Saturday, December 20, 2003
Bruins unveil 'Nell and John Wooden Court'
LOS ANGELES -- UCLA honored John Wooden and his late wife
Nell by naming the Bruins' basketball court for them Saturday, 28
years after Wooden retired from coaching with a record 10 national
Wooden, 93, coached the Bruins from 1948-75. During that time,
UCLA won seven straight national championships, an NCAA record
88-game winning streak, and four 30-0 seasons.
"I'm glad that they did this in a timely way because we take it
for granted that he's going to be around forever," said Kareem
Abdul-Jabbar, known as Lew Alcindor when he starred for UCLA in the
late 1960s. "He can enjoy it and we can enjoy him and the day."
More than 70 of Wooden's former players -- many with gray hair
and heavier than their playing days -- were on hand. They included
Bill Walton, Mike Warren, Rafer Johnson, Walt Hazzard, Marcus
Johnson, Gary Cunningham, Lynn Shackelford, Sidney Wicks, current
Southern California coach Henry Bibby, and Jamaal Wilkes.
"I know what made this day possible, it's those young men down
there," Wooden said, turning to look at his former players seated
off-court. "I'm extremely proud of all of them. Many never had the
opportunity to play in Pauley Pavilion."
Wooden stalked Pauley's sideline holding his ever-present rolled
up program during the final 10 years of his career.
"I'm proud of the fact that this floor is being named for my
late Nellie and me," he said.
Seven of Wooden's 12 great-grandchildren helped pull two pieces
of blue velvet away to reveal the words "Nell and John Wooden
Court" in blue on the floor of Pauley Pavilion.
Abdul-Jabbar recalled Nell Wooden as a woman of few words.
"She was like everybody's aunt," he said. "It was always
about a smile. We won so often, there wasn't much occasion to be
Clutching his cane, Wooden was helped to center court by his two
children, James and Nancy. Nell Wooden died in 1985 after 53 years
"I am thankful to see so many of you here today," Wooden said.
"I hope to see you every game. And I hope you'll all really back
our team with a lot of enthusiasm. But at the same time, let's be
gracious to our opponents, too."
Wooden made his way to his usual seat in the stands a few rows
behind UCLA's bench to watch the Bruins play Michigan State. Wooden
remains in relatively good health with a sharp mind that can recall
details from games and events that occurred decades ago.
Abdul-Jabbar said Wooden downplayed being in the spotlight
during a pregame luncheon with his former players.
"He sees himself as a little gear, but he's the master wheel,"
To celebrate the 40th anniversary of UCLA's first title under
Wooden, the Bruins wore replica jerseys similar to those used in
the 1963-64 season. However, their shorts were baggy, unlike the
short, tight shorts worn in Wooden's era.
He is the first person to be inducted into the basketball Hall
of Fame as both a player and a coach. The Martinsville, Ind.,
native played guard on Purdue's 1932 national championship team.
Since Wooden's retirement, the Bruins have won just one NCAA
title in 1995.