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Wooden Classic only the beginning of tributes to coach

1/5/2012

The John R. Wooden Classic, to be played Thursday night at the Honda Center in Anaheim, is a yearly tribute to UCLA's legendary coach, but Bruins fans will soon have a place to pay homage to the iconic coach year round.

When Pauley Pavilion re-opens next fall, it will include an exhibit called "Wooden Way" to showcase memorabilia from Wooden's life and tenure at UCLA and outside the arena will be an eight-foot tall bronze statue of Wooden, a recently announced addition to the new Pauley.

"I wanted this to be a destination point for people all over the world to come to when they visit UCLA," athletic director Dan Guerrero said. "When visitors come, they all go to Ackerman Plaza and take pictures next to the Bruin bear. People are going to come and they are going to say let’s go take a picture next to Coach Wooden."

The statue will stand at the north end of Pauley Pavilion, along Bruin Walk, which will be the new arena's main entrance. Noted sculptor Blair Buswell, the lead sculptor at the NFL Hall of Fame, has been commissioned to create the statue.

Buswell said he is still sorting through pictures and consulting with the school and the Wooden family about what pose he will use to immortalize one of the greatest coaches in American sports history. The main goal is not only to capture Wooden the coach, but also a man who is as well known for his life teachings as much as he is for teaching basketball.

"What I’m trying to do is capture him not just posing, but engaged in some way as a coach on the sideline so when you are walking by, you get the feeling you are learning from him," Buswell said. "That you have a relationship with him. He’s got you in his sights and trying to impart some wisdom on you."

Wooden coached at UCLA from 1948-75, winning 10 national titles, including seven in a row from 1967 to '73. Over 27 years, he won 620 games, including 88 straight during one historic stretch, and coached many of the game's greatest players such as Bill Walton and Lew Alcindor -- later known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He passed away in June, 2010, at 99, but his legacy lives on at UCLA.

The court at Pauley Pavilion is named Nell and John Wooden Court and there is a display honoring him in the school's athletic hall of fame, but next fall, there will be a memorial of him available to the public 24 hours a day in the form of the statue.

"We wanted it to be a focal point for the campus," Guerrero said. "Coach Wooden is a prominet part of UCLA's history so it's only appropriate that he be a prominent part of our campus."