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James Stanley Bush

Also Known As: "Jim"
Birthplace: Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, United States
Death: July 10, 2017 (90)
Culver City, Los Angeles County, California, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Walter Leon Bush and Edith Marion Johnson
Husband of Private
Ex-husband of Greta Anne Hobson and Private
Father of Private and Private
Brother of Private

Occupation: Track Coach
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Jim Bush

Jim Bush, who coached some of track and field’s most successful athletes, more than 20 of whom competed in the Olympic Games, and led the University of California, Los Angeles, to five N.C.A.A. titles, died on Monday at his home in Culver City, Calif. He was 90.

The cause was metastatic cancer, his wife, Françoise, said.

When Bush took over for Ducky Drake at U.C.L.A. in 1965, the Bruins had won the N.C.A.A. championship only once, in 1956, and had never beaten their archrivals, the University of Southern California Trojans. Over the next two decades, Bush coached Willie Banks, who held the world record for the triple jump; Dwight Stones, a three-time world-record breaker for the high jump; and Andre Phillips and Greg Foster, Olympic medal-winning hurdlers.

Bush specialized in the 400-meter dash. “I have had more great quarter-milers than anyone in the history of the sport,” he told IAAF magazine in 2004.

They included Quincy Watts, John Smith, Wayne Collett, Benny Brown and Tyree Washington, all Olympic medalists, world champions or world-record holders.

Before leaving U.C.L.A. in 1984, Bush led the Bruins to a 152-21 record, with seven conference titles, seven dual meet championships and 13 wins over U.S.C. in addition to his five N.C.A.A. championships. He later became a speed and strength consultant to the Los Angeles Lakers, Kings, Clippers, Raiders and Dodgers, helping the Raiders win a Super Bowl in 1984 and the Dodgers win a World Series in 1988.

He was elected to the National Track and Field Hall of Fame in 1987.

At times, Bush’s outspokenness nearly overshadowed his winning record. At U.C.L.A. he derided colleges that accepted older foreign athletes and intimated that other coaches were breaking rules. Before professionalism came to track and field, he bemoaned the loss of sport for sport’s sake.

“I think they should do away with the Olympics,” he told Track and Field News in 1972. “The purpose of the Olympics is dead. There is no such thing as amateurism. The Games don’t bring people together in peace, but give vent to national hatreds.”

In 1991, Bush joined his onetime rival, U.S.C., where he coached both the men’s and women’s track teams. But that arrangement proved short-lived. He stepped down from coaching the women’s team after some impolitic comments to The Los Angeles Times the next year caused a furor.

“If you try to coach women the same as men, you are going to be in trouble,” he said. “The main thing is, women are more emotional.”

His frankness probably kept him from being elected head coach of the 1984 United States Olympic team.

“I guess I’ve been too candid,” he told The Los Angeles Herald Examiner in 1982. “But I was raised by English grandparents who told me to be honest and stand up for what I believe in. It’s gotten me into a lot of trouble, but I’d find it tough to live with myself if I didn’t speak my mind.”

James Stanley Bush was born on Sept. 15, 1926, in Cleveland and grew up in Bakersfield, Calif. His parents divorced while he was young, and his grandparents helped his mother and stepfather raise him. He later told the story of how his grandfather came to the United States from England in 1911 and, one year later, sent for his wife and daughter, who missed the ship they were originally scheduled to take to America: the Titanic.

Bush graduated from what was then Kern County Union High School in 1944 and served in the Naval Air Corps until 1946. He studied for one year at Bakersfield Junior College and three years at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was a 400-meter runner and high hurdler.

After earning a degree in physical education in 1951, he was track and cross-country coach at Fullerton High School in California from 1952 to 1959, working two other jobs at night to support his family.

He was the track coach at Fullerton Junior College (1960-61) and Occidental College (1962-64) before he began his tenure at U.C.L.A. His U.C.L.A. teams produced 23 Olympians. His first victory over U.S.C. was in 1966.

He married Françoise Bernheim in 1981 (three earlier marriages had ended in divorce). In addition to his wife, he is survived by a sister, Laura Renfro; a son, Don, and a daughter, Jean Richmond, from an earlier marriage; two stepsons, Gary and Patrick Ruggieri; and more than 20 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Despite his many accomplishments with the Bruins, Bush left U.C.L.A. an unhappy man.

“It’s just not any fun anymore,” he told The New York Times in 1984. “I see too much cheating going on, too many people not telling the truth. The top Americans are quitting the college teams to compete at the club level. There’s just so much money out there.

“You can’t blame the athletes for doing it. You have to blame the system.”

He retired from U.S.C. in 1994 after undergoing surgery for prostate cancer. A decade later, he was coaching individual runners, and his enjoyment of the sport had returned.

“I am just starting to have fun,” he said.

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Jim Bush's Timeline

September 15, 1926
Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, Ohio, United States
July 10, 2017
Age 90
Culver City, Los Angeles County, California, United States