasn't eligible when the streak that extended over four seasons started on Jan. 30, 1971, with a victory over UC Santa Barbara. He joined it 15 games in and helped stretch it to an amazing 88 straight victories, including two consecutive 30-0 seasons and three national championships, before it ended at Notre Dame.
Connecticut's top-ranked women's team can equal UCLA's record Sunday when the Huskies face No. 11 Ohio State at Madison Square Garden.
Walton counts himself a fan of UConn.
"They play with great sense of team, great purpose, phenomenal execution of fundamentals, relentless attack," he told The Associated Press recently. "It is what every team should aspire to, regardless of the sport."
John Wooden's UCLA teams played the same way. And so the streak began a week after an 89-82 loss at, where else, Notre Dame, in the middle of the 1970-71 season with the senior-dominated lineup of Sidney Wicks, Curtis Rowe, Steve Patterson, Henry Bibby and Kenny Booker.
The Fighting Irish's Austin Carr burned the Bruins for 46 points in what would be UCLA's last defeat for three years. UCLA went 29-1 that season and won its fifth consecutive NCAA championship.
The following season, Bibby was the lone senior, joined by starters Larry Farmer, Keith (now Jamaal) Wilkes, sophomore Walton and Greg Lee, who ran UCLA's daunting fastbreak. The Bruins built the streak to 45-0 by winning all 30 games, scoring more than 100 points in each of their first seven.
UCLA won its sixth consecutive NCAA title and outscored opponents by 30.3 points a game, an NCAA record that still stands.
"I didn't know how long it was going to go, but we were really playing ourselves each game," Wilkes said. "We really felt like we weren't going to lose again."
And the Bruins didn't in 1972-73. With Farmer, Wilkes, Walton, Larry Hollyfield and Lee leading the way, they went 30-0 again in an era before the shot clock and 3-point line existed. During that stretch, they beat Loyola of Chicago for their 60th consecutive victory, tying San Francisco's NCAA record. No. 61 was a win against, who else, Notre Dame.
The Bruins had few close calls during the regular season, with only four games won by single digits.
"Thank God for Coach Wooden and him keeping us on message," said Farmer, now an assistant at Western Michigan. "He never mentioned winning, period, much less bringing up the winning streak. We became aware of it only because all of a sudden we had a guy from Sports Illustrated around us all the time. Other than that it was business as usual."
In the national title game, Walton made an incredible 21 of 22 shots - an NCAA record that still stands - and scored 44 points to lead the Bruins to an 86-66 win over then-Memphis State for their seventh straight national title. UCLA became the only school to complete consecutive undefeated seasons, with the streak reaching 75 games.
"Just the anticipation of what was going to happen next was incredible," Wilkes said.
Walton and fellow seniors Wilkes, Lee and Tommy Curtis, along with junior David Meyers, opened the 1973-74 season ranked No. 1 and with 13 wins in a row, putting the streak at 88 heading into the game against second-ranked and undefeated Notre Dame.
Although he never brought it up himself, the streak burdened Wooden.
"He got tired of answering questions about it," Wilkes recalled. "After a while, it just wouldn't go away, it just got so big."
So did the atmosphere at game time.
"It felt like the weight of the world that night," Wilkes said. "It got to a point where just the intensity was so great."
Walton came into the game wearing a back brace, having been injured in a fall the previous week against Washington State. But his pain wasn't apparent as he hit 12 of his first 13 shots. And the Bruins were their usual dominant selves in the early going, leading by 17 points at halftime.
"In those days UCLA with the lead in the second half, the game was over," said Farmer, who had already graduated.
The Bruins were up 70-59 before everything changed in the final 3 1/2 minutes. They were outscored 12-0, missing six straight shots and committing four turnovers. As was his habit, Wooden never called a time-out late in games.
The Irish hit six shots in a row, capped by Dwight Clay's jumper from the right corner with 29 seconds left, giving Notre Dame a 71-70 win. Clay had the worst shooting percentage among the Irish regulars, although he had already earned the nickname "Iceman" for his clutch shooting.
"I don't know how he did that," said Wilkes, who scored 18 points but went scoreless in the last eight minutes.
Walton missed a 12-footer in the final seconds, finishing with 24 points and nine rebounds.
"A complete failure on all levels, particularly as a human being. A disgrace to the game of basketball, a disgrace to sport," he said of his performance.
While Irish fans rushed the court, enveloping young coach Digger Phelps and his team in a raucous celebration, Wooden was his usual low-key self.
"The streak meant more to others than to him," Wooden's daughter, Nan, said through a UCLA spokesman. "He was relieved it was over because of the outside pressure it put on the team members."
A week later, the Bruins beat the Fighting Irish 94-75 at home.
"The game was over when the jump ball was thrown up, but the streak had ended," Farmer said. "It was a bashing, but nobody talks about that one."
UCLA went on to lose three more games and got beat by North Carolina State 80-77 in double overtime in the national semifinals, ending its other streak of seven NCAA titles in a row.