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Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Forgotten Name In The Coaching Ranks

When you think of outstanding west coast college basketball coaches, some names immediately pop into your head.

John Wooden, Ralph Miller, Lute Olson and Mark Few. (Ok, ok, you great readers of this blog, you can fill in the names of others, when I miss a something you always do, with your great emails).

But a great coaching name that is seldom mentioned, but always should be mentioned in Phil Woolpert. Phil, who?

What Phil Woolpert did as a coach is second only to the great John Wooden in the history of west coast basketball.

Woolpert was the coach of San Francisco Dons when they won back to back NCAA championships in 1955-56. His Don team finished third in the NCAA championships in 1957. (There was a time in the final four, when a third place game was placed).

But there is more. He is one of only six coaches to win back to back  NCAA championships. At 40 years of age, he was the youngest coach ever to win an NCAA men's basketball championship. His San Francisco Dons team won 60 straight games at one point, which held as a record, until the great UCLA teams won 88 straight. He coached two hall of fame greats at San Francisco, Bill Russell and K.C. Jones.

Mr. Woolpert left San Francisco and went on to coach at the University of San Diego, as well as in the fledgling professional basketball, the American Basketball League. He retired  from coaching in the late 60s.

But the story does not end there.

Mr. Woolpert after retiring from coaching, still needed to make an income, so he took a job for years driving a school bus in Sequim, Washington, before passing away of cancer in 1987. If he had the same accomplishments today in the coaching world today, Mr. Woolpert would be a multi-millionaire.

Rightfully, Mr. Woolpert is in the basketball Hall of Fame and rightfully he should never be forgotten as a GREAT coach in west coast basketball history.

Comments in the comment section always welcome, as are emails to


  1. Greg, good information about Phil Woolpert. Anyone who coached Bill Russell and K.C. Jones can never be forgotten, but he can be under-appreciated. Your blog post helps correct that imbalance.

    -Mark Sanchez

  2. Editor's Note:

    Thank you Mark. The readers also might be interested that Mr. Woopert's son Phil, is a highly successful coach, who coached in the NBA D-league and now is coaching the Townsville Crocs, in Australia.

  3. Editor's Note:

    My mistake, Phil Woolpert's son is Paul, not Phil.