UCLA To Unveil Wooden Statue Today In Advance Of Pauley Re-OpeningPosted by AMurawa on October 26th, 2012
With all the talk of NCAA investigations into eligibility and preseason injuries and whether or not the head coach is on the hot seat, it is easy to forget that this is actually a really exciting time for UCLA basketball. Aside from landing the top recruiting class in the nation and the expectations that the 2012-13 vintage of the team could be something special, the larger picture is of a program moving back into its historic arena after a dismal year on the road. The whole year will be an opportunity for Bruin fans from far and near to head back to Westwood and check out the new Pauley Pavilion and the new team. And there to greet them in the North Plaza in front of the gleaming new entrance to Pauley will be a brand new statue dedicated to the legendary but humble face of the program, John Wooden. Later today, UCLA will unveil the statue of its former head coach in a ceremony attended by members of both the Wooden family and the Pauley family.
The unveiling of the statue will lead smoothly into homecoming week for the Bruins, culminating in the Bruins’ football game with Arizona next weekend. But more importantly for basketball fans, it will lead into Pauley Opening Madness next Friday evening, an event which will not only be the grand official re-opening of the facility, but will also serve as the Bruins’ unveiling of their basketball team for their fans (technically, the event will showcase all five teams that call Pauley home – the men’s and women’s basketball teams, men’s and women’s volleyball and gymnastics), with an open practice highlighted most entertainingly by a dunk contest (albeit without Shabazz Muhammad, likely the team’s best dunker), as well as several giveaways for students. Personally, I could take or leave most of these Midnight Madness and open scrimmage events, but the event coupled with a chance to take a look at the new arena and the new Wooden statue make for a draw for fans and a way to get the notoriously staid fan base excited for the upcoming season.
All in all, despite all the uncertainty and controversy surrounding the UCLA program at this point, these series of events make for an exciting time for one of the blue-blooded basketball programs. First and foremost, the timing is perfect to honor Wooden, one of the great figures in sports. He was never about celebrating the individual, and likely would have been embarrassed by such an honor were he still alive, but unlike another bronzed statue of a legendary coach on a different coast, this one is dedicated to a man whose legacy is firmly in place. The fact that it is book-ended with the re-opening of “The House That Wooden Built” is just perfect. One of the main reasons that Pauley was renovated rather than just replaced (aside from space issues) was the history that Wooden helped create in that building. It was Wooden’s insistence after his first two national titles that a new arena was built to replace the old 2,400 seat arena on-campus Men’s Gym and the various other places around the L.A area that those Bruins played that got the thing built in the first place; it is only fitting that Wooden is outside to greet the fans who come to see the newest edition of the building.