By Ron Griffitts
The 1975 NCAA basketball final was held in the San Diego Sports Arena on March 31, 1975, between the UCLA Bruins (27-3) coached by John Wooden who were appearing in the their ninth consecutive final four and the twelfth in 14 years, and the Kentucky Wildcats (26-4) in a game between two of college basketball’s storied and most successful programs. Kentucky was coached by Joe B. Hall who had taken over after the retirement of Adolf Rupp.
UCLA had defeated Michigan 103-91, Montana 67-64, Arizona State 89-75 and Louisville in the final four semifinal 75-74 in a game which UCLA was behind at the half, tied at the end of regulation and won in overtime. They were led by Dave Meyers (18.3 points per game, 7.9 rebounds per game), sophomores 6’-11” Richard Washington (15.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and Marques Johnson (11.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg).
Kentucky got to the final by dispatching Marquette 76-54, Central Michigan 90-73, Indiana 92-90, and Syracuse 95-79. The game against Indiana was an epic battle held in the UD Arena in Dayton with Indiana coming in undefeated at 30-0.
After the excitement of the previous games the final was relatively normal as UCLA had a 43-40 lead at halftime and went to win 92-85 for coach John Wooden’s tenth NCAA title in 12 years.
Richard Washington led UCLA with 28 points and 12 rebounds and Dave Meyers had 24 points and 11 rebounds. Kevin Grevey led UK with 34 points as the Wildcats made only 38 percent of their field goal attempts while UCLA had 48 percent.
It was Wooden’s last game as he retired after 29 years of college coaching — two at Indiana State and 27 at UCLA — with a 664-162 record and .804 winning percentage.
He stands in first place with 10 titles as Mike Krzyzewski with five and Adolph Rupp with four next to him.
Wooden was a Midwesterner, born in Hall, Ind., and attended Martinsville High School where he earned all-state honors. He played college basketball at Purdue and was an All American there as well as winning the 1932 College Player of the Year Award.
He was a high school coach at Dayton, Kentucky and at South Bend Central High School in Indiana before going into the service during World War II. Upon getting out of the service, he accepted the coaching position at Indiana State where he spent two years before accepting the job at UCLA.
He played in the early days of the NBA in the 1930s and 1940s before ending up in sunny California.
He emphasized discipline as he had little tolerance for beards or facial hair on his players in the 1960s and 1970s and was not a believer in dunking or dribbling behind the back but focused on the basics.
His pyramid of success emphasized that players play to the best of their capabilities and if he could get each player to that level the team would win.
His job at UCLA almost didn’t happen as he had applied for the head job at the University of Minnesota and because of a snow storm didn’t get their call before he accepted the job at UCLA. Had he gotten the Minnesota position he might have spent the next 30 years in snowy Minnesota as opposed to California.
Statistics for this article are from sports-reference.com.
Ron Griffitts a contributing columnist for The Daily Advocate.