Feb. 28, 2012
Fifty years ago, John Wooden's 1961-62 UCLA men's basketball team made school history by becoming the first Bruin squad to advance to the NCAA Final Four. To celebrate the team's golden anniversary, the squad will be honored at a reunion to take place on Saturday, March 3 in the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, where UCLA will host Washington in the season's final home game (tipoff 11am). The Sports Arena was also the home floor for the Bruins' 1961-62 team.
In 1961-62, Coach Wooden was in his 14th season as the Bruin head coach, as UCLA won the Athletic Association of Western Universities (AAWU) with a 10-2 league record. It was UCLA's first conference title in six years.
The Bruins advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in school history, all four teams under the leadership of Coach Wooden. At the 1962 NCAA Tournament Far West Regional at Provo, UT, UCLA defeated Utah State (73-62) and Oregon State (88-69) to advance to the school's first-ever Final Four. In the victory over Utah State, the Bruins were led by senior starting forward/co-captain Gary Cunningham's 21 points and in the win against Oregon State, senior starting guard/co-captain John Green's 23 points paced UCLA.
The 1962 NCAA Final Four took place in Louisville, KY (Freedom Hall). In a semi-final game, the Bruins lost to defending national champion Cincinnati 72-70. At halftime, the game was tied at 37 and with three seconds remaining and the score tied at 70, Cincinnati's Tom Thacker hit the winning 25-foot jumper for the Bearcats. In the game, UCLA had three players in double figures - Green (27), Cunningham (19) and sophomore starting guard Walt Hazzard (12).
The third-place game featured UCLA vs. Wake Forest. The Deacons, with guard Billy Packer, who would go on to become a noted college basketball analyst for NBC and CBS Sports, lost to Ohio State 84-72 in the other semi-final contest. In the third-place matchup, Wake Forest led 38-36 at halftime and with 26 seconds remaining, Bruin sophomore starting center Fred Slaughter's layup pulled UCLA to within two points, 82-80. With 12 seconds left to play, the Bruins got the ball back but were unable to score and Wake Forest held on for the 82-80 win. UCLA had four players in double figures, led by Cunningham and Slaughter's 17 points, to finish the season 18-11 overall. After starting the year 4-7, the Bruins won 14 of their final 18 games.
Starting for the Bruins in 1961-62 were: at guard, senior co-captain John Green and sophomore Walt Hazzard; at center, sophomore Fred Slaughter and at forward, senior co-captain Gary Cunningham and senior Pete Blackman.
Green became the seventh All-American in the Wooden Bruin era, earned first-team All-AAWU honors and led the Bruins in scoring (19.3ppg). Along with Green, the Bruins had three other players in double figures - Cunningham (13.4ppg), Hazzard (13.2ppg) and Blackman (11.5ppg). Slaughter was the team's leading rebounder (9.6rpg).
Hazzard and Slaughter as seniors in 1963-64, along with forward Jack Hirsch who missed all of 1961-62 with injuries, would help lead the Bruins to the school's first ever NCAA Championship. Hazzard would go on to become UCLA's men's basketball head coach (1984-88). He is one of just seven Bruin men's basketball players in school history to have his jersey number retired (#42). Hazzard passed away on Nov. 18, 2011 at the age of 69.
Cunningham was a Bruin assistant under Coach Wooden on six UCLA NCAA Championship teams (1969-70-71-72-73-75). He was also the Bruin men's head basketball coach for two years (1977-79), and owns the school's all-time highest winning percentage (.862, 50-8).
Blackman, a UCLA Law School graduate, was associated administratively with UCLA since 1982 and retired in 2007 as Administrative Vice Chancellor. His Bruin executive duties included overseeing capital programs and intercollegiate athletics and Blackman is still affiliated with his alma mater on a part-time basis.
Jim Milhorn, a junior in 1961-62 who served as Coach's Wooden's senior captain in 1962-63, would return to his alma mater and for nearly four decades serve as a coach, UCLA administrator and Bruin Athletics Associate Athletic Director. In 2010, he was inducted into the Long Beach City College Hall of Champions (Milhorn attended LBCC before enrolling at UCLA in 1960).
There are eight individuals from the 1961-62 team that are in the UCLA Athletics Hall of Fame - head coach John Wooden (1984 charter class inductee - guided the Bruins to a record 10 NCAA Championships from 1964-75, including seven consecutive from 1967-73); assistant coach Jerry Norman (inducted 1986 - played for Coach Wooden from 1950-52, then was a Bruin assistant under Coach Wooden from 1958-68, including four NCAA Championship teams (1964-65-67-68); assistant coach Bill Putman (inducted 1993 - earned 1945 All-America honors at UCLA under head coach Wilbur Johns and was a Bruin assistant under Coach Wooden in 1947-48 and from 1954-62); athletic trainer Elvin C. `Ducky' Drake (1984 charter class inductee); Hazzard (1984 charter class inductee); Cunningham (inducted 2001); Green (inducted 2001) and Slaughter (inducted 2004).
1961-62 UCLA Men's Basketball Roster
|52||Pete Blackman, F||6-5||Sr.||Los Angeles, CA (University HS) (11.5ppg/5.6rpg)|
|55||Gary Cunningham,F||6-6||Sr.||Inglewood, CA (Inglewood HS)(13.4ppg/6.9rpg)|
|22||Larry Gower, G||5-11||So.||Los Angeles, CA (Dorsey HS)(1.1ppg/0.6rpg)|
|45||John Green, G||6-2||Sr.||Granada Hills, Ca (San Fernando HS)(19.3ppg/6.4rpg)|
|25||Rich Gugat, F-G||6-2||So.||San Jose, CA (Camden HS)(0.6ppg/0.6rpg)|
|42||Walt Hazzard, G||6-2||So.||Philadelphia, PA (Overbrook HS)(13.2ppg/5.8rpg)|
|24||Bill Hicks, G||6-2||Sr.||Palmdale, CA (Antelope Valley HS)(1.8ppg/1.1rpg)|
|50||Jack Hirsch, F||6-3 ½||Jr.||Van Nuys, CA (Van Nuys HS)(missed the season with injuries)|
|20||Mike Huggins, G||5-10 ½||So.||Kalispell, MT (Flathead County HS)(1.3ppg/0.5rpg)|
|44||Jim Milhorn, G||5-10||Jr.||Long Beach, CA (Jordan HS)(0.8ppg/0.4rpg)|
|30||Jim Rosvall, G||6-3||So.||Los Angeles, CA (University HS)(1.4ppg/1.0rpg)|
|35||Fred Slaughter, C||6-5||So.||Topeka, KS (Topeka HS)(7.7ppg/0.6rpg)|
|32||Dave Waxman, C||6-6||Jr.||Los Angeles, CA (Hamilton HS)(4.7ppg/4.1rpg)|
Head Coach - John Wooden
Assistants - Bill Putnam, Jerry Norman, Bill Eblen
Trainer - Ducky Drake
Student Manager - Steve Aranoff