UCLA unveils John Wooden statue
LOS ANGELES -- The House that John Wooden Built now has the man himself permanently standing sentry outside its front entrance.
UCLA on Friday unveiled an 8-foot tall bronze statue of iconic coach Wooden outside of a newly renovated Pauley Pavilion. Wooden, standing with his arms folded and holding a rolled-up program in his right hand, is peering out over Bruin Walk, a major pathway between student residences and classrooms that runs along the north side of Pauley.
"It really captures Coach in a pose that most remember," UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero said. "He looks like a teacher, he looks like a coach, he looks like someone who is thoughtful and someone who can be tough."
The 400-pound monument depicts Wooden in the latter years of his 27-year career at UCLA. Sculptor Blair Buswell, a noted artist who is the lead sculptor for the NFL Hall of Fame, sorted through hundreds of photographs of Wooden before settling on the stern, confident and intense look. Wooden's children, Nan and Jim, had direct impact on the final product, even tweaking details such as the size of Wooden's ears.
"The ears weren't quite right," Nan said, noting her father's right earlobe was slightly longer than his left. She also had Buswell smooth out the area under her father's arms and jacket that originally made it look as though the trim coach had a potbelly.
"I just wanted people to look at him and be able to say, 'That's John Wooden,'" she said. "I don't think there's any doubt."
The final result took about a year to complete and is a fitting tribute to the coach who won 10 national titles in his final 12 years at UCLA and impacted thousands of others with his life philosophies and lessons.
"It's very apropos, it needed to be here," UCLA coach Ben Howland said. "It's really special for all of us who got to know Coach. You understand what he meant not only to this basketball program, but to the university, to Southern California, to the game of basketball. He's the greatest coach in the history of sport. What he meant as a person, how he lived his life, I think is what's most important. He transcended sport."
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Hall of Fame basketball player Ann Meyers Drysdale emceed the unveiling ceremony, which lasted about 30 minutes and featured spoken tributes from UCLA chancellor Gene Block, student body president David Bocarsly, UCLA alum Jim Collins, chairman emeritus of Sizzler International, which funded the statue, Guerrero and the Wooden children.
"He'd probably pooh-pooh this," Meyers Drysdale said. "He was not one to draw attention to himself."
Each recognized Wooden's accomplishments not only as a coach but as a teacher, an author and a speaker in his post-basketball years.
"He had a positive and lasting impact on this entire campus, on the greater community off-campus and on millions of people around this country, indeed around the world," Block said. "He influenced people who never saw one of his teams play a single game or hoist a single NCAA trophy."
Of course, his teams hoisted plenty of trophies. Wooden had a career coaching record of 620-147 with the Bruins and won a record seven consecutive national titles from 1967-73. His teams won 13 Pac-8 titles in 14 seasons (1961-75) and had a win streak of 88 consecutive games.
Some say the statue was long overdue and that there should have been one built long before he died in 2010 at age 99. His family, however, said Wooden never would have wanted it.
"He would have been against it," said Greg Wooden, John's grandson. "I think everybody who knew him, if they did approach him, he would have never agreed."
Wooden's autograph in his familiar unadorned cursive -- a signature he gladly gave out countless times at games -- is on the base of the statue. A plaque with his name and years as coach includes one of his quotes:
"Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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