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Wednesday, October 24, 2012
NCAA probe sours Pauley Pavilion facelift

By Myron Medcalf

The coming weeks could commence a boom or bust for UCLA basketball.

Ben Howland has attracted the nation’s top recruiting class, per RecruitingNation. Kyle Anderson, Tony Parker and Shabazz Muhammad join a group of veterans anxious to erase last season’s tumult.

But NCAA investigations surrounding the eligibility of Anderson and Muhammad have tempered expectations. We’re just a few weeks from the start of the 2012-13 season and the Bruins don’t have any answers on the availability of their (potential) freshman stars.

The fact that Muhammad’s lawyer, Robert Orr, recently questioned the “jurisdiction” of the NCAA suggests Muhammad’s situation could disrupt his freshman campaign and the number of games he’s ultimately allowed to play.

Lost in the NCAA nonsense -- it shouldn’t take this long -- is the anticipation that’s preceded the re-opening of Pauley Pavilion. The $136 million facelift of the “house that Wooden built” modernized the original venue, which opened in 1965.

There’s a new concourse, a players’ lounge, a film room, a new statue of John Wooden and a variety of enhancements throughout the building.  For the last two years, the Bruins have played in different arenas throughout the area during construction. Now, they’re home.

Some of the greatest players in the program’s history competed at Pauley Pavilion (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton, Ed O’Bannon, Reggie Miller). Its nostalgia is a concrete component within the team’s legacy.

And its renovation could coincide with a re-emergence of UCLA basketball.

From Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Dwyre:
A renovated Pauley Pavilion, given a $136-million face-lift, will draw back the curtains for the Bruins' first home game Nov. 9. That will be against Indiana State, scheduled out of symbolism, not rivalry. Indiana State was Wooden's only other college job, before he came West in the late 1940s to create Bruins basketball legacy.

Before that opening game, UCLA will unveil a bronze statue of Wooden in the North Plaza. That will be Friday and will be directly outside Pauley, the house that Wooden built and opened in 1965.

The new Pauley, redone with donations certainly influenced by the knowledge that Wooden's legacy deserved this, is shiny and statuesque, with lots of tall glass pillars and a robust new look. Those who are allowed a sneak peek emerge with the same word: Wow.

"I was in there the other day with Reggie Miller and Jamaal Wilkes," Howland says, "and it was great to see two former great players like that, getting excited about our new place."

Before the NCAA investigations, UCLA seemed to have the perfect plan.

If you’re going to unveil the renovation of an historic venue such as Pauley Pavilion, it’s best to do it in style.

With a couple of future pros who could lead the Bruins to its first Final Four appearance since it made three straight trips from 2006-08, UCLA -- on paper, at least -- has plenty.

But everything at UCLA is a question mark right now.

And if the NCAA investigations linger, Pauley Pavilion will open its doors with a sense of uncertainty.

That moment should announce that UCLA basketball is back on its feet. That was the goal.

Right now, however, the program doesn’t have any solid footing.