Culver Resident & Legendary Track Coach Jim Bush Dies
July 13, 2017
Legendary UCLA track & field coach Jim Bush passed away on Monday, July 10 at his home in Culver City. He was 90.
Bush, who coached at UCLA for 20 years (1965-84), elevated the Bruin program to one of the most outstanding in the United States, leading the team to five NCAA Championships and seven conference titles.
"Today, the Bruin family suffered a tremendous loss with the passing of former track & field coach Jim Bush," said UCLA Director of Athletics Dan Guerrero. "Jim was born to coach; he brought out the best in everyone around him, including his student-athletes. He remained a presence on campus, even after his tenure ended, supporting a variety of UCLA teams. He will be greatly missed by so many."
UCLA track and field coach and alumnus John Frazier, who was coached by Bush, said, "Jim Bush set the standard for track and field during his career, winning five National Championships, as well as being a great mentor to many athletes and coaches, myself included. He will be truly missed, but his legacy will forever remain not only at UCLA but in the entire track and field community."
Prior to Bush's arrival UCLA had never beaten USC in a dual meet. During his tenure, not only did he beat USC on 13 occasions, he led the Bruins to five NCAA Outdoor team championships (1966, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1978) and seven Pac-8/Pac-10 Conference titles (1966, 1969, 1970, 1971, 1973, 1980, 1982).
In outdoor dual meet competition Bush directed UCLA to an impressive overall record of 152-21 (.879). The elite winning percentage included 10 unbeaten dual seasons and dual meet winning streaks of 17, 20, 42 and 34. The Bruins were also named Collegiate Dual Meet champions by Track & Field News seven times (1970, 9-0; 1972, 8-0; 1973, 9-0; 1974, 9-0; 1975, 9-0; 1980, 7-0; 1982, 9-0).
In 1971 and 1973 the U.S. Track Coaches Association named Bush Coach of the Year, the first coach in his sport to be honored twice. During his 20 years at UCLA some of the greatest Bruin and USA men's track & field athletes were on Bush's UCLA squads, including Wayne Collette (400m), John Smith (400m), Willie Banks (triple jump), Greg Foster (110m hurdles), Dwight Stones (high jump), Andre Phillips (400m hurdles) and John Brenner (shot put/discus). Bush coached 30 USA Olympic team members, and in 1979 he was the USA Track & Field head coach at the 1979 Pan American Games.
Born Sept. 15, 1926 in Cleveland, Bush grew up in Bakersfield and attended Kern County Union high school, competing in football and track, where his coach was Burnett 'Cap' Haralson, the 1923 UCLA track & field captain.
After graduating in 1944 Bush joined the U.S. Navy Air Corps. Following WWII, he enrolled at Bakersfield Community College and lettered in football and track (1947-48). He transferred to UC Berkeley in 1948 and competed for the Golden Bears for three years as a quarter-miler and high hurdler, graduating in 1951.
Bush began his track coaching career as an assistant at Berkeley HS in 1952. That summer he was hired as head boys track coach at Fullerton HS where he led his team to its first-ever league track championship in his first year.
He coached at Fullerton HS for seven years before being named head track & field and cross country coach at Fullerton Junior College in the fall of 1959. In his first year, Bush led an impressive turnaround from worst-to-first in the Eastern Conference, and by year two, led the Hornets to its first Southern California and State titles. Along the way his athletes set 53 school, conference and state records, along with seven national junior college records. Three of his Fullerton athletes broke the national JC record in the half mile and two broke the national record in the mile.
In the fall of 1962 Bush was named head coach at Occidental College. He quickly led the program to three consecutive conference titles in track & field and cross country and beat UCLA for the first time. After Bush's teams beat UCLA three consecutive years, Bruin Athletic Director J.D. Morgan selected Bush to be the new track & field head coach following Ducky Drake's retirement in the fall of 1964.
Bush's first class of Bruin freshman recruits beat the varsity squad in an intrasquad meet in 1965, and as sophomores in 1966 they led UCLA to its first-ever dual meet victory over USC and won the National Championships by 48 points, the largest margin in NCAA history.
Bush produced 188 individual NCAA medalists and his Bruin team made history by becoming the first to win both the 4x100 and 4x400 relays at the NCAA Championships. His 4x400m relay teams won an unprecedented six consecutive NCAA titles.
Following his retirement in 1984 Bush became a speed/strength consultant for the Los Angeles Raiders, Dodgers, Lakers and Clippers and earned a Super Bowl Championship ring with the Raiders in 1984 and a World Series Championship ring with the Dodgers in 1988.
He returned to coaching track and field in 1991 at USC, where he coached until his retirement in 1994.
Bush was inducted into the USA Track & Field Hall of Fame in 1987, enshrined into the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1996 and inducted into the UCLA Athletic Hall of Fame in 1997.
He is also a Hall of Fame member at Fullerton high school, Kern County, Bakersfield College and Occidental College. He was a past president of the U.S. Track Coaches Association and served as an executive board member of the NCAA Track Coaches Association and USA Track & Field.
Bush is survived by his wife, Francoise; two children, Don Bush and Jean Richmond; two stepsons, Gary Ruggieri and Patrick Ruggieri; and 21 grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Memorial services are pending.