One of the greatest college coaches to have ever graced the sidelines in John Wooden was properly honored in a way that only UCLA could do it.
On a warm Friday afternoon in Westwood, officials along with athletic director Dan Guerrero unveiled a fantastic 8-foot tall bronze statue of the iconic Wooden.
Wooden with his arms folded and a rolled up program in his right hand overlooked the new Bruin walk on the northside of Pauley Pavilion. The sculpture was created by sculptor Blair Buswell who has worked on many designs for the NFL, decided on this look for Wooden after careful study. The children of Wooden, Nan and Jim were very meticulous in seeing the statue was done correctly and respectfully.
The process took a little over a year to complete of Wooden, who won 10 NCAA titles in his last 12 years as UCLA coach. Wooden finished with a coaching career of 620-147. He also won 13 out of 14 Pac-8 titles (1961-1975), and had a winning streak of 88 consecutive games.
Even after his coaching tenure, Wooden impacted the lives of many on and off the court with his inspirational speeches and presence wherever he roamed.
“I just wanted people to look at him and be able to say, ‘That’s John Wooden,'” Nan said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt now.”
The ceremony last approximately a half hour and was emceed by basketball hall of famer and president of the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, Ann Meyers-Drysdale. “He was not one to draw attention to himself,” said Meyers-Drysdale.
The other speakers included UCLA chancellor Gene Block, “he influenced many people. 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.”
AD Dan Guerrero also spoke a few words, “he looks like a teacher, he looks like a coach, he looks like someone who is thoughtful and someone who can be tough.” Wooden’s children wrapped up the ceremony expressing their love and gratitude to the university in honoring their late father.
This statue might have been years overdue to many but according to Wooden’s grandson Greg Wooden, “he would have been against it totally. I think everybody who knew him, if they did approach him, he would have never agreed.”
Even though Wooden passed away in 2010 at the age of 99, many Bruin alum and faithful could all agree yet wonder what coach Wooden would’ve said if this statue had been present during the time he was alive.
Wooden’s distinctive cursive written autograph, which he had given out many times over the years is ingrained on a plague that states his coaching years along with his record. On that very plague states a saying by Coach Wooden, “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.”
Bruins head basketball coach Ben Howland shared his thoughts about the statue, “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 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. This is very apropos.”
*New Pauley Pavilion opens on November 9, as the UCLA Bruins will take on Indiana State.