|Wooden poses at Pauley Pavilion in 1972. He retired from coaching in 1975 and died in 2010. (Getty Images)|
Of all the men associated with college basketball, no one is as legendary as John Wooden. So, by that thinking, if we're going to keep making statues of sports people, Wooden would deserve one more than anyone else.
The man was so beloved, so humble, so revered during his time on earth, yet he never got to see himself immortalized like this. That's probably because he diplomatically dressed anyone down who dare suggest such a tribute be put on in his presence. The idea of being honored like that when he was alive no doubt didn't sit well with Wooden.
But now that he's gone, the deifying can be done. UCLA has announced the bronze has dried to a hardened mold and the graven image is about ready to be put on public display. The school will unveil a statue of Wooden on Friday, Oct. 26, when the newly renovated Pauley Pavilion is re-opened to the public. The cosmetic and interior overhaul to the facility cost UCLA about $136 million.
Members of Wooden's family, and the Pauley family, will be there. It's an occasion to celebrate the man as much of the program -- which he effectively built and turned into one of the best in the history of the game.
"The bronze statue was made possible by a generous donation from longtime UCLA Athletics benefactors Jim and Carol Collins," according to a UCLA press release. "It was designed and sculpted by Blair Buswell of Pleasant Grove, Utah, who has created many pieces depicting famous sports figures."
If you happen to be a sports fan stumbling onto this blog for the first time, here's the ultimate stat line for Wooden: 10 national titles in all, and a never-to-be-broken record of seven straight from '67 to '73.
The sneaky stat about Wooden that I love is his team losing just twice in 11 years at Pauley during his tenure. And, really, had it not been for Wooden, Pauley wouldn't have been built. Lore says it's the promise that Wooden pitched to Lew Alcindor -- considered by many to be the greatest college player ever -- to woo him to Westwood.
He was so good, they were building a brand-new basketball arena just for him.
"UCLA is a very special place for all of us in the Wooden family and meant so much to our father," Wooden's children, Jim and Nan, said in a statement. "To see him honored this way is overwhelming for all of us, and we are grateful to UCLA for this extraordinary tribute to his legacy."
In less than two weeks, we'll get to see what it looks like. I'm thinking Wooden's trademark rolled-up program/paper look is a guarantee. He was famous for not standing up and prowling the sidelines the way so many coaches do these days. So will it be him on his feet, or in the traditional watchful pose from the bench? Eager to find out.